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ICT Sector To Witness Boost With MTN WACS 

By LeocadiaBongben

The Information and Communication Technology and the Telecommunications sector in Cameroon stand to witness a boost with the MTN Group handing over ownership of the submarine optic fibre cable, the West African Landing System, WACS to Government.

MTN Group Representative, Karl Toriola and the Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Jean-Pierre Biyiti Bi Essam appended their signatures to the concession accord in Yaounde, rently. Following the concession, Government would own 60 percent of the ownership rights and the partner 40 percent.

Cameroon, initially, was in possession of one sub-marine cable, the South Atlantic Cable SAT 3 with a capacity of 340 gigabits, and the optic fibre would provide additional 5, 2 terabits and thereby diversifying access to the global broadband fibre network. The two cables would be connected such that when one is faulty the other can work and vice versa. This will enable the country to have access to global information band always. Government had to cough out about FCFA 14 billion, (FCFA 12 billion as affiliation rights to WACS and FCFA 2 billion for the MTN landing station in Batoke Limbe) to take over the optic fibre cable that  has the advantage of providing Cameroonians with better quality internet, electronic commerce, telemedicine, among others.

The WACS cable, MTN Group representative maintained, is a 14.500km cable that runs along the western coast of Africa and Europe. Toriola said beyond investing in ownership, as key investor in WACS, MTN sought the consent of WACS co-investors to allow the WACS cable to have a fully-fledged landing facility in Cameroon. MTN built the landing station which was commissioned and went operational in May 2012. 

MTN Cameroon boss said that, to fully comply with the new Communication Act of December 2010, MTN was transferring the ownership of the landing station to Government. “MTN is honoured to be a strategic partner of the Government of Cameroon in its vision to provide its citizens with cutting edge innovative technology and to enhance the country’s sustainable growth and development”, he said. 

Biyiti bi Essam for his part rejoiced that the signing of the concession was the outcome of 25 months of negotiations with the partners. 

He announced that CAMTEL would be in charge of managing and exploiting the optic fibre landing station and hoped that with its 12 years of managing the SAT 3, the outfit has the experience and expertise to protect the heritage, manage and exploit it properly. The challenge, he said, is for CAMTEL to respect the principle of open access that guarantees equal access for all operators. Besides, the outfit would have to render the price of the large band affordable in Cameroon and the sub-region. Biyiti bi Essam stressed that CAMTEL would be judged from the price the WACS capacity would be commercialised.  

He urged the Telecommunications Regulatory Agency, ART, to ensure the exploitation of the landing station in such a manner as to allow operators access to the station and capacity of WACS cable equitably and without discrimination. 

The Post and Telecommunication boss emphasised that members of the WACS Consortium should have access to their capacity in the form of irrevocable usage right and in conditions defined in the Construction and Maintenance Contract. 

The ceremony was attended by the South African High Commissioner to Cameroon, Ms Z Makina, among other dignitaries.

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