West Africa Cable System

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West Africa Cable System (WACS)
carrier consortium of 12 ( MTN Group, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco, Cable & Wireless, Congo Telecom, Office Congolais des Postes et Telecommunications (OCPT), PT Comunicações, Togo Telecom, Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia, Telkom SA Ltd and Vodacom Ltd.)
Landing points
Total length14500 km
Topologytrunk and branch
Design capacity14.5 Tbit /s
Currently lit capacity500 Gbit /s
TechnologyFibre-optic DWDM
Date of first use11 May 2012 (11 May 2012)
Cable laying ship Île de Bréhat connecting West African Cable System fibre at Yzerfontein in South Africa, 24 April 2011, returning 28 April for inspection

The West Africa Cable System (WACS) is a submarine communications cable linking South Africa with the United Kingdom along the west coast of Africa that was constructed by Alcatel-Lucent. The cable consists of four fibre pairs[1] and is 14,530 km in length, linking from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape of South Africa to London in the United Kingdom. It has 14 landing points, 12 along the western coast of Africa (including Cape Verde and Canary Islands) and 2 in Europe (Portugal and England) completed on land by a cable termination station in London. The total cost for the cable system is $650 million.[1] WACS was originally known as the Africa West Coast Cable (AWCC) and was planned to branch to South America but this was dropped and the system eventually became the West African Cable System.[2]

Landing points[edit]

The cable has landed in the following countries and locations:

  1. South Africa, Western Cape, Yzerfontein
  2. Namibia, Swakopmund[3]
  3. Angola, Sangano near Luanda
  4. Democratic Republic of Congo, Muanda
  5. Republic of Congo, Matombi near Pointe Noire
  6. Cameroon, Limbe, near Douala
  7. Nigeria, Lekki, near Lagos
  8. Togo, Afidenyigba near Lomé
  9. Ghana, Nungua near Accra
  10. Ivory Coast, Abidjan
  11. Cape Verde, Palmarejo near Praia
  12. Canary Islands, Telde(el Goro) near Las Palmas
  13. Portugal, Sesimbra near Seixal
  14. United Kingdom, Brean near Highbridge (fiber link is extended by underground cable to London)

The landings in Namibia, the DRC, the Republic of Congo and Togo will provide the first direct connections for these countries to the global submarine cable network.[citation needed] While all earlier submarine cables were terminated at South Africa's international submarine gateways in Melkbosstrand or Mtunzini the WACS cable has been landed at Yzerfontein in order to reduce risk of complete isolation from the rest of the world in the case of damages by earthquakes or a large ship dragging its anchor.[4]

Design capacity[edit]

The planned design capacity of WACS was 3.84 Tbit/s when the project agreement was signed in 2008.[5] When delivered in 2012 the initial design capacity was 5.12Tbit/s.[6] An upgrade delivered by Huawei Marine in December 2015 using WDM Soft Decision FEC and bit interleaved coded modulation advanced decoders permitting the design capacity to be increased to 14.5Tbit/s.[7]


Instead of powering the 236 undersea optical amplifiers and the 12 Submarine branching units along the cable by a single conductor which would require the voltage to be well over 12,000 to 14,000 V in the order of some 24,000 V DC, the system is supplied by two independent rings from Europe to West Africa and West Africa to South Africa, thus reducing the power requirements to around 12,000 V DC.[1] Branching units are designed to keep the main trunk intact in case of failure. Repairing a branch will not affect the traffic on the main cable.[1] Landing stations support wavelength pass through which means a wavelength coming into a landing station does not just stop there but carries on. This feature allows future upgrade to be carried out without the necessity to have to upgrade each landing point.[1]


One of the four fibre pairs is a direct route from South Africa to Europe, a so-called express lane. The second and third fibre pairs are designed as a semi-express lane, one with two hops, from South Africa to West Africa and West Africa to Europe and the other with three stops. The fourth fibre pair is an omnibus fibre that stops off at all landing ports en route.[1]

  • Fibre Pair one known as the Express lane (South Africa and Portugal)
  • Fibre Pair two (South Africa to Nigeria to Portugal)
  • Fibre Pair three (South Africa to Angola to DRC to Ivory Coast to Portugal)
  • Fibre Pair four (All WACS Landing Stations)


Construction and ownership[edit]

The following South African companies were announced as participants in the construction and maintenance of the cable system.[9] MTN Group has invested $90 million in the cable making it the largest investor, and in return will receive 11% of the initial capacity of the cable.

On 8 April 2009, the following companies signed the WACS Construction and Maintenance Agreement[5] and formed the final consortium:The WACS consortium includes 12 companies. They are:[1]

  1. Vodacom
  2. Togo Telecom
  3. Telkom (South Africa)
  4. Telecom Namibia
  5. Tata Communications/Neotel
  6. Portugal Telecom/Cabo Verde Telecom
  7. Office Congolais des Postes et Telecommunications
  8. MTN Group
  9. Congo telecom
  10. Cable & Wireless Worldwide
  11. Broadband Infraco
  12. Angola Cables

The supply contract has been signed the same day between the consortium members and Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks.

subsea's cable laying operations began 15 July 2010 by the departure of Île de Bréhat vessel from Alcatel-Lucent’s submarine cable's factory of Calais loaded with almost 6000 km of submarine cables. The cable has been simultaneously laid by Alcatel-Lucent’s cable ships Île de Bréhat and her sister ship Île de Sein. subsea's cable laying operations are officially finished 19 April 2011 [10] by the landing of the cable on a Yzerfontein's beach in South Africa after less than ten months of sea operations.

The cable became operational on 11 May 2012 by the launching of the cable in South Africa[11]

The 4-fibre pair submarine cable system was constructed at an approximate total project cost of US$650 million.

See also[edit]

List of international submarine communications cables

Individual cable systems off the west coast of Africa include:

Other African submarine communications cables:

Other African terrestrial communications cables:


  1. ^ a b c d e f g van de Groendendaal, Hans (20 April 2011). "WACS to provide increased international connectivity". EE Publishers (Pty) Ltd. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  2. ^ "Same Day Analysis: WASACE Plans Submarine Cable Connecting Africa to Europe, Latin America and North America" Global Insight, 28 November 2011
  3. ^ Ekongo, John (2 February 2011). "Submarine cable a reality". New Era.
  4. ^ van de Groendendaal, Hans (28 February 2011). "WACS to provide increased international connectivity". EE Publishers (Pty) Ltd. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Telecom Namibia Joins $600 Million Sea Cable Project" (Press release). Huawei Marine Networks Co. Ltd. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  6. ^ "African consortium WACS to extend its submarine cable system from Portugal to the UK with Alcatel-Lucent's 40G ultra-fast optical technology" (Press release). Alcatel-Lucent. 24 August 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  7. ^ "Huawei Marine and the WACS Consortium Go Live with Underwater Submarine Cable following 100G Upgrade" (Press release). Huawei Marine Networks Co. Ltd. 8 December 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  8. ^ "WACS Complete Upgrades – Phase 1" (Press release). Telecom Namibia. 17 August 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  9. ^ http://www.itweb.co.za/sections/telecoms/2009/0903111044.asp?
  10. ^ http://www.itnewsafrica.com/2011/04/wacs-landing-in-pictures/
  11. ^ http://mybroadband.co.za/news/telecoms/49821-wacs-launched-in-south-africa.html