‘Formation of ASCON Will Boost Digital Transformation’

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By Emma Okonji

The Chief Executive Officer of MainOne, Ms. Funke Opeke has said the newly formed Association of Submarine Cable Operators of Nigeria (ASCON) will enhance digital transformation of businesses in Nigeria, especially companies that depend on broadband internet connectivity.

Opeke, who spoke during the launch of ASCON in Lagos, which saw the coming together of five submarine cable operators under a single platform to drive common goals, said the association was formed “not because we were having undersea cable cuts, but because we cannot afford to have cable cut because of the huge amount of money that will be spent in tracing and fixing the cut, should there be any.”

The five submarine cable operators that formed ASCON include SAT3 cable, MainOne cable, Glol cable, ACE cable, and

WACS cable, landed by Natcom, MainOne, Glo 1, Dolphin Telecom and MTN respectively.

“There is need to protect our submarine cable to avoid disruption in internet connectivity. For eight years running as MainOne, we have not had any disruption from our cable in the Nigerian territorial waters and we hope to continue to maintain that standard, to serve Nigerians better with broadband connectivity from the submarine cables,” Opeke said.

Giving instance of a landslide that affected submarine cable in the faraway shores in Senegal in 2017, in the international waters with a depth of 3,400 metres below the surface of the water, Opeke said it affected the submarine cable in that location, which in turn affected communication. According to her, investigation was carried out, life signal and power signal were sent out to localise the challenge caused be the affected submarine cable, and a vessel with the right tools and personnel was sent from France to detect the damaged cable from the bottom of the water.

The damaged cable was brought out, fixed, tested and laid back into the waters to restore operation.

She said it cost a lot to repair damaged cable, hence the need to protect submarine cables from getting damaged by moving and anchored vessels, though the association.

“Imagine a scenario where there is submarine cable cut and banks, churches, businesses are disconnected. In the event of such situation, the people and the economy will have to suffer a great deal, because there will be no internet access and communication will be seriously affected,” Opeke said, adding that with the growing number of submarine cables in Nigeria, and with the increasing dependence of people on submarine cables for broadband capacity and internet usage and connectivity, it was important that the association was formed to enable members share best practices among ourselves as an industry.

“The formation of the association is therefore a good thing both in terms of collaboration with operators and regulatory agencies in different counties,” Opeke said.

The Chairman of ASCON, who doubles as the Head, Regulatory Services at MainOne, Mr. 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.

The association would equally serve as a forum for the exchange of technical, environmental and legal information pertaining to submarine systems operations and maintenance.