Africa pioneers high-speed Internet

Posted: August 4, 2011 in News
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Sanday Chongo Kabange in Berlin, Germany

Reliable Internet access and connectivity has for decades been a hindrance to Africa’s development agenda.

Several attempts to enhance connectivity and reliability for Africa’s Internet are currently underway and huge investments have so far been poured into these gigantic continental initiatives.

The African Union together with private investors are working in different projects that aim to enhance the continent’s unreliable Internet connectivity and accessibility.

In this regard, South Africa, the continent’s largest economy has demonstrated its prowess at the cutting edge of technology with the successful trial of an ultra-fast 500 Gigabits-per-second data transmission system that could enable download of 2,400 movies in 60 seconds.

An artist's impression of the Square Kilometre Array project. PHOTO:

The high-tech expertise also highlights that country’s status as a front-runner to host the separate Square Kilometre Array project, a next-generation radio-telescope initiative providing high resolution pictures of the universe.

This week South Africa-based undersea cable company Seacom and US-based digital optical networking equipment supplier Infinera achieved a global first by successfully trialling a 500 Gigabits-per-second data transmission over Seacom’s newly built network between KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in South Africa.

“This event is a landmark achievement and a global first,” Seacom CEO Brian Herlihy said in a statement. “It also signals the international science research and development community that global projects such as the Square Kilometre Array are well within Africa’s reach.”

Live demonstration

The Seacom trial made use of five 100 Gigabit per second (100 Gb/s) channels of coherent optical transmission over a distance of 1,732 kilometres on Monday (August 1).

The trial was run over and looped back across Seacom’s newly built 930-kilometre Dark Fibre Africa fibre route, which links the Seacom Mtunzini cable landing station on the coast of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province to the Teraco data centre in Johannesburg.

The live demonstration, news of which has generated huge excitement in the industry, was witnessed by members of the scientific, research and development community at Teraco’s data centre in Johannesburg.

“The trial demonstrates Seacom’s commitment to increase the pace at which African networks are deploying cutting-edge telecommunications infrastructure technology to support Africa’s rise as a primary scientific and business destination,” said Herlihy.

Photonic Integrated Circuits

The trial used Infinera’s 500 Gb/s Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs), each of which integrates five 100 Gb/s coherent channels onto a single chip. The PICs were used for both transmitting and receiving the five 100 Gb/s signals during the trial.

At the consumer level, the 500Gb/s PIC technology enables the download of 2,400 high-definition Blu-Ray movie files in 60 seconds, or supports the streaming of 320,000 simultaneous high definition video channels over a single fibre pair.

Demand for large-capacity transmission

Fibre optic transmission technologies have been developing considerably to satisfy demand for large-capacity digital transmission in public telecommunication networks worldwide.

“With internet traffic growing at exponential rates, driven by video, cloud computing, and mobility, the 500G PIC technology is designed to support the required growth in network capacity, while reducing the per-bit cost, space, and power consumption,” said Infinera CEO Tom Fallon.

“These attributes are in line with Seacom’s vision to providing world-class infrastructure as African traffic continues to increase at record speeds.”

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