Emtel & Mauritius Telecom – Redundancy

Mauritius is at present connected directly to two submarine cables, the SAFE cable with landing points at Melkbosstrand,  Mtunzini (South Africa) and LION cable with landing point at Nyali (Kenya). From these cables, data then go through other cables such as WACS, SAT3, ACE for South Africa and DARE, EASSY, Seacom and TEAMS for Kenya.

On the 12th of July, just after Melkbosstrand, an incident occurred on the SAT3 cable which severely disrupted international connectivity while simultaneously a cable break occurred on the EASSY cable near Mogadishu.

However, Mauritius Telecom having invested heavily in most of the submarine cables on both east and west coast of Africa re-routed their impacted links to other cables with a slight increase in latency while bandwidth remained unaffected. On the other hand, Emtel reported a loss of about 50% of their total international capacity. With that said, redundancy is almost non-existent at Emtel. A similar incident occurred last year on the EIG cable near Monaco which severely impacted Emtel with similar outcome, ie, loss of about 50% of total international capacity. One year later, Emtel haven’t learned from their past mistakes.

Emtel, with two upstream providers, Telia and Belgacom, delivered at London and Marseilles respectively should share their routes from these cities to Mauritius on different cables, just like Mauritius Telecom. Nearer upstream providers should be found such as Hurricane Electric in Kenya, Djibouti Telecom at Djibouti, Etisalat at UAE. Relying on single routing is unacceptable, diversify routing for redundancy to retain your customers.

In addition, many have brought forward that deployment of the two recently announced cables, METISS and IOX cable need to be accelerated. We beg to differ. Since these two cables end at South Africa, the impact of these cable breaks would not be minimised. Investments in cable on East and West Africa to Europe is key to redundancy.

Therefore, it is undeniable that such incidents with major impacts on Emtel network are unacceptable in 2017.

While a cable break on SAFE or LION just after Mauritius resulting in loss in 50% international connectivity would be acceptable, but a cable break after SAFE and LION cable resulting in major impact on internet is completely unacceptable. Stop playing “wait for cable repair” game, diversify NOW.

With fierce competition between 3 mobile operators for a population of only 1.3 million people, Emtel has started its diversification with the launch of Airbox in 2015. With ChiLi being super aggressive, new sources of revenues are needed. OTT services are aggressively replacing traditional SMS and calls and revenues from these are falling. It’s high time to learn where to throw money.

With the fixed internet market mostly dominated by Mauritius Telecom, Airbox by Emtel was supposed to stop this reign. However, investment in underdeveloped technology called FTTA by Globtel was a big mistake. Money needs to be invested in mature technology backed by billions of dollar in R&D by Nokia (Alcatel Lucent), Ericsson, Huawei and ZTE such as 4G (LTE and LTE-A).

Competing with FTTH is possible. It is high time for Emtel to acquire LTE licence in the 2600 MHz spectrum and launch Fixed Wireless Broadband on TDD-LTE with Huawei B2338 outdoor modem. The only proven solution which can dominate FTTH as of now. THE ONLY SOLUTION…TO COMPETE WITH FTTH.

METISS and IOX Submarine Cable

Internet speed in Mauritius has been sub-par compared to other countries in the region and one of the main reasons brought forward is the lack to international bandwidth capacity. As of today, Mauritius is connected to only two submarine cables in the name of SAFE (South Africa Far East) and LION (Lower Indian Ocean Network).

The first submarine cable connected to Mauritius, SAFE was put in service in 2002 and in its many years of operation, several upgrades have been performed to increase its capacity. The current capacity is 800 Gigabit per second which is shared by multiple operators in multiple countries. The cable has been experiencing several issues in the recent years requiring lengthy maintenance and a replacement for it will be needed in the very near future.

The second submarine cable, LION/LION2 was put in operation in 2009 and has a designed capacity of 1.28 terabits per second. The cable is shared by Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar and Kenya with Orange being the major owner.

Enter METISS and IOX…

METISS, which is an acronym for MElting poT Indianoceanic Submarine System, is the first new cable announced. It was announced by a consortium of operators from multiple countries. They are Blueline, Canal+ Telecom, Emtel, SRR, Telco OI, Telma and Zeop. The cable is expected to be put into service in 2019. It was later announced that CEB FibreNet Ltd would be joining the consortium.

Initially, due to reluctance from local operators in Mauritius, the largest internet service provider in Mauritius, Mauritius Telecom was not invited to form part of the consortium. Later on, they were invited but then showed no interest since the latter decided to go ahead with IOX Cable. (Source: http://defimedia.info/mauritius-telecom-chiffre-daffaires-record-de-rs-1008-milliards)

Additionally, at CEB FibreNet Ltd, there might be a wind of change. Lately, it is rumoured that the company will invest in IOX Cable instead of METISS. (Source: http://defimedia.info/internet-haut-debit-le-ceb-prevoit-des-investissements-de-rs-200-m-rs-1-md)

Even though METISS Cable is backed by the Commission de l’océan Indien, news about METISS has been scarce…Is the project going forward? Or has it been cancelled. The islands of Indian Ocean have announced multiple projects in the recent years to introduced new submarine cable such as BRICS and others which have all been cancelled later on.

So Reunion, and mostly Zeop, get your shit together…

In Mauritius, we have another cable planned. IOX Cable, which stands for Indian Ocean eXchange, is expected to be put into service at the end of 2018 or start of 2019. The cable is backed by Mauritius Telecom and has a design capacity of  81 Tbps…

The cable will be built in two phase. The first phase consists of connecting Rodrigues to Mauritius and then directly to the existing Seacom submarine cable in east Africa and thereafter to South Africa. The second phase will consist of extending the cable from Rodrigues to India.

IOX Cable Route

The IOX Cable might land in other countries such as Reunion or Madagascar but so far there has been no expression of interest from these countries. (Source: https://www.africametro.com/business/mauritius-iox-wants-build-international-cable-link-india-africa-not-operators-facilitators-operators)

For the funding of IOX Cable, it should be noted that most of the private equity investment is expected from Anchor Tenant operators from all connected islands, Private Equity Investors, Vendor Finance, Debt Finance & Pre-Sales

IOX Cable Update: Build agreement has been signed with Alcatel Submarine Networks – https://networks.nokia.com/news/2017/iox-cable-ltd-alcatel-submarine-networks-to-build-first-open-cable