Alcatel-Lucent to upgrade EASSy submarine cable system along Africa’s eastern and southern coast

Paris, January 22, 2014 — Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) is to upgrade the EASSy submarine cable system, one of the largest and most modern systems serving Africa, with the deployment of the latest 100 gigabit-per-second (Gbit/s) technology.

Alcatel-Lucent‘s 100G technology will enable the system to ultimately carry capacity in excess of 10Tbit/s, further complementing its ability to carry high volumes of data capacity on the EASSy system, which runs 10,000km from South Africa to Sudan, in support of the continued explosion of data traffic in Africa.  Alcatel-Lucent will leverage its unmatched experience of deployments around Africa to provide this upgrade within EASSy’s requested timeframe.

EASSy is owned and operated by a group of 17 African and international shareholders – all telecommunications operators and service providers. The system is implemented in a protected ring configuration linking eight countries from Sudan to South Africa, via Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Comores and Mozambique. Landings are located in Port Sudan, Djibouti (Djibouti), Mombasa (Kenya), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania), Moroni (Comores), Toliary (Madagascar), Maputo (Mozambique) and Mtunzini (South Africa). The system also addresses a wide range of international destinations through interconnection with multiple international submarine cable networks for diverse, seamless onward connectivity to Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia.

Chris Wood, Chairman of the EASSy Management Committee said: “Since EASSy entered service in 2010, we have seen enormous growth in demand for capacity on the system, reflecting the service quality and reliability that we have been able to offer. This upgrade will add an additional 400Gbps of capacity throughout the system, using Alcatel-Lucent’s advanced coherent 100Gbit/s technology, and enables us to take a further step in offering our customers the ultra-broadband capacity needed for innovative services and applications.”

Philippe Dumont, President of Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks, said: “We are pleased to continue our cooperation with EASSy owners following the initial deployment and subsequent upgrades to higher speeds. With staged upgrades until now, this latest upgrade using our 100Gbit/s technology confirms Alcatel-Lucent as the leading innovation partner to address evolving connectivity needs over time whilst meeting the low-latency and the resilience requirements that our customers demand.”

Image: Getty

About the Alcatel-Lucent solution

The Alcatel-Lucent solution is based on the 1620 Light Manager (LM) submarine line terminal equipment using coherent technology at 100Gbit/s to provide the most efficient use of the available optical spectrum. The 1620 LM offers optimal scalability and flexibility thanks to its use of Alcatel-Lucent’s advanced coherent technology, which also incorporates the latest Soft Decision Forward Error Correction (SDFEC) technology to provide highest ultimate capacity at the same time as lowest cost per bit. Additionally, Alcatel-Lucent’s technology offers multi-vendor adaptability. With more than 100 upgrades completed over the years, Alcatel-Lucent’s field-proven submarine technology offers carriers, service providers, multi-media and content providers a seamless path to expand their networks in an efficient and cost-effective way thanks to the 1620LM’s compatibility with the latest state-of-the-art technology without modification to the existing hardware infrastructure.

More about EASSy

EASSy is based on a two-fibre-pair “collapsed ring” configuration, providing traffic protection in the event of branch cable cuts or equipment failures – delivering a high degree of robustness, high reliability and low outage time. It interconnects with multiple submarine cable and terrestrial fibre-optic networks for onward connectivity into Africa, Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia. In related projects, investors in the EASSy system, and others, continue to extend connectivity inland via terrestrial fibre networks that link coastal and land-locked countries to the cable.

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BPO in Uganda: The race to become the next India in Africa

TechPost caught up with  Rogers Karebi, secretary of the Uganda BPO Association as well as the MD of Dial-a-service, a BPO company in Uganda to discuss the current climate for BPO in East Africa and the potential for growth in the region.

BPO(Business Process Outsourcing) involves relocating business processes that a company usually performs in-house to a third-party service provider, such as a customer care or call center, to carry out on behalf of the company. The BPO industry’s focus sectors include financial services, insurance and telecommunications, with outsourced processes including after-sales services, data capture and conversion, accounting, benefits administration, human resource functions, and website design and development.

Business process outsourcing (BPO) and offshoring is a major global trend and the industry, worth an estimated US$130-billion a year, has an expected annual growth rate of about 50% for the next five years. As such, East Africa specifically Uganda, has in recent times strategically set itself up as a BPO hub of choice by beefing up its IT infrastructure, putting significant investment in human capital and infrastructural development. Using a combination of twitter conversations and our on-premise interview with Rogers, here’s how Uganda is poised (or not poised) to be the next BPO destination in the world.

Why Uganda is poised to be the next BPO destination

TechPost: Why do you think that Uganda has the potential to become a global BPO player?

Karebi: Unemployment is still a problem even among the educated youths in Kampala, and there are many opportunities to fill positions by educated workers with excellent English skills. So since our graduates are proficient in English whose accents are neutral (which means agents can be understood by clients in the west), communication is not an issue. A big pool of unemployed graduates means a huge human resource pool. Thirdly, we’ve a time zone advantage. This means while the Americans for instance are asleep, we’re awake working and vice-versa.  Great government support and political stability are a huge bonus for BPO.

@oquidave There is enough #BPO business to go around, esp. nearshore and onshore. Can #Uganda businesses compete & deliver the value? — Stephen S. Musoke (@ssmusoke) January 30, 2014

Kaberi: NITA-U has worked with Makerere University to train 500 youths in MPO skills, and plans are underway to train 3,000 in the next year to ensure a critical mass of BPO trained skills in Uganda. We’re also partnering with India which has several years of experience in the industry. As a matter of fact, we’re signing a Memorandum of Understanding with NASSCOM — a BPO association in India to create capacity building locally.

The challenges of BPO industry in Uganda


TechPost: It is obvious that we’ve not yet seen a huge boom in the BPO sector quite yet. Tell us, what’s still holding us back from tapping into this $130 billion Industry.

Karebi: We’re still struggling with infrastructure — and by this i mean affordable internet broadband and power or electricity. These do not place us at the same level ground as our Indian counterparts who have all these enablers cheaply. For instance, 1Mbps data connection costs about $600 here in Uganda while in India, it’s merely $50! With these unequal variables, you simply can’t compete. The other challenges have to do with policy and regulation. Specially, we still have weak cyber, data and privacy protection laws that are still being developed. International clients need the assurance that the data they’re outsourcing is fully protected under law otherwise they simply can’t give you business.

The local BPO climate


TechPost: When we talk about BPO, offshore clients always come to mind. BPO has been widely (mis) understood to be handling calls or data entry for big American corporations. Have you approached local clients? What has been their response to business process outsourcing so far?

Karebi: Actually the response has been quite promising. Currently as dial-a-service, we handle up to 6 clients which include Pepsi, UMEME, Jubilee among others while our competitors like Tecno Brain handle UNICEF child helpline. BPO is still not known among local companies and that could be attributed to poor marketing. We’ve not done a good job in sensitizing local firms on the advantages of BPO quite well. However, we indeed on holding sensitization workshops that will seek to enlighten prospective local clients on the benefits of BPO. We also have a BPO association which is the umbrella body for all the members.

@oquidave 4 low cost call center & data entry type #BPO not 4 higher paying law, software dev, health @jmakumbi @ugBPO @rkarebi @niyimic — Stephen S. Musoke (@ssmusoke) January 30, 2014

Kaberi: There’s what is called Knowledge Process Outsourcing(KPO). This is a higher level of outsourcing than the entry-level processing which includes data entry and answering calls. Such individuals with professional skills could actually delve into KPO.

@oquidave We should KILL the idea that you need to setup in kampala. @niyimic @StoneAtwine @ssmusoke @ugBPO @rkarebi — James S K Makumbi (@jmakumbi) January 30, 2014

Karebi: There’s a BPO company called SINFA that has a BPO center in Gulu, northern Uganda.

Government and BPO


TechPost: South Africa is known to have one of the most successful BPO destination due to government support.  However, At this time, Uganda is not attractive for investment from global outsourcers, due to the lack of tax incentives and limited infrastructure. What is the Government of Uganda doing to fuel the emerging BPO sector?

Karebi: The Government has setup a BPO incubation centre located at Statistics house where we’re currently located. Power and fast Internet is provided for for free for the residing BPO companies until a specific period where these companies graduate of the incubation centre together with another BPO provider. The government, through NITA-U is developing guidelines for the provision of Government incentives to BPO operators, drafting the national BPO strategy and roadmap for Uganda.

@oquidave @rkarebi @niyimic @BrianNdyaguma @jmakumbi @ssmusoke @ctford What attributes do we need to be the preferred BPO provider? — Daniel M. Mumbere (@danmumbere) January 30, 2014

Karebi: As a country, to succeed a BPO destination, we need; Government support, political stability and ability to offer high quality service. As a company, professionalism, high quality service delivery and well-trained personnel.

Image:  Rogers Karebi, secretary of the Uganda BPO Association as well as the MD of Dial-a-service

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Mobile Innovation from the field: We can now talk directly with students, teachers and parents in Uganda

This blog on a new user case of U-Report for targeted beneficiery feedback in Uganda was authored by Kidus Fisaha Asfaw with contributions from Merrick Schaeffer and Lyudmila Bujoreanu

Inspired by the success of using U-report to map and mitigate the spread of Banana Bacterial Wilt disease in Uganda’s banana crops, the World Bank team from the ICT unit (TWICT) decided take U-report’s functionality a step further by establishing an on-going dialogue with students, parents and teachers, who are direct beneficiaries of the Uganda Post Primary Education and Training Project (UPPET) project.

By tapping into Uganda’s network of over 236,000 U-reporters built by UNICEF, a joint ICT/UPPET team was able to identify and poll over 5,000 teachers, students, and parents associated with school supported by UPPET.  Throughout the summer, we have engaged these “special school reporters” in a series of mobile based SMS polls structured around their experiences with the use of the new textbooks and science kits supplied by the project. The responses from beneficiaries are providing useful insights from the field that are expected to improve the ongoing UPPET operation and provide useful inputs to the client in improving the utilization of learning resources in schools.

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Developing an ICT Hub model for the rural tech community in Kenya

A focus group discussion in Mombasa conducted by iHub ResearchICT Hubs growth across Africa has so far been seen as a nexus point for economic growth and ‘techprenuership’ development in Africa. In addition, these innovation spaces can be viewed as a catalyst for socio-economic development through creation of technology-led entrepreneurs and youth employment. In Kenya, it is evident that majority of the ICT Hubs […]
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