BTC Completes Pula Trans-Kalahari Fiber Optic Project

It is Expected to Boost the ICT Industry. The Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC), last week in Komana Village marked the successful completion of the multi-million Pula Trans-Kalahari fibre optic project. Covering approximately 2000 km the project is expected to act as a catalyst to the growing ICT industry in the country.

Officiating at the event, Vice President Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe said it was completed both on time and within budget, and this needs to be commended. He described its completion as, “a dream come true for the ICT sector in this country and the region as a whole”.  He explained a fibre optic cable, “in simple terms”, as a technology that transforms the transportation of voice and data from the microwave radio to that of a much higher capacity which uses optical fibre.

“Before the installation of this system, telecommunications service providers in Botswana relied on limited connectivity via expensive leased bandwidth on satellite systems, and this has been a hurdle to the development and growth of both the operators and the economy at large,” he said.

With the fibre optic system, Botswana has a state-of-the-art, reliable and dependable national backbone connecting all major centres in the country and linking Botswana with the rest of the world.

Merafhe said the system would change the landscape of the ICT infrastructure in Botswana for the better. “The completion of this project underlines BTC’s efforts to advance its infrastructure with resilience and opens doors to new opportunities,” he added.

Botswana together with the rest of the SADC region can now be assured of access to diverse routes, high capacity bandwidth and data transmission. “This is no doubt a great enhancement of concerted regional efforts to bridge the digital divide. As a nation, we can now compete with confidence in the liberalised global telecommunications market,” he observed.

With reliable ICT services Botswana should be able to attract more foreign direct investment and participate meaningfully in international trade in the services sector, Merafhe said. He said the network will undoubtedly open doors to the country’s tourism sector, which will enhance on-line advertising and bookings from anywhere in the country. “The completion of this project is not only good for investment, but it also brings opportunities to people living in the western and the remotest parts of the country that have hitherto been disadvantaged in terms of access to high capacity telecommunications,” he said.

The project will also enhance ongoing efforts to improve productivity in the country. “As such, we can confidently look forward to a better networked and informed society,” the Vice President said.

The project was launched in February 2007 when Botswana was ranked 44th out of 102 countries in the world in terms of national connectivity. Merafhe was confident that when the authorities responsible for these rankings carry out another audit, they will position Botswana appropriately, possibly in the upper bracket.

He said the Trans Kalahari fibre optic project resonates very well with the objective of Government to establish the Botswana Innovation Hub, which falls within the ambit of the Cabinet Committee on the Economy and Employment, chaired by the Vice President.

The key objective of this Hub is to create an environment that supports knowledge creation and innovation with a view to promoting improved productivity, economic diversification and employment creation.

Merafhe said other BTC projects such as Nteletsa (a rural telecommunication programme geared towards connecting 62 villages) and Maitlamo (ICT Policy) will benefit from the Trans-Kalahari fibre cable for quality services.

At present BTC, representing the Government, is a signatory to three consortia that are intended to develop undersea optical fibre systems: the East Africa Submarine System (EASSY), to run alongside the eastern coast of Africa from Port Sudan through East African seaports down to Mtunzini in South Africa; the West Africa Festoon System (WAFS), intended to run alongside the western coast of Africa from Nigeria through Gabon, DRC down to Angola, and possibly Namibia; and the Africa West Coast Cable (AWCC), proposed to run alongside the western coast of Africa from South Africa, Namibia through to the United Kingdom.

Merafhe said now that the Trans Kalahari fibre optic project was complete, Botswana has a link that is necessary to optimally interconnect the planned EASSY and WAFS cable projects. “At Government level, we are currently engaged in tripartite discussions with the Republics of Angola and Namibia to assist each.”

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