Sierra Leone gets fibre optic link to Internet
By Simon Akam
FREETOWN (Reuters) - Sierra Leone secured its first fibre optic connection to the outside world on Monday with the arrival of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable in the capital Freetown.
Sierra Leone, which is still recovering from a devastating 11-year civil war that ended in 2002, is part of a dwindling group of countries still wholly reliant on highly expensive satellite bandwidth for internet connections.
Numerous studies have identified cheap and fast Internet as a factor that can boost a country's economic growth.
Wearing a white baseball cap that bore the words "Fiber Landing", Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma said the event was proof that his country was making progress.
"We are transforming because, as we are speaking, the only available communication outside Sierra Leone is through the satellite, and it is expensive, the quality is limited, and the capacity also has some limitations," he told an event to mark the landing of the cable by Lumley Beach in western Freetown.
Gilbert Cooper, director of administration of the state-owned Sierra Leone Cable company that is landing the cable, said it would only become operational during the second half of 2012 as other preparations need to be completed first.
When complete, the 17,000-km (11,000-mile) ACE cable will run from France to South Africa, connecting 23 countries. The cable was launched by France Telecom as part of a consortium with telecom operators in participating countries.
Sierra Leone, along with neighbouring Liberia, missed out on previous fibre optic cables laid down the West African coast, such as SAT-3. Continued...