Ahead of the tentative October launch of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable, which will cater to 23 African countries, the $650 million West African Cable System (WAC) launched on Friday, with MTN as its largest investor.

The commercialization of the 17,200-km fiber-optic submarine cable system, which was initiated by the South African government as a collaborative effort of African governments and leading telecommunications operators, is expected to stoke the mobile-communications revolution and enhance the quality of life for millions of people across Africa.

Aside bringing much-needed broadband capacity to Africa, WACS will serve several other purposes including providing first-time fiber connectivity to African countries like Namibia. It will also open access for faster connectivity to support innovative IP-based services such as video applications for e-education, e-commerce and telemedicine. This is expected to reduce the digital divide and enable the landing countries to be served with a new system that will offer greater capacity and eventually lower the cost of broadband access.

WACS will link south and West Africa to Europe through its landing points in Namibia, Nigeria, Angola, DR Congo, Congo, Togo, Ghana, Cameroun, Cape Verde and Cote d'Ivoire.

Starting from Yzerfontein near Cape Town, South Africa and terminating in the U.K., WACS will raise South Africa's current broadband capacity by more than 500G bps and enable the telco's operations to enjoy seamless connectivity into the rest of Europe and the Americas.

In West Africa, where MTN's subscriber base is gradually swelling, the launch of WACS will help the telco ensure greater access into the region's market. From its West and Central Africa region head office in Ghana, to eight other operating units in Nigeria, Benin, Cote D'Ivoire Liberia, Cameroun, Guinea Bissau, Guinea and Congo Brazzaville, MTN's $90 million investment in WACS also gves it an edge to survive the highly competitive market with multinational networks such as Airtel, Tigo and Glo.

WACS has 15 terminal stations and is the first ultra-high capacity submarine cable system to deploy new-generation technology to connect West Africa to Europe northward and southbound connecting along the continental coast and terminating in South Africa.

According to MTN, the landing parties are Telkom (South Africa), Telecom Namibia (Namibia), Angola Cables (Angola), OCPT (DR Congo), Congo Telecom (Congo), MTN (Cameroon), MTN (Nigeria), Togo Telecom (Togo), MTN (Ghana), MTN (Ivory Coast), PTC (Cape Verde), Vodacom Group (Canary Islands), Tata Communications (Portugal), Tata Communications (UK), Cable and Wireless (London PoP).

WACS will be upgradable at any stage of its 25-year long design lifespan, according to MTN. As of Dec. 31, 2011, MTN Group recorded 164 million subscribers across its 22 countries of operations.