Service provider Seacom has announced that its undersea fibre-optic cable linking south and east Africa to global networks via India and Europe has gone live.
The 17,000km 1.28TB/s submarine cable spans the entire length of the east coast of Africa, with backhaul connections to coastal landing stations providing links to Johannesburg, Nairobi and Kampala. Kigali and Addis Ababa will be added shortly.
The network was due to go live last month, but was delayed owing to pirate activity off the coast of Somalia.
"Today is a historic day for Africa, and marks the dawn of a new era for communications between the continent and the rest of the world," said Brian Herlihy, chief executive of Seacom.
"Our tireless efforts of the past 24 months have come to fruition, and we are proud to be the first to provide affordable, high-quality broadband capacity and experience to east African economies.
"Turning the switch 'on' creates a huge anticipation, but ultimately Seacom will be judged on the changes that take place on the continent over the coming years."
The provider has been working with Cisco to jointly build a voice, data and video system to run on the Seacom platform.
"Cisco and Seacom share a common goal to enable accessible broadband across Africa, while lowering the cost of communication to spur growth within urban and rural communities," said Yvon le Roux, vice president for Cisco in Africa.
"We are working with Seacom to help transform Africa by outlining process change, building networks, and providing the application services and expertise that support key services for citizens, such as education, healthcare, public safety, economic development and national security."
Cisco is celebrating the launch of the network with live 1Gbit/s international connections between South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique using a high-definition video feed to interconnect representatives and dignitaries across the five countries.
Seacom's platform will be augmented by a similar network currently being installed down the west coast of Africa.
The West Africa Cable System has been set up by a consortium of multinational telcos, and will see networking firm Alcatel-Lucent provide a 14,000km submarine fibre-optic cable system that will link countries in southern Africa, western Africa and Europe with at least 3.84Tbit/s of international bandwidth.
The entire installation is expected to cost about US$600m ($732m), and should be ready for service by 2011.