AT&T proposes ringing Africa with optic cable

April 26, 1994|By New York Times News Service

AT&T Corp. has proposed ringing the continent of Africa with a grid of undersea fiber-optic cables to improve communications among African countries and between Africa and the rest of the world.

The company proposed the project, which would cost from $1 billion to $1.5 billion, at a meeting yesterday in Cairo, Egypt, of telecommunications specialists organized by the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations regulatory agency.

Although each African country would have the option of not joining the network, transmission would not be affected if a country declined to participate because the crucial parts of the system would be outside the continent.

Under the plan, cables would come ashore at 36 points in the 30 African countries with coasts. Connections to the interior countries would be over standard links.

Currently, most communications in and out of Africa are transmitted by satellites, which provide lower quality and are more expensive to use than optical cable, officials said.

William Carter, president of AT&T Submarine Systems Inc., said the company hoped to have agreement on building the network by the end of next year and to have it in service by the end of 1997.

He said that AT&T was prepared to help African countries raise the money to build the system, but that it would be owned and managed by Africans.

He said one advantage of having cable ring the continent was a lessening of the possibility that a disturbance in one country would disrupt communications links with others.

"There's more security as well," he said. "You can listen to satellites, but it's pretty hard to go down a mile to get a cable."

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