Port Louis, Mauritius - Mauritius Telecom Saturday started the installation of underwater fibre-optic cables in Bay Jacotet, in the South of the country, 40 km from Port Louis.
As of February/March 2001, these cables should house the SAFE fibre-optic network (South Africa-Far East) which will go from Cape Town.
The network was set up on a Telkom South Africa initiative in 1993. SAFE will in turn be linked in Cape Town to SAT-3/WASC (South Atlantic Telephone-West African Submarine Cable), which is 15,000-km long and links Europe to South Africa and Western Africa.
SAFE will continue this connection over 13,800 km from Cape Town to Malaysia, linking Mauritius, Reunion and India on the way.
The SAT-3/WASC-SAFE network goes from Sesimbra, Portugal, to Penang, Malaysia, connecting along the way India, Mauritius, Reunion, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and the Canaries.
Furthermore, four other optional docking points were identified in Angola, Gabon, Benin and Cameroon.
Another twenty-five inland countries could also be linked by land or satellite connection to the cable.
The network will become operational in October 2001.
"This fibre-optic cable network represents a technological breakthrough made possible by a large scale international partnership involving more than 40 telecommunication operators", according to Deven Utchanah, an official at Mauritius Telecom.
The total cost is 16 billion US dollars with Mauritius Telecom's contributing 600 million rupees.
Utchanah said the connection to the fibre-optic cable would allow Mauritius Telecom to achieve an optimal and reliable international connection in order to meet the explosion of demand in terms of high- speed transmission.
"This will also allow us to promote Mauritius as a focal point for the transit and relaying of international traffic.
We're taking this opportunity to invest in a large-scale telecommunications project with real guarantees of a return on our investment", he explained.
Furthermore, this network will allow Mauritius Telecom to offer new services based on multimedia and the Internet, including e-commerce, local e-mail access, video by request, TV-broadcasting, videoconference teaching, video-medicine and video-conferencing.
Utchanah said the network will be capable of transmitting a volume of data equivalent to 80 gigabytes/second from one terminal to another.
He said the installation of this underwater cable represents a major advantage for Mauritius, in that it will be protected from storms and other cyclones that sweep the Indian Ocean between November and April.
"Mauritius is often obliged to put away its antenna dishes during the period of cyclones, which cuts it off from the rest of the world", he said.
This network of cables follows the ancient route of spices followed by Portuguese ships and opened by Vasco da Gama, linking Lisbon to India in 1498.
Today, in the year 2000, a network of underwater fibre-optic cables replaced the legendary ships.
But the purpose has remained the same: making trade and communication easier between international markets and Africa with added high capacity, speed and reliability.