Algeria Considers Domestic Fiber Production Facility

Algerian ICT Minister revealed her government’s plan to start domestic production of optical fibers in an attempt to decrease the country’s dependency on imported optical fibers and cables. The Minister was on an official visit to the incumbent telecom operator Algerie Telecom when she expressed the idea of increasing production of fiber optic cables in the country to meet the future demands. The project is under study.

Algeria is planning for massive deployment of fiber optic cables throughout the country. Thousands of kilometers of optical fiber cables are required to meet and complete the project in scheduled time. Currently, Algeria is depending on foreign countries for fiber optic cables. Many Chinese, Korean, Indian and Saudi Companies have been supplying fiber optic cables to the projects in Algeria apart from the domestic fiber optic cable supplier CATEL.

CATEL Fiber optics is the only one fiber optic cable maker in Algeria. The Cableries Telecommunications- Algeria (CATEL) is located about fifteen kilometers East of Algiers, in the industrial area of Oued Smar. It covers a total area of over 37,000 square meters. CATEL’s factory was established in 1928 upon a decision by the French Telegraph and Telephone Lines Company based in France. Nationalized by the Algerian State in 1968, it was immediately tied-up to SNMETAL then to SONELEC in 1969. In 1983, the National Company of Cable Industries tied-up the former LTT to its estate. Then, it underwent a restructuring process in 1997 that gave birth to CATEL Company whose main activity was: wire drawing, production, and marketing of copper-made telecommunication cables. Specialized in the production and marketing of optical fiber wires, the CATEL FIBR OPTIC company was established, in 2005, in partnership with Matelec Sal Holding.

CATEL alone is not sufficient to supply optical fiber cables to meet the domestic cable demand. Moreover, the requirement for optical fiber cables has been increasing in neighboring countries. Many of the African nations have been investing in building national backbone networks as a first step to support the mobile traffic, but eventually, transform into the backbone for access data traffic that is expected to take its course in the near future. For example, Mauritania had called for a nationwide backbone network construction that requires more than 1600 kilometers of fiber optic cables.

There are four fiber optic cable manufacturers in the northern part of the African continent. El-Sewedy and Egytech cables in Egypt, CATEL in Algeria and FBR Maroc in Morocco. FBR is a relatively new company and yet to start offering its products to the market. Majority of Africa’s requirement for fiber optic cables has been satisfied by the Chinese and Korean suppliers with some of the European suppliers find their business chances in some of the specific projects.

There were reports that one of the reputed Japanese fiber optic product manufacturer, Furukawa Electric has been planning to start its fiber optic cable production plant in the African continent. Furukawa is yet to declare the location of its new fiber optic cable manufacturing facility.

While visiting the offices of Algerie Telecom, Algerian Minister for ICT said the Algerie Telecom is fighting on two fronts: expanding and spreading its fiber-optic network throughout the country and upgrading its existing network. Both require huge quantities of fiber optic cables.

The Minister called on SMEs to take charge of deploying fiber optic networks in urban areas and leaving Algerie Telecom in charge of large infrastructure projects. Though the exact plans are not available at this moment, it is speculated that the idea of regional optical fiber production facility to serve the whole continent is not a bad idea from the viewpoint of logistics.

Considering many factors such as the setup time and current market price of the optical fiber, a number of giant companies supplying optical fibers world over and the forecast downward trend in China in the near future that will create surplus production capacity etc., setting up a new plant for fiber would be a short-sighted strategy. In fact, a fiber optic cable plant would be feasible.

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