South Africa's submarine cable around West Africa to Europe will cost less than the projected $700 million, and suppliers will be named by the end of March, an official said on Friday.
Andrew Mthembu, chairman of a state-owned firm that owns a stake in the group building the cable, confirmed local media reports that the cable would not be completed in time for the 2010 soccer World Cup as planned, but rather in 2011.
The West Africa Cable System (WACS) will boost broadband capacity and could cut comparatively high Internet tariffs in Africa's biggest economy, which has relied on a single international cable controlled for years by Telkom (TKGJ.J).
According to a government website, the new 13,000 km cable will link Cape Town to Britain via at least 10 other countries, and was initially slated for launch in the middle of 2010 ahead of the soccer World Cup, which South Africa is hosting.
Mthembu is chairman of South Africa's state-owned telecom infrastructure company, Broadband Infraco, which will hold a 26 percent stake in the cable project with the remainder in private hands.
Mthembu said South African telecommunication companies would meet demand for the Wold Cup by routing traffic along an existing west African cable and by using cables being built around the east of the continent that should be ready by 2010. They would also use satellite connectivity, he added.
"It is anticipated that project works will commence in quarter one, 2009 (and) that the end-to-end submarine cable, with end and interim landing stations, should be completed by early 2011," he said in an email to Reuters.
The global economic crisis had not hit plans and the cable would cost less than initial forecasts, he added.
"The figure is much less than $700 million," he said, adding that the cost would depend on the final configuration of the cable which is expected to move data at around 3 terabytes per second (Tbps).
Mthembu said the WACS consortium will announce its decision on the project's supplier and the contract value in March 2009.
(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Rupert Winchester)
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