Uganda Christian University (UCU) could be connected to the SEACOM undersea cable in October if negotiations with Infocom bear fruit, the acting director of the Uganda Computing Services (UCS), Mr. Alex Kisakye said last week.Kisakye also said that it has taken the university all this while to get connected because their partner, RENU, is taking long to get a connection.

The first undersea cable to touch the coast of East Africa was the TEAMS cable that landed in June. The SEACOM cable that UCU is expecting to connect to landed a few months later.

“For us to connect to that cable we can either talk to RENU which we are doing or we can approach one of the internet service providers around to get a link from them,” Kisakye said.

RENU is the Research and Education Network of Uganda Universities. RENU currently brings together Makerere University, Makerere University Business School, UCU, Kyambogo University, Mbarara University, Mulago School of Paramedics, Nkumba and the School of Clinical Research in Entebbe among others. Cutting costs on joining the undersea cable is also one of the numerous benefits of being a part of this consortium.

“RENU being the umbrella consortium is responsible for negotiating a good price from SEACOM so that all the universities involved purchase the bandwidth in bulk.”

“We have been in talks with RENU for a while now but it looks like RENU will get a connection to the undersea cable some time in January or February, which is why we started talking to Infocom.” Kisakye explained.

With a link to the undersea cable, access to the internet is expected to be faster and cheaper.

“At the moment, we connect to the internet via UTL but the next base station that we land to is in Germany, the problem with this, is that there are many obstacles on the way,” Kisakye said.

UCU currently spends about US $36,000 annually for 2 megabytes of speed on connectivity fees. With a link to the sea cable, that cost is expected to come down to about US $12,000 for the same speed. That price applies to a connection from Infocom.

It, however, will cost less if the bandwidth was bought under the RENU consortium because there is a government subsidy for educational institutions.

A connection with the RENU consortium is expected to cost the university about US $7,200 annually for 2 megabytes of speed, plus the additional benefits of no costs on shared research and library resources.

At the moment, UCU has over 500 computers installed on the network and they all share 2 megabytes of speed this is the reason as to why some websites open while others take forever to open.

UCU will, however, not reduce on the budget allocated to bandwidth purchase, “What will happen is that the remaining money will be used to purchase more bandwidth.”

“The reason as to why some websites don't open while others do is because there are just too many users at the same time, our bandwidth at the moment is not enough and it may never be enough” Kisakye said.

When UCU got an internet connection it was running on a 256 Kilobyte speed and back then it was enough.

“At the moment even 10 megabytes of speed may not be enough because while people may be downloading movies at the current speed, they may want to stream or watch the movie on line and also make voice calls on the internet when they get better speeds.” Kisakye added.

To manage allocations of bandwidth, users may have to police themselves.