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Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 16:40 UK

East Africa gets high-speed web

Mobile phone ad in Nairobi, generic
New cables could revolutionise communications in the region

The first undersea cable to bring high-speed internet access to East Africa has gone live.

The fibre-optic cable, operated by African-owned firm Seacom, connects South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique to Europe and Asia.

The firm says the cable will help to boost the prospects of the region's industry and commerce.

The cable - which is 17,000km long - took two years to lay and cost more than $650m.

Seacom said in a statement the launch of the cable marked the "dawn of a new era for communications" between Africa and the rest of the world.

The services were unveiled in ceremonies in the Kenyan port of Mombasa and the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam.

School benefits

The cable was due to be launched in June but was delayed by pirate activity off the coast of Somalia.

It's not good. It's hanging and keeps wasting time and frustrating me
Kenyan internet user

The BBC's Ben Mwangunda in Dar es Salaam says five institutions are already benefiting from the faster speeds - national electricity company Tanesco, communications company, TTCL, Tanzania Railways and the Universities of Dar es Salaam and Dodoma.

The BBC's Will Ross in Nairobi says the internet revolution trumpeted by Seacom largely depends on how well the service is rolled out across the region.

To the disappointment of many consumers, our correspondent says some ISPs (internet service providers) are not planning to lower the cost of the internet, but instead will offer increased bandwidth.

But businesses, which have been paying around $3,000 a month for 1MB through a satellite link, will now pay considerably less - about $600 a month.

The Kenyan government has been laying a network of cables to all of the country's major towns and says the fibre-optic links will also enable schools nationwide to link into high quality educational resources.

But our correspondent says it is not clear whether the internet revolution will reach the villages, many of which still struggle to access reliable electricity.

map showing Africa's new fibre-optic cables


Are you in Africa? How will the new broadband cable help you, or your business? Have slow internet speeds been holding you back? Have you noticed any difference in speed today?

Here are some of your comments:

For the first time today, i experienced a high speed internet connection. I hope that the service costs will also go down as the result of this revolution.
William, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

I'm currently living in South Africa and the new connection is long overdue and very welcomed! The speed today is a little bit faster, at 240kb/s on a home broadband connection. However, as you said, the price aren't going to decrease. I'm currently paying R260 per month (about £20) for up to 384kb/s and download cap of 2GB each month. At that rate, the digital divide is only going to get larger for the very countries the Seacom cable is supposed to help.
Dana, Johannesburg, South Africa

I've noticed no difference in speed. Are we linked in Maputo??? Are we riding the highways on a donkey cart instead of a powerful means of transportation?
Ma, Maputo Mozambique

Speeds over the last couple of days have been worse than usual, even using expensive mobile provider's modem - hope this isnt a sign of things to come.
S Keates, Mombasa, Kenya

Am grateful for this development. I have an internet cafe but almost all the proceeds were going to subscription. With the new development, am optimistic my business is going to flourish with probably lower subscription costs. Thanks to the heads behind
Ssendagire, Kampala, Uganda

This the best news i have had in days because my problems have been solved long live seacom and the crew no more hours of waiting for a page and work is gone be simply
Jeans, kampala, uganda

We in the United Nations ICT community are thrilled with this development. The Alternate fibre optic network will not only reduce our overall cost of doing business in Africa, specifically for peacekeeping missions, but would also allow us to channel high content data and Video transmissions with ease.
Allan, United Nations

Internet network business here, have not been constant, is either slow or there is no network on the server, is so sad most times, except some certain links that most times browse fast to give needed information. When will your company get here?
Daniel, Aba Abia State, Nigeria

How this will help us getting better and especially cheaper internet connection .I have a B&B and restaurants and I pay 300 USD per month for an unsatisfying 512M that I never get full speed for what I spend.
Sylvain, Bujumbura, Burundi

South African ISPs have indicated that South African consumers can not expect any price drops in near future. It seems to be business as usual while their profit margins increase.
Chris, Cape Town, South Africa

I worry that the new services may still be costly. We're a gargantuan market at the mercy of only a handful of providers.
Benjamin, Nairobi, Kenya

I am happy that even my small village will also be linked with this cable. And to easen my studies I hope E-learning will be even possible at shaks rather than at schools and I hope the company will be able to regulate the cyber browsing prices all over the country. I think also internet services will be the services of choice in the near future cause as per internet revolution very many things has been a landmark to success. Thanks for the netting Africa with the rest of the world through this fibre cable.
Kerio, Turkana, Kenya

Being in the land locked country of Zambia without access to a coastline means that we do not have direct access to fibre optic connections. This means most of our international traffic goes through Vsat links back to an ISP in Belgium. You mentioned rural internet in Africa could be an issue due to electricity supply. You are correct, that is the big problem, because I can access the internet as I am doing now through the local GSM radio site of my mobile phone provider, and these towers are everywhere in the bush. Its just a matter of powering either my mobile or laptop first.
Paul, Lusaka, Zambia

We are already witnessing increased development in the broadband sector. Just 3 weeks ago, a new ISP launched its services in Kampala to which we are already subscribing (They are slightly cheaper). The capacity made available by the Seacom cable will encourage more players thus driving the costs down in the process. And the beauty about Uganda is that the regulatory regime is very open and flexible. It is an exciting time to be in East Africa. I can't wait.
Herbert, Kampala, Uganda

It's good news that we are getting the submarine cable. The last cable landed almost a month ago and we have not experienced any changes in the cost of prices and speed. Seems it will take a while for these changes to apply. Just hope its better this time. The speeds are hopelessly slow. Even watching YouTube is painfully slow
Githaiga, Nairobi

Hopefully this means the website I want to create for my business can become a reality. Previous attempts have failed to lure foreign customers. They would give up half way through the online order process because the web pages would load so slowly. This was caused by the speed of the connections out of South Africa being too slow. I also run a website for a radio control car club where I would like to host video files of the races we have.
Greg, Cape Town, South Africa

Whilst this is great news for everyone annoyed by slow internet connections, I am afraid to raise a few doubts: It is unlikely that fast internet connections are going to be available to users "up country" any time soon. This is because cables allowing such high traffic will have to be laid first, and then there's always the issue of electricity, which is so far restricted to larger towns and cities. However, here in Dar es Salaam I'm sure the change will bring great relief, as internet connections are especially slow in Tanzania's economic capital due to the high demand.
Johannes, Dar es Salaam, TZ

Promises promises promises, but when will small inland towns like Gulu in northern Uganda enjoy the benefits of the long awaited data transfer fibre optic cables? I am spend too much time trying to send this comment. Is it about to change in the near future?Hopefully.
Rachkara, Gulu, Uganda

I am a web developer in Nairobi and the new fibre optic initiative couldn't come at a better time. Currently, we have to worry about how interactive the websites we develop are due to slow access speeds and this limits the look and feel of our work to the users. Now however, I hope that with speed as a non-issue, everyone can enjoy the "work of our hands".... and brains of course!
Stephen, Nairobi, kenya

The upgrading of internet services to the fast broadband will certainly boost online communication with the rest of the world. Especially for our school, located deep in the slums of Kawangware in Nairobi, and currently exchanging programmes with UK schools through the global gateway will be made easy. Several partner schools have left us due to poor communication records we have had with them. Through the broadband, we expect to heighten our communication with the, enabling our children to appreciate the world through interactions online. Pictures that have been a problem to download, will hopefully be quick to reach the outstretched hands!
Simon, nairobi, kenya

This is very good and encouraging news to hear. I have been waiting for this for such a long time now and will now encourage me to move my business to Uganda very quickly. I am delightened that last it has arrived.
Herrick, France

it has been holding us back like to make call in Tz when your in Rwanda it cost much even hearing each other become's problem. for internet cafe you can't watch live football or Music and BBC news. Sound's good for East Africa.
Ivan, Kigali, Rwanda

I work in a college which offers some of the country's best diplomas (and we've just introduced a few degree courses, recently). However, poor internet connections have significantly hindered our activities and objectives of delivering "first class" education. It has not been easy to access online materials such as journals and books. Likewise, our students and colleges, at large, have always been failing to purchase books and other learning materials from various websites. I genuinely hope that this new technology will have positive impact on the development of African continent.
Juma, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

This is going to change everything. Am anxiously waiting for it to reach Uganda. Congratulations SEACOM.
Kyomuhendo, Fort Portal, Uganda

Maybe I'll finally be able to PvP as a normal human being in world of warcraft. Its really not fun trying to interrupt a 1.5 second heal with 1.49 seconds delay.
Nick, Middelburg, South Africa

Very great start of a wonderful achievement. The effective development of the region and the whole Africa is coming from that way (The EASSY Cable).
Sylvestre, Bujumbura&Burundi

The impact fast internet connection (broadband)will make on my business will be phenomenal. About 95% of my work is internet based because sometimes i am online to three people across two or more continents daily. It will make me more efficient and increase my output.
Patrick, Lagos, Nigeria

This is fantastic for our business, There will be no more waiting for ages download and no more echo on voice. More savings for our business too.
Victor, Nairobi Kenya

Living and working in the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland, I can only envy the residents of the east coast of Africa. Here, we are still waiting for broadband. Those who have it have no choice but to sign up to an insanely expensive wireless relay system which is unreliable, slow and expensive. 80 pounds a month for a speed of 2Mb and a capped limit of a few Gb. The council don't care; they are too busy trying to stop ferries running on a sunday to bother with issues such as technology I need to earn a living. Maybe I should move my family to Somalia, which has entered the 21st century before here?
Angus, North Uist, Outer Hebrides



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