The MTN Group, which is the largest operator investor in the East Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), is pleased with the progress being made in the construction of the cable.

A significant milestone will be achieved this weekend when the undersea cable lands in Mtunzini, on the north coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal.

This will be the only landing of the EASSy cable in South Africa and heralds the start of the final stage of the long process of planning, financing, designing and building this important African East Coast consortium cable system.

EASSy, a fully integrated high capacity, multi-technology network, is an undersea fibre-optic cable that will link the countries of Southern, Eastern and Northern Africa to the rest of the world through various interconnection points to the existing global submarine cable network.

When EASSy goes live at the end of June 2010, it will allow MTN to significantly enhance its offering to its customers in South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya with much sought-after international bandwidth capacity.

The MTN Group, Africa’s leading telecommunications operator, will witness the historic laying of the cable by the Ile de Batz vessel as it anchors the submarine optic cable along the coastline in Mtunzini. Other locally- based investors will also be attending the landmark event.

MTN Group’s Trevor Martins, who is also the EASSy Management Committee Chairman, says the completion of EASSy will boost MTN’s broadband capacity and facilitate MTN’s ongoing efforts to provide its customers with the most affordable access to broadband.

“Over the past years MTN has been a pioneer in pursuing opportunities by investing in technologies, businesses and licences which enhance our delivery of services in data and internet protocol connectivity. As part of a larger strategic portfolio, EASSy is one of such investments and we are excited about the cable landing in Mtunzini. This signals significant progress in the construction of the cable after the northern part of the cable construction off the Port of Sudan,” says Martins.

“The substantial investment MTN has made in EASSy is indicative of the Group’s unwavering commitment to bridge the digital divide and offer its subscribers wider and more affordable access to broadband and telephony,” adds Martins.

MTN’s capital investment of $40.3m in EASSy is in addition to the investments MTN has injected in similar ventures such as the Europe India Gateway (EIG), SAT-3, Main-1 and the West Africa Cable System (WACS). These investments form part of the Group’s well designed strategy to ensure further operational cost reductions and increased quality delivery by all our operations.

Martins points out that MTN’s investments in undersea cables make business sense in light of a number of internet service providers (ISPs) that MTN has acquired throughout its footprint, including among others, VGC Communications in Nigeria, Afnet and Arobase in Cote d’Ivoire and the Verizon portfolio in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Kenya.

“The increased bandwidth that will be available as a result of our investments in these submarine networks will capacitate both these ISPs and our mobile operations, in markets largely serviced by costly satellite bandwidth, thus enabling MTN to open up large-scale access to international broadband to our valued customers,” said Martins.