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Operators decry loss of $1.5 million to submarine cable damages


Damages including man-made and natural hazard to submarine cable system is costing the operators about $1.5 million in repairs.
This was disclosed in Lagos at the weekend, when the affected operators came together to form an association to tackle the menace.
Under the auspices of Submarine Cable Owners in Nigeria (ASCON), the body said it has become highly expedient to ensure adequate precautionary measures are taken to protect national infrastructure.
ASCON is the coming together of five submarine cable operators under a single platform to drive common goals. The operators include Natcom, MainOne, Globacom, Dolphin Telecom, and MTN. They have all landed SAT3, MainOne, Glo l, ACE, and WACS cables respectively. They boast of having over nine Terabytes bandwidth capacity.

The Chairman of ASCON, who doubles as the Head, Regulatory Services at MainOne, Ifeloju Alakija, said the need for collaboration to protect submarine cables from damage, necessitated the formation of ASCON, coupled with the fact that submarine cable is a critical national infrastructure that needed to be protected.
Speaking on the objective of ASCON, Alakija said: “The principal objective of the ASCON is to create a national advocacy forum for Nigerian companies and administrations that own and/or operate submarine telecommunications cables landing in the country.”
According to him the association shall support and manage governmental and public/private sector collaboration, to ensure that the operations and maintenance of critical subsea communications assets are adequately protected and recognised in the development of rules and policies in Nigeria.
He said the association would equally serve as a forum for the exchange of technical, environmental and legal information pertaining to submarine systems operations and maintenance.
Speaking on the future challenges of the Submarine cable industry and official position of the International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC), Company Secretary, Keith Schofield, said about 1-1.5 km of submarine telecom cable is currently operating globally, and more connections are being added as the Internet is nascent.
For him, fishing and anchorage are the major causes of cable failure, “seabed users must have an unfiltered right to occupy the seabed in international waters. Different seabed users must pay due regard to the interest of others who have a right to be there and understand international law.
“Permitting and legislation needs to keep up with technology development. Also, government, businesses and citizens should realise how important their international cable should be a concern to their well-being.”
Corroborating him, Vice President of the ASCON and Submarine Network Support Engineer Network Group, MTN, Maxwell Eze, cited fish-trailing, anchorage, oil and gas operations as major threats to submarine cables. “However, such damages have not reflected on the end users because of the individual measures taken to avoid such issues.
“What we request is peaceful coexistence on the waters, so we do not evade on one another’s right. If we allow such threats to happen, it will yield a negative ripple effect for foreign direct investment (FDI) on broadband communication that has brought significant contributions and improvements to the Nigerian populace.
“The association is also targeted to establish safety zones by virtue of policy and regulations for submarine regulators. This protection measures will make us benefit from FDI and make broadband cheaper.”

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