Construction of the US$650 million Seacom undersea fibre-optic cable is well underway. The cable will link the continent with the rest of the world to bring down connectivity costs. A release from Shanduka Group, a black South African investment firm which owns 12.5% in Seacom said some 10,000 km of cable has been manufactured to-date at locations in the USA and Japan. Tyco Telecommunications (US) Inc., the project contractors, started laying off-shore end cables at landing stations from September. As of last month, laying of the actual cable had began, but final splicing, which involves connecting all cable sections together, will happen in April next year. A press statement quoted Seacom president Brian Herlihy as saying that some important milestones have been reached, including the establishment of landing sites in Mozambique and Kenya. Construction has started in Maputo and installation of prefabricated cable station buildings has commenced. In Mombasa, foundations are beginning for similar prefabricated stations, which are in-country, ready for installation on site in December, he said. According to the statement, the containerised cable station modules were shipped from New Jersey to Africa in September. The remaining cable stations for South Africa and Tanzania are on their way to Africa, it said. At the moment, the eastern seaboard of Africa is the only part of continent without a submarine fiber-optic cable. This has forced the region to rely heavily on limited and expensive satellite links. As a result, countries along the coast and in its hinterland have some of the highest communications costs in the world. Even though fiber-optic links would drive down communication costs for businesses and consumers, it also could be a big opportunity for entrepreneurs. Nearly 90% of the Seacom cable has been manufactured, with entire network expected to connect all cable sections together off the horn of Africa by June next year. Seacom has recently done groundbreaking for landing stations in Kenya and Mozambique. This important milestone gave Seacom an actual land-based footprint that will allow Tyco Telecommunications to install the high-speed optical transmission equipment at these sites soon. Seacom, which is 76.25% Africa-owned, will assist communication carriers in south and East Africa through the sale of wholesale international capacity to global networks via India and Europe. The undersea fibre optic cable system will provide African retail carriers with equal and open access to inexpensive bandwidth, removing the international infrastructure bottleneck and supporting east and southern African economic growth. Ten years ago, a study into African communications infrastructure estimated that $300-$400 million was being lost by African countries each year due to lack of direct connectivity on the continent. Cheap and available bandwidth will enable functioning of high definition TV (HDTV), peer to peer networks, and internet protocol television (IPTV) as well as tackle surging Internet demand. Pricing will be significantly lower than current satellite or fibre pricing. Secoms efforts would be complemented by yet another important project, the 9,900km East Africa submarine (EASSy) undersea cable which is set to run from Port Sudan in the north to Durban. EASSy is the most advanced of all the sea cables proposed for the East and Southern African region and it will cost US$248 million. Upon completion, projected in the last quarter of 2009, it will, for the first time, bring faster and affordable Internet to about 250 million people in the region.