West African Regional Communications Infrastructure Project
The Gambia is one of the African Countries which remains to date without connectivity to submarine cable and rely exclusively on satellite communications and fibre optic connection through neighbouring countries for international connectivity. The result has been an unreliable service and high prices for international calls and internet connection. This, coupled with a deteriorating national backbone infrastructure has created a difficult environment for expanding availability. The lack of access to low price and high quality telecommunication services is one of the factors that limits The Gambia’s potential to create jobs, expand production of goods and services and trade competitively with the rest of the world.
The Government of The Gambia (GOTG) in its quest to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and its blue print “Vision 2020” objectives saw the need for improving The Gambia’s international connectivity, as well as for greater regional economic and communication infrastructure integration. For this reason, the GOTG has decided, along with many other West African countries, to become a member of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) fiber-cable project.
The fibre optic layout and connectivity is shown in the figure below.
Current Configuration of ACE submarine Cable stations on the Western African Coastline.
A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) “The Gambia Submarine Cable Co. Ltd” has been established between the private Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) operators, the Internet Service Providers (ISP), the GOTG and the Gambia Telecommunications Company (GAMTEL/GAMCEL) to participate in the ACE consortium and secure access to capacity.
The Government of The Gambia through GAMTEL signed the ACE “Construction and Maintenance Agreement” (C&MA) on 5th June 2010 and has accordingly become a member of the ACE consortium and will be part of the new fiber-cable system. This support forms part of the West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (WARCIP)Gambia Project prepared by the GOTG with financial support from the World Bank through an International Development Association (IDA) grant of US$35 million.
On 12th September 2011, the ACE fibre cable from France landed in The Gambia the beach by the Lemon Creek Hotel in Bijilo at about 13:10 hrs. The official landing was witnessed by key stakeholders from the telecoms industry in The Gambia as well as by PURA.
The project development objective of WARCIP The Gambia is to increase the geographical reach of broadband networks and reduce costs of communications services in the territory of The Gambia. The project seeks to provide a comprehensive solution to address bottlenecks relating to connectivity to enable the creation of a fully integrated network which will eventually link all countries’ networks in the region. It also supports the strengthening of the enabling environment by provision of critical technical assistance and local capacity to institutions and provides project implementation support.
The project is to be implemented over four years commencing 2011 and the total cost of the project is estimated at US$35 million.