Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm singing the bandwidth blues...

Our ISP, Suburban, has not been providing bandwidth for a week. Its almost impossible to call them up, so you have to go in person. They always say, 'In the next few days, we're having problems with Germany' etc. etc. They haven't got a clue.

The only Wimax competition, Startech, has run out of equipment and only serves businesses anyway. Direct-on-pc has run out of equipment too. The CDMA operators, Reltel, Starcomms and Multilinks, offer appallingly slow bandwidth. Rosecom, the only DSL provider with access to SAT-3, has epileptic service.

One fine day (2010?) there'll be decent affordable broadband in Abuja - instead of the expensive fake broadband we have at the moment. By then, the rest of the world will have moved on to another technology platform. When oh when will there be a submarine cable to replace the SAT-3 failure? Here's some news from Balancing Act on what's happening in this arena:

Nigeria's Mainstreet Technologies to build new international West coast fibre
For Mainstreet Technologies threw its hat in the ring this week to be the first to complete an African west coast fibre project to compete with SAT3. The cable will connect 12 countries, some already connected to SAT3, others not. Russell Southwood spoke to the project's CEO Funke Opeke and discovered how it intends to win the race to complete.

Nigerian Funke Opeke spent 20 years in the USA working in technology companies(including Verizon's international and wholesale divisions) before coming back to work for a spell as CEO of the incumbent Nitel. It was out of this that she recognised that "after two years in Nigeria how painful the infrastructure limitations were." So in May 2007 she set out to build a new competitor cable to SAT3:"I want to do something for the region and this cable makes good sense both in commercial and development terms."

Dubbed MaIN OnE, the cable will connect the following 12 countries: Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria (Lagos and Port Harcourt), Gabon, the DRC and Angola. There is an option to extend the cable to South Africa if the Government there changes its attitude to external operators:"We've been a little disappointed with the South African Government's attitude."

The project is currently budgeted at US$300 million and Opeke is out "pounding the pavements" looking for sources of finance. But she is optimistic:"The good news is that there is a lot of interest. There is a new capacity in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular to fund projects of this magnitude. There's currently more interest than needed for our requirements."

The project will be African-led. The business model is that Mainstreet Technologies will pay for the landing stations and the cable and shareholding will be open to all comers. Early equity investors will have some price advantage but it will not be significant over the life of the cable.
The cable will have a capacity of 2.56 terrabits and Opeke anticipates that prices will be 10% of current prices and it will still be profitable. Prices will drop further as capacity is sold through. According to Opeke:"We're already talking to some of the larger operators." The company to run the project will be set up in a couple of months time and it says it will have the cable in place by 2009.

But what of the Glo-1 cable that seems to be leading the race for completion:"The Glo-1 project is the most substantial but it has its limitations. Globacom had an advantage when the market was not fully liberalised. I would question whether its "go-it-alone" strategy will work. We want to make sure to adopt an open, wide-based approach."


snazzy 4:17 pm  

yep internet in naij is a joke, and an expensive one at that. I don't know if I'd be too optimistic about mainstreet technologies claims about funding and start dates. Also from what i hear it only makes financial sense if u are the first person to finish the damn cable, cos you lock in the ISPs the other person is left sucking air. Too many people were burnt in the fibre glut in the 90's to be willing to do it again, especially when it comes to Africa. Unless of course she's locked up all the important ISPs in each of the countries on her route. Otherwise... Anyway I suppose having Glo look over it's shoulder and not do the whole naija factor with the cable is good.

Anonymous,  5:36 pm  

Commenting via SUBURBAN!!!!! thankyouverymuch!! Been a hellish week. What did y'all hear was the prob? We heard NCC was forcing Nigerian service providers to comply with the rules in place by shutting down their (foreign )VSAT service providers. In despair we were about to get broadband service with ADSL technology.ADSL (Asymetrical Digital Subscriber Line) claims to give the same bandwidth as VSAT but at a much lower cost.I believe it works using fiberoptic cable. Only delay is that it only works with a Nitel (Transcorp) line(which true to its parent root takes a few days to install, if you dont have one) It is NOT the same thing as Nitel Internet dial up. AND its very fast..we used it at the new Asokoro Protea hotel. Might just go ahead and get still, as back up...
(Did my intro sound toomuch like gloating? Higher (Internet?) Power not letting me post...God does have a sense of humor!

Toks- Boy 5:59 pm  

Jeremy the braodband situation in Nigeria wil be vastly different next year as compared to now. I can assure you that the main thing that was holding up the development of broadband was the fact that Nitel did not have the necessary funds to finance the activation of the SAT3 bandwidth required.

This is all changing due to something you might have missed in the news recently. Didata, Cisco and C&W have signed a contract with Transcorp to totally revamp the service and what will happen is that this consortuim will light up more fibre on SAT3 than has ever happened before. The more fibre that is lit the more that will be avialable to ISPs to sell on for their broadband services. At the moment you would not believe how little capacity is actually used on the SAT3 service that is available to Nigeriaofr broadband or other services.

So keep your chin up. You should start seeing things miving in the next three to six months.

CableGuru,  12:48 pm  

The GLO-1 cable is being installed as I rwrite, it may be a while before it impacts the broadband situation in Nigeria but it will. Hang in there!

Anonymous,  6:21 pm  

Rumour has it that suburban owe Intelsat (their main satellite provider) huge amounts of money and may be out of business soon. This may be the reason why you are currently unable to support your service.

Like Snazzy, I am also not optimistic about mainstreet technologies. However the rest of the explanation is not clear to me: You don't "lock in" ISP's when it comes to laying cables, you have to look for parties that can provide you with funding and landing rights into each country. it is manly large telcos that will invest in such ventures. The ISP's will then purchase capacity off the owners. It is also, in the main, down to the regulators in each country to allow operators landing rights.

The more cables that go into Africa the better as it will eventually lead to a reduction in cost. I fear however, that the 'glut' in capacity will be a long time coming to Africa. It is fortunate that SAT-3 was eventually completed but does anyone remember Africa 1? After all the years of talk it never happened EASSY - on the east coast - and many others are still being talked about but very little has happened.

anonymaus,  4:24 pm  

My question is should west coast fibre project be completed. Will Nigerians run their portion of it properly and responsibly? If the comments on what other IPS are to go by, the answer is regrettably - no. I can see why the South Africans are wary of the whole thing.

This fibre project, apart from looking good on paper and to show that Nigerians can be progressive should they choose to follow that line. How will it benefit the masses? Is the government planning on seriously following the development model of a knowledge economy to boost employment? I think not, the political discourse there and in much of Africa (except South Africa), is wealth derived unsustainably by removing non-renewable resources as quickly as possible. Once they are exhausted, what then?

Suburban Live Loyalist,  12:02 pm  


tomcat,  8:33 am  

The most reliable ISP that i have found in Nigeria-Lagos so far has been VGC. There must be the only ones that are using SAT3 as a backbone...but they are charging N25k per month for 128k/64k.

Many friends of mine have gone down the route of VSAT, evdo (still vsat) etc...but nothing comes close to SAT3 backbone...

I think VGC is running in Abuja when i looked at it...cause i was about to move up there

tomcat,  8:40 am  

and it's true what another guy mentioned above...NITEL has teamed up with some US/Euro (?) companies to develop their own ADSL.

They have 2x8gb bandwith from SAT3 and they hardly use any...

let's see

dizzy angel 4:43 pm  

fellow nigerians,itz wit great hanour dat i presant 2 u d naija dream,insa allah , i have a dream.
i hv a dream dat one day fella nagerians, like meself can surf d net comfortably from our homes,skools offices and where ever.
I hv a dream, a dream whereby cybercafes will b a thing of the past......
i hv a dream where fast n affordable internet and cable tv wud become avialable to the masses n not only those within the v.g.c. vicinty.
Enough dreamin n back 2 reality,am sick,bored and tired of having to go to cybercafes to surf the web.i have no other choice since starcomms n reltel r all messed up.
I really want to know when it'll be possible to have fast,affordable internet access in this country.
I want to know when sat 3 will become operational?
i want to know why with some much fibre optic cables already laid in this country by glo n mtn,phone services r still so poor.
i want to know,honestly i want to know cos am tired of being nigerian since nothing nigerian works.
i also think we nigerians-internet users hv done nothing to adress this issue,we've sat back with our arms folded that's why nitel cud diss our senses wit the lack of use of sat 3.yes,with so musch potential,the sat 3 remains an unused $50 million dollars,gathering dust
when will glo 1 become operational?
i also think the yar ardua administration has done nothing to adress this situation.
plz somebaody out there give me a date when fast n affordable internat access wud bcome a reality.

tomcat,  8:23 am  

i think the game of ISP and other services is about to change...however don't know how soon, if it's gonna be this year or later...

Glo is laying their own undersea fiber optic cable from Lagos to London. Therefore they will not be dependent on the SAT3 anymore.

I hear that the ship is in Senegal right now, on its way to Lagos with drop points in the countries between.

When this one goes operational then prices will drop and service + speeds will increase dramatically

Anonymous,  8:26 pm  

Since Suburban came back from three weeks dead their connection has become faster and reliable. Rumour in town is that they changed from expensive Intelsat to cost effective Skyvision.
Suburban also provide alternative to SAT3 in Lagos, gist in town is that big mobile/ISP operators are subscribing to their service in Lagos. When will they switch to SAT3 in Abuja? We are waiting Suburban.

Anonymous,  8:00 pm  

Suburban seems to have save Nigeria the Internet challenge in the last one year. They have supplied over 2.5Gbps (going to 10Gbps) of Internet to Telcos and ISPs at cheaper prices but the Telcos and ISPs still exploit Nigerians without passing the cost saving across to customers. My company is lucky to have subscribed to Suburban directly and we enjoy the low latency, high speed broadband at cheaper cost.

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