Building the first private, open access cable system in West Africa was not without its challenges, but the rewards ran deep. On July 1, 2010, when the Main One Cable System entered service, the West Coast of Africa was forever changed. The 6,800 km subsea cable system delivered much-needed, high-capacity broadband connectivity to countries between Portugal and the west coast of Africa, increasing Internet access and significantly reducing costs for individuals and businesses alike.
Completing the pioneering system in a region of the world where similar systems did not previously exist required the dedication of the African entrepreneurial company, Main One Cable Company, and its supplier, SubCom.
As a startup company without a significant corporate reputation to rely upon, Main One Cable Company understood the importance of selecting a supplier that was not only capable of installing a system of such magnitude but one that also comprehended the inherent cross-culture subtleties involved and could maintain flexibility when faced with the challenges of working with an emerging company.
“SubCom understood our challenges as a privately funded startup company pioneering this kind of project in our part of the world,” said Funke Opeke, CEO of Main One Cable Company. “We were able to deliver the project on schedule and on budget, which was critical for us.”
Delivering the project on schedule required careful planning from the start. Opeke noted SubCom’s knowledge of and experience with obtaining permits in all regions of the world was particularly crucial in efficiently advancing the system construction.
“One of the things that SubCom did really well was early on educating us on the permitting processes and the challenges that they had experienced in securing those in other parts of the world,” said Opeke. “So we put together a permit working group that consisted of representatives from SubCom, as well as a team from our side to work through all of the permitting issues. And I think that was one of the bright lights that insured that we were able to achieve the schedule.”
SubCom’s ability to lock in a schedule from the start of the project was, in fact, one of the reasons why Main One Cable Company selected SubCom as its supplier. Other contributing factors included SubCom’s commercial solution offering and its superior and scalable technology.
“SubCom offered us certain design flexibility after we had initially contracted the system,” said Opeke. “We wanted to go back and revisit the landings that we had on the system and the branching units and how things would be powered toward a phase two system. [SubCom] came back in and the engineers walked with us to review our new requirements. They offered an OADM solution, which we felt would be more effective for the additional landings we intended to put in the system. It was really an ideal working solution that we were able to make those changes and end up with the desired outcomes. “
The dual fiber pair, 4.96 Terabit per second, Dense Wave Division Multiplex system ultimately connected Lagos, Nigeria; Accra, Ghana; and Seixal, Portugal with onward connectivity to Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Prior to the installation of the Main One system, the west coast of Africa did not have the infrastructure it needed to benefit from a rich flow of information or fully participate in the global economy. Opeke, who is Nigerian but spent more than 20 years living and working in the United States, said the technological advancements she experienced in the United States inspired her to lead the charge in bringing a telecommunications infrastructure to Nigeria, where “the need was pretty obvious.”
Only three months after its activation, the Main One Cable System met both of its initial goals: it resulted in a significant reduction in international communications costs for businesses and individuals; and led to an increase in the proportion of the population that was able to affordably access the Internet and participate in international communications.
Opeke credits the project’s success to the mutually beneficial working relationship her company maintained with SubCom and the customized solution SubCom provided.
“Main One made the right choice in SubCom,” said Opeke. “When you look at where we were starting from, putting the skills together building the project management, SubCom complemented our knowledge of what it took to deliver a system and technology of this magnitude and instilled the confidence to actually operate that system. I think we have enjoyed the supportive working relationship with SubCom that assures us we can successfully operate and continue to grow this business. It’s difficult to imagine and anticipate all the requirements going into a project of this magnitude, but as they have come up we’ve been able to come up with a solution and successfully work with the team at SubCom.”