Somaliland Gets High-Speed Fiber Optic Cable


Three companies have launched a project to provide Internet access to the African country, with expansion plans for other nations

By Rebecca Wanjiku

Three international companies have launched an ambitious project aimed at connecting a million people in Somaliland with high-speed Internet access.

Somcable, Bluwan and Globecomm systems will connect businesses and homes in Somaliland with up to 8Gbps capacity through FTTA (fiber through the air) access. The project is set to start in the capital, Hargeisa, and will later be deployed to other towns such as Burco, Borama and Berbera. Somaliland broke away from Somalia and is considered fairly stable.

“We have set a target to provide 1 million subscribers with access to high-speed broadband by 2015, our target market is primarily focused on the cities of the horn of Africa; residentials (affluent or middle class), small-medium enterprises or corporate customers and we have several business models that are adapted to each segment of the market,” said Somcable CEO Michael Cothill.

To deliver capacity to the mass market, kiosks will be fitted with an omnidirectional Wi-Fi antenna and strategically positioned within each city to deliver a replacement service for current under-performing Internet cafés. The kiosks enable customers to purchase prepaid vouchers with a wide range of different services to suit the various markets.

(The kiosks with act as bandwidth hubs with the ability to provide up to 8Gbps of capacity within a 5 kilometer radius, peaking to speeds of 100Mbps to thousands of customers at a time.

Somcable originates from the landing station in Djibouti and Somcable will subsequently extend this service to land-locked countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan.

The horn of Africa country has rocky terrain, no legacy infrastructure and most communities are nomadic, but Somcable and Bluwan said they have worked up a business model that will ensure return on investment.

“The combination of various business models, along with the technology deployed (FTTA, Long Term Evolution) allows us to get a sub $10 per subscriber connection fee and still be profitable with a good return on investment,” said Cothill.

Somcable will become the latest fiber optic cable to join the African coastline. The combination of available fiber optic cables has increased the international Internet bandwidth serving African countries from 1.21Gbps in 2001 to 570.92Gbps in 2011, and 25Tbps of submarine capacity is expected to be in place by 2013, according to market researcher TeleGeography.