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Friday, 17 July 2009

Internet Lift Off?

Zamnet has now connected to the South Atlantic 3/West Africa Submarine Cable (SAT-3 undersea cable) that runs on the west coast of Africa into Europe (see the visual map here). The link became operational on July 1, with the firm currently running trial internal tests before the services could be extended to its customers. The link set up in partnership with ZESCO and Telecom Namibia, is likely to result in lower end user cost of Internet, better access to multimedia and hosting contents, and use of newer technologies such as video conference. More detail via Xinhua Net .

Update : An important contribution on this at the Zedian on Tech - Internet via Optic Fibre Arrives in Zambia! (Guest Blog)

Update : ZAMNET Notice :
Internet Via Optic Fiber Arrives in Zambia

ZAMNET Communication Systems Limited, the pioneering Internet Service Provider in Zambia is proud to announce that it has successfully set up an Internet gateway into Europe using optic fibre end-to-end. This is the first such connection in Zambia and marks a milestone in the life of the Internet in Zambia.

The link became operational on 1st July 2009 and ZAMNET is currently running internal tests before the service becomes available to all ZAMNET customers. The bulk of ZAMNET Internet traffic is expected to be through fibre by 1st August 2009.

The link performance has been excellent so far. We have been running various tests and doing some optimization to ensure that when we come fully online, our customers will enjoy the Internet as it is meant to be

The Connection

This is an end-to-end optic fibre connection from ZAMNET’s server room to Europe. The link has been set up in partnership with ZESCO and Telecom Namibia through the South Atlantic 3/West Africa Submarine Cable commonly known as SAT-3 undersea cable that runs on the west coast of Africa into Europe. ZAMNET has leveraged on ZESCO’s Optical fibre infrastructure that has a cross-border interconnect with Telecom Nambia at Katimamulilo. Telecom Nambia is part of the SAT-3 consortium that enables them to gain easy access to this facility. They also have bought capacity in the new SEACOM cable that is expected to become functional before the end of this month.

State of Connectivity to the Internet in Zambia

Currently all Internet Service Providers (ISP) in Zambia connect to the core Internet backbone using satellite technology. Despite the inherent latency (delay) that is associated with this technology for Internet traffic, until now Satellite has been the only viable option available to Zambia. Over the last few years, there has been a reduction in the amount of satellite capacity over Africa resulting in the increase in the price of the little available capacity and ultimately contributing to the high cost of delivering Internet to your computers.

Fortunately, the last few years has seen increased activity in the area of building optic fibre infrastructure in Africa. A number of projects commenced to interconnect the African continent to the rest of the world using undersea cables. Countries are also building national backbones to interconnect different cities and towns. Further different initiatives have been launched to interconnect different parts of cities into what are being referred to as metropolitan fibre networks.

What does this new fibre connection mean for Zambia?

Since ZAMNET introduced the Internet in Zambia in 1994, the mode of connectivity to rest of the Internet community has been through Satellite communication which has an inherent latency, making the Internet experience sluggish compared to what is obtaining in other countries that are connected through cable. Some of the benefits that will result from this new connection include:
  1. Improved access speeds to the Internet. Fibre has lower latency (or delay) compared to Satellite
  2. Increased uplink and downlink capacities
  3. Ultimately lower end user cost of Internet in Zambia
  4. Better access to multimedia content
  5. Better implementation of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) beyond the borders
  6. Better hosting of content
  7. Use of newer technologies such as Video conferencing

49 comments:

  1. Yep, all systems are go! There's a very special contribution on it from "ZedTechScribe" who's very close to the source,here.

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  2. This is good news indeed,
    There is now with this another IGW (international gateway) for the private mobile phone companies to use, hope they take advantage.
    For the average internet customer in Zambia, I imagine it's like having a vast cargo ship docking in your back yard but you only have a wheelbarrow to unload it. Those clunky dial up connections which are the highest form of Zamnet customer access will have exactly the wheelbarrow effect.

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  3. According to this report on page 9, the average dial-up speed in Zambia is 28kbps instead of 58kbps.

    http://www.iicd.org/files/Zambia-Rural-Access-Report.pdf

    This may increase if the Zambian internet servers have connection via fibre optic cable instead of satellite I guess.

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  4. Just to clarify the example of the ship/wheelbarrow above, was not meant to down play the benefits of the fiber connection but rather to highlight what I think is the fundamental problem i.e. the "last mile" . The fiber connection with all benefits Cho has highlight terminates at the Zamnet servers at UNZA. The "last mile" refers to the problem of how to extend the benefits to individual customers, who are spread out miles apart across cities.
    Zamnet has chosen to bridge the gap by WiMax this essentially involves base station to client (Customer end equipment) setting quite similar to cell phone technology setup. WiMax download speeds in theory can reach 144 Mbs downlink but this diminishes the further one goes from the base station. Though WiMax deployment is relatively minuscule across the world because of deployment costs, Zambians who never shy from adopting new trends and technology will no doubt embrace it.

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  5. http://www.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSTRE56K3F020090721

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  6. Kafue,

    These are certainly welcome developments.

    Incidentally, my thesis for my postgrad was based on finding a solution to Zambia's information access needs, for both data and voice. That was way back in 2003. Prior to that I had been working in Zambia on various ICT connectivity projects for such clients as Zesco, banks, and govt depts, and when I went back to uni, it occurred to me that we were using rather outdated methods to confront modern problems.

    We were using leased lines (64kbps) and variants of IEEE 802.11 wireless links for outdoor use for which 802.11 was never meant! Also these radios were using the unlicensed ISM band which meant that every Jim 'n Jack could put up a radio anywhere and any time and at any frequency within that band, without a license. In no time, interference jammed the ISM band in Lusaka city centre as well as Manda Hill. When that happened, people simply added amplifiers to their radios to boost their signals above yours and the result was chaos!

    That's what prompted me to consider a shared network infrastructure at uni. I compared and contrasted various available technologies at the time, and also what was coming in the future, e.g WiMAX. In 2003, very few people knew what this WiMAX was all about. My professor encouraged me because he was also very keen on this new technology, then just lingering in the academic doldrums.

    I proposed a combined WiMAX and 3G access solution for both voice, data and video access. Of course, in 2003 this was very new stuff so not many people in Zambia were interested.

    I'm only glad that I was right, 6 years ago. I suppose Zambia has it's own pace of doing things.

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  7. Zedian,

    Thanks for the info, I am not a technical expert. Here is Wikipedia's comparison of the various mobile internet access methods:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WiMAX#Comparison

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  8. Kafue,

    Interesting. With the arrival of the fibre internet access in Zambia, mobile internet is set to accelerate. There will be rapid migration frm 2G and 2.5G to 3G, EDGE and HSDPA as the Reuters report hinted. The mobile companies were basically timing the fibre link to the sea. That's on the mobile side. We will also see more WiMAX deploment coming up offering data and voice, if the regulator formerly known as CAZ get their act together. I'm yet to read through the latest ICT bill to see if there's anything on that.

    Once 3G, EDGE and HSDPA take off, my prediction is the landline will be dead! Who will want a landline and what for? It takes an average 3 weeks to get one, and that's if there's capacity where you live. Plus the lines are so noisy (electrical noise) that modems can only get a maximum of 28Kbps and even with ADSL you cannot achieve reasonable rates.

    Zamtel and govt are simply delaying the inevitable.

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  9. Benefits of cable network:

    http://www.voanews.com/english/Africa/2009-07-29-voa36.cfm

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  10. http://allafrica.com/stories/200908040277.html

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  11. ADSL is the connection of choice among small to medium sized business enterprises in South Africa compared to dial-up and wireless broadband:

    http://www.itnewsafrica.com/?p=3000

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  12. Kafue,

    ADSL is a pretty good technology, but only where good copper infrastructure already exists, because the technology is wholly dependent on that. In the UK too, ADSL is still by far the most widely used internet access method.

    The current copper infrastructure in Zambia needs upgrading if it were to provide reliable ADSL.

    There are two realistic approaches to solving the access problem in Zambia; either more copper investment, which is not only very expensive but tedious and time consuming, or new wireless technology which is quicker to deploy, and a lot cheaper.

    We've said all this before, but just for clarification as to why we don't have widespread ADSL in Zambia and won't be having it any time soon.

    The other important issue with ADSL is that it requires DSLAMs which every ISP need providing the service needs to have or share. These are large pieces of kit to which ADSL modems connect to and which must be located at the exchange. Now, for any other ISP to have kit at a Zamtel exchange, there needs to be some kind of agreement, possibly overseen by the regulator.

    I'm glad to have noticed that the new ICT Bill 2009 addresses this collocation issue.

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  13. Zedian,

    Another option besides wireless broadband would be to replace the current copper wire network with a fiber optic network over time as is happening in America and some other places. This is very expensive and the low purchasing power of the population in Zambia means that the majority would not be able to afford the high cost of the expanded services it offers. However it could be possible in central business districts and high income areas of the country where people and companies are able to afford the services.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiber-optic_communication#Last_mile

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verizon_FiOS

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  14. Kafue,

    Indeed, some banks already have their own fibre link along Cairo Rd and possibly some other areas. What's now needed is a shared fibre access network for businesses. Industrial parks and shopping malls are ideal.

    However, I still do not see fibre into Zambian residential areas, however affluent they may be. There are far more cost effective solutions for the problem at hand. The consumers' data needs usually dictate the solution.

    There are currently several fibre access projects all over Europe too, but if you hear the amounts of money involved, you will appreciate why I think fibre to the home is not for Zambia. The money could be better spent on other things.

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  15. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/10/technology/10cable.html?_r=1

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  16. http://www.itnewsafrica.com/?p=3039

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  17. Another fibre optic network?

    http://www.times.co.zm/news/viewnews.cgi?category=12&id=1250143893

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  18. http://worldhaveyoursay.wordpress.com/2009/09/07/africa-connected/

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  19. @Kafue001 - What does this mean in terms of cost of ADSL?

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  20. Anonymous,

    ADSL should come down in price over the long term. With internet service providers having lower costs due to the increased bandwidth availability and its cheaper price, it will be passed on to the consumers. Perhaps not so much in the short term since fibre optic cable owners have to recoup their investment, but more likely in the long term.

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  21. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8257038.stm

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  22. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8255818.stm

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  23. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8266290.stm

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  24. http://www.itnewsafrica.com/?p=3213

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  25. http://www.daily-mail.co.zm/media/news/viewnews.cgi?category=5&id=1259565229

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  26. Netbook for developing countries?

    http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/cherrypal-africa-a-99-netbook-for-developing-countries/?news=123

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  27. Mobile web usage in Africa:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/dec/22/mobilephones-internet

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  28. OLPC XO-3 design:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8428147.stm

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  29. Taking experts to the village via internet:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8563804.stm

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  30. OLPC news:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/10091177.stm

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  31. Opportunities come calling:

    http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-05-14-opportunities-come-calling

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  32. OLPC update:

    http://blog.laptop.org/2010/05/27/xo3-marvell-and-olpc/

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  33. I have installed a packetshaper unit just before the router to my ISP to enable me monitor and manage the company's bandwidth and what i have noticed is that quality of the link in Zambia is also a problem. sometimes the link fluctuates by as much as 60% not to mention the several outages experienced in a day. this has been the case with two diffrent ISPs. i think most pipo in this industry dnt knw wat they r doin. they think pointing a cheap radio in the right direction and writing a few commands in the router( since they have the now famous CCNA Certificate)will do the job. The situation even gets worse on company level, i dnt want to go into that right now.

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  34. OLPC in Rwanda:

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1997940,00.html?xid=rss-mostpopular

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  35. African Undersea Cables (2012):

    http://manypossibilities.net/african-undersea-cables/

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  36. Stanford University’s PINGer project is monitoring the impact of Seacom and other east coast cables as they come online:

    https://confluence.slac.stanford.edu/display/IEPM/New+E.+Coast+of+Africa+Fibre

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  37. India unveils prototype of $35 tablet computer:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100723/ap_on_hi_te/as_india_supercheap_computer

    http://www.mobileclues.com/india-unveils-rs-1500-30-tablet-pc

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  38. New cables tie West Africa closer to Internet:

    http://www.denverpost.com/technology/ci_15940771

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  39. Affordable broadband 'can transform world':

    http://www.tradearabia.com/news/newsdetails.asp?Sn=IT&artid=185325

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  40. The next billion geeks:

    http://www.economist.com/node/16944020

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  41. Zamtel is currently testing country wide ADSL deployment. It will be launched soon. Zedian is right - where the copper lines are bad, its not very good. But that is the exception rather than the rule. In most cases, its very good. I know because I'm using it just now and its blistering fast by Zambian standards.

    And in case you missed it, the EASSY cable was launched on the July 5 2010 and Zamtel is set to tap into that cable very soon. Unlike Zamnet, Zamtel is a shareholder in the EASSY cable and that means it will most likely be paying less for the bandwidth.

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  42. Report: India to receive $35 tablet computer in 2011

    http://www.huliq.com/10177/35-tablet-not-myth-india-gets-it-2011

    Pilot program to rent computers in Indian rural areas:

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/Govt-to-rent-out-computers-in-rural-areas-at-Rs-15-a-day/articleshow/6528675.cms

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  43. Africa expects Internet revolution:

    http://www.itnewsafrica.com/?p=8913&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+itnewsafrica+%28ITNewsAfrica.com%29

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  44. Africa-South America fibre optic cable project:

    http://www.balancingact-africa.com/news/en/issue-no-520-0/telecoms/south-africa-s-efive-pitches-400m-africa-brazil-fibre-route-in-a-cro

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  45. Solar-powered cyber cafe:

    http://thecitizen.co.tz/business/-/4665-solar-powered-cafe-set-up-in-remote-zambian-village

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  46. It's good that they are implementing this. Thank you for sharing.
    vpn service

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  47. This is great, it's really hard to work with a slow connection.
    virtual office

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  48. I have to agree with Len, it can really be bothersome if the connection is slow.

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  49. If only the whole world is using an end-to-end fiber optic connection, then we will all enjoy fast internet connection. This can help a lot in our everyday life.
    Web Hosting UK

    ReplyDelete

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