SAT-3/WASC or South Atlantic 3/West Africa Submarine Cable
is a submarine communications cable
linking Portugal and Spain to South Africa, with connections to several West African countries along the route. It forms part of the SAT-3/WASC/SAFE cable system, where the SAFE cable links South Africa to Asia. The SAT-3/WASC/SAFE system provides a path between Asia and Europe for telecommunications traffic that is an alternative to the cable routes that pass through the Middle East, such as SEA-ME-WE 3
. SAT-3/WASC provides the only optical fiber link between West Africa and the remainder of the world. SAT-3
has a capacity of 120 Gbit/s
has a capacity of 130 Gbit/s.
The SAT-3 system together with SAFE was built by a consortium of operators that currently has 36 shareholders in all. The largest three investors in SAT-3/WASC were (in order) TCI, a subsidiary of AT&T (U.S.A.); France Telecom (France); and VSNL (India, Singapore). The 11 African shareholders are (in alphabetical order): Angola Telecom, Camtel, Cote d'Ivoire Telecom, Ghana Telecom, Maroc Telecom, Nitel, OPT Benin, OPT Gabon, Sonatel, Telecom Namibia and Telkom SA Ltd
Prices for SAT-3 bandwidth in the African countries it serves are high (USD$4500-$12000 per Mbit/s per month, over 50 times greater than bandwidth prices in the U.S.) in large part because operators have monopoly control of access. The lowest rates occur in Ghana, where the Ghana Internet Service Providers Association (GISPA) organized a 2 year negotiation with and court fight against Ghana Telecom. SAT-3 monopolies are due to expire in June 2007 and license agreements are being renegotiated. Many organizations, including the Association of African Universities
, have lobbied for bandwidth price reductions and/or open access.
The SAT-3 has landing points in:
1. Sesimbra, Portugal
2. Chipiona, Spain (though this landing is considered to be part of the Telefonica domestic network)
3. Altavista, Gran Canaria, Spain
and in Africa:
4. Dakar, Senegal
5. Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
6. Accra, Ghana
7. Cotonou, Benin
8. Lagos, Nigeria
9. Douala, Cameroon
10. Libreville, Gabon
11. Cacuaco, Angola
12. Melkbosstrand, South Africa meeting SAFE
Although Telecom Namibia holds ownership in SAT-3/WASC, Namibia has no landing point. Namibian internet users currently have no access to SAT-3/WASC, because Telecom Namibia would have to purchase capacity from Telkom SA, and due to Telkom SA's high prices has so far refused to do so.
The cable itself consists of four fibers, using Erbium-doped fiber amplifier
repeaters and wavelength division multiplexing
SAT-3 began operations in 2001, providing the first links to Europe for West African internet users and, for South Africans, taking up service from SAT-2 which was reaching maximum capacity. SAT-2 had been brought into service in the early 1990s as a replacement for the original undersea cable SAT-1 which was constructed in the 1960s.
In November 2007 no internet access was available through SAT-3 for about seven days in central Africa. A government official from Cameroon blamed a technical failure at the underwater SAT-3 high sea fibre optic terminal, about forty kilometres from Douala. Many ISPs in Cameroon had transitioned their connections from independent satellite connections to SAT-3 in mid-2007 creating serious communication difficulties during the seven days.