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, Réunion, Madagascar, and Kenya, with Orange being the major owner.
METISS, which is an acronym for MElting poT Indianoceanic Submarine System, is the first new cable announced. The 3,000 km system is planned to link Mauritius, Réunion, and Madagascar to South Africa at an estimated cost of 40 million Euros (US$45M) for a total capacity of 24 Tbit/s. It was announced by a consortium of operators from multiple countries on December 15, 2016. 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 rumored that the company will invest in IOX Cable instead of METISS (Source: http://defimedia.info/internet-haut-debit-le-ceb-prevoit-desinvestissements-de-rs-200-m-rs-1-md).
The METISS Cable is backed by the Commission de l’Océan Indien (IOC). METISS consortium members held their 10th Steering Committee Meeting on 3, 4, and 5 July 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Two new member investors, Belgacom International Carrier Services (BICS) and Airtel Madagascar, were accepted unanimously by members of the steering committee, bringing to ten the number of operators in the region involved in the project and strengthens viability.
The statutes adopted by signatory operators of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) METISS, provide for the entry of any new investor interested and invite other operators in the region to join the METISS cable project.
Moreover, the company Cable Metiss Ltd. was recorded with the "Registrar of Companies" Mauritius June 28, 2017.
A review of system suppliers’ bids was completed of which three offers were retained will be subjected to detailed review at the next steering committee.
Finally, several partners have been shortlisted for the landing of the cable in South Africa. Once this step is completed, the start of work will begin for commissioning in the first half of 2019.
Adapted from: https://internetinmauritius.wordpress.com, Indian Ocean Commission (IOC)
ANALYSIS: Development of submarine connectivity among Indian Ocean islands has, so far, followed three five-year cycles. Back in 2002, a very large consortium of mainly incumbent telcos built an intercontinental system called SAFE (South Africa-Far East) between South Africa, India, and Malaysia, with branches into Mauritius & Réunion for signal re-generation and redundancy.
In 2007, the Maldive Islands got a bi-lateral incumbent system to Sri Lanka, and a private system to India. Between 2009 and 2012, French government initiatives started to catalyze the LION consortium projects around Mauritius, Réunion, Madagascar, and Mayotte, and a private system was installed between the Seychelles and Tanzania.
In the period 2012-2017, the Maldives’ international systems were complemented by two new domestic systems, one installed by the incumbent and one by the leading mobile operator, Ooredoo, while domestic system “Avassa” was installed by the incumbent in Comoros.
Within the next two years, if all goes according to plan, we will also see FLY-LION3 (incumbent consortium), METISS (mixed consortium), and IOX (private) installed between India, Mayotte, the Comoros, Mauritius, Rodrigues, Réunion, Madagascar, and South Africa.
Throughout these phases, support from multi-lateral financial institutions and governments has been critical to spurring development but, as the days of the incumbent monopoly come to an end even on these relatively remote islands, the contribution from private equity is becoming more evident.
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Julian Rawle, Author
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