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Angola looks to become Africa’s telecoms hub

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Angola is best known in Africa for being the second largest oil producer on the continent after Nigeria.

But Angolan government officials have been quoted in reports earlier this month as saying that over the next two years Angola could also establish itself as a hub for African telecoms.

Angolan officials say African telcos could use Angola to connect to Europe and South America when subsea networks such as the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) are scheduled to come online in 2014.

SACS is planned to stretch 6,000 km and directly connect two portuguese speaking nations: Angola and Brazil.

And according to telecommunications company, Angola Cables, SACS is set to be the first undersea cable linking Africa with South America in the southern hemisphere.

Meanwhile, the likes of the chief executive officer of global network exchange provider Epsilon Telecommunications, Andreas Hipp, also says that Angola has the potential to become a telecoms hub based on its future undersea cable connectivity.

Hipp explains that with the West African Cable System (WACS) already live in Angola and the scheduled plans for SACS, operators could be in a position to use the southern African nation to directly connect to Europe and South America as well as the African continent.

“With a supportive regulatory environment, innovative operators and a growing economy, Angola has the ingredients to become a hub for Africa,” said Hipp.

He added, “The future of Angola as a telecoms hub is a bright one and we look forward to seeing its domestic market thrive.”

Currently, Angola has two operational submarine cables SAT3/SEACOM and WACS.

Independent technology analyst Steve Song has told ITWeb Africa that he agrees that Angola could be the telecoms hub for the continent.

Song also adds that there are several initiatives to connect Africa with Brazil, which includes not just SACS but also the South Atlantic Express (SAex).

SAex is the proposed submarine communications cable that is planned to link South Africa and Angola to Brazil.

“If SACS is the only cable to succeed, then indeed Angola will be in a unique position in terms of offering connectivity to the region from both Europe and the Americas,” said Song.

“A South Atlantic cable can also offer a competitive edge in offering lower latency connections, especially to financial markets in the US,” he adds.

However, Frost & Sullivan research analyst Mervin Miemoukanda has said that Angola still has a long way before it could establish itself as a telecoms hub.

Angola must open up its telecoms market before it can become a telecoms hub for Africa, Miemoukanda has said.

With a population of almost 20 million - Angola has only two mobile operators namely Unitel and Angola Telecom’s Movicel.

“I can say Angola won't be a telecom hub for Africa in the next 2 years or so,” said Miemoukanda.

He added, “Remember, Angola is one of the sub-Sahara African countries with poor telecoms infrastructure. In addition, the Angola regulatory environment is not conducive to market development. They really need to change to open up their telecoms market.”

“If Angola wants to become the telecoms hub for the continent, they need to invest a lot in terrestrial intra and inter infrastructure, linking up the country with neighbouring countries. Currently, the country's telecom infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired,” Miemoukanda concluded.

Whether Angola is able to establish itself as the telecoms hub of the continent could come down to how attractive it is to do business there, Steve Song has said.

“The good news is that Angola is bringing what Africa desperately needs in telecommunications, more competition. And that is likely to be good for everyone,” he said.

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