Tuesday, September 4, 2018 4:39 pm
ABUBAKAR HASHIM/Sierra Leone
Embarking on a three-day field tour of SALCAB’s operating facilities is quite revealing and remarkable. We commenced site visits of SALCAB’s facilities, starting with its Lumley beach submarine fiber cable landing station, which is the epicenter of SALCAB’s operations and funded by the World Bank. We also visited the ECOWAS Wide Area Network, ECOWAN, funded by the Islamic Development Bank and the National Terrestial Fiber Backbone, funded by China Exim Bank. These are the three networks that currently provide connectivity to the country through SALCAB.
The Lumley beach submarine fiber cable landing station, as the name implies, receives the submarine cable from Pen march in France, through the Atlantic Ocean, to the West Coast of Dakar, Lagos, Abidjan and Freetown.
The Lumley beach station feeds all the 37 Add and Drop Multiplexer (ADM) sub stations nationwide, which are located in all the 14 Districts in the country. This is to ensure rapid interconnectivity and uninterrupted internet accessibility and affordability to the people.
It has a Network Operating Centre (NOC) or Control room, responsible for monitoring the entire country. It has a Power Feeding Equipment PFE and a Cable Tertiary Cubicle CTC, where the fiber separates the electrical from the optical. There is also the Transmission Equipment Line TEL, separating Monrovia and Conakry connectivity.
It also has a hub, an Optimal Distribution Frame ODA, where independent operators or service providers like Orange, Africell Sierratel and other Independent Service Providers ISPs are connected directly to the Africa Coast to Europe ACE cable.
The fiber landing site also has a power room, with a main power distribution board and an automatic transfer switch, along with back- up batteries in case of power failure as automatic source. There is also a transformer and fuel tank, with CCTV camera and an automatic fuel monitoring system.
We also visited the co-location room where local operators, both mobile and internet services providers, host their equipment, for interconnection with the ACE system and onto their respective outlets.
As a way to improve e-governance, 90 percent of government institutions are connected through this facility at Lumley beach at subsidized costs.
With the advent of the fiber optic cable operations, SALCAB has tremendously reduced the cost of internet services in the country, rather than through satellite technology as obtained years back, at very expensive rates.
Our next port of call was up the provinces, where SALCAB install its Add Drop Multiplexer ADM facilities. The ADM is a sub-transmission station, collects data from the Lumley submarine ACE cable station and distributes to respective localities, nationwide
There are 37 ADMs in the country, inter- connecting independent operators in every locality in the 14 Districts in the country on a 24 hour basis.
There are ADM facilities in Freetown at Bintumani, Leicester and Jui. Up the provinces in Mile 91, Taiama, N’jala, Bo, Kenema and Zimi bordering Liberia. They are also available in other provincial towns in the Northern, Eastern and Southern Sierra Leone, giving the fiber connectivity a national spread. ADM facilities are installed for on-ward distribution network.
Free internet to schools and colleges, targeting 100 schools, but currently, on a pilot phase, is on-going for 10 schools and universities and funded by the World Bank. Students, particularly those from less – privileged homes, benefit from free internet connectivity, in line with the “New Direction” philosophy of the government.
SALCAB’s Fiber Optic Broadband connectivity is ultimately targeting the generality of the populace, with a national spread capacity of 80G, with only 8G been currently used, a far- cry from the 100mg in use years ago.
Today, SALCAB has a national coverage of 1,100 km of internet deployment in Sierra Leone, ahead of neighboring Guinea and Liberia. The independent operators connect to the various ADMS of SALCAB, through the micro-wave on the masts erected by these operators on different locations across the country.
The Management of SALCAB in on top of providing affordable and non-discriminatory internet services to the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans. Its Managing Director, Ishmael Kebbay, is upbeat about SALCAB heading along the right trajectory, in line with the “New Direction” philosophy of the President, by making internet free to schools and universities across the country.
These quiet but positive developments ongoing at SALCAB, in providing communication network equipment to transfer data and voice seamlessly, has placed Sierra Leone as the leading country in the Mano River Union (MRU) zone, apart from Cote D’ivoire, in internet connectivity, accessibility and affordability.