The Gambia’s Telecommunications and Internet communications to the outside world are routed mainly through the African Coast to Europe (ACE) fiber submarine cable. The ACE consortium consists of over 23 member countries that have routed the fibre cable from France to South Africa via the west coast of Africa. The Government of The Gambia through the assistance of the World Bank invested $25 million to be connected on the ACE cable. The planning and implementation of the submarine fiber cable was done by a major telecommunications manufacturer, ALCATEL of France.
During the past few years, the ACE cable has been experiencing cable cuts on the fiber segment branching to the Gambia resulting in major disruptions on our telecommunications and Internet communications with the outside world. Since the operation and maintenance of the ACE cable is under the responsibility of the ACE consortium, they mobilize special equipped ships to the Gambia for repairs in each instance.
The Ministry of ICT (MOICI), GSC, PURA, and the Telecommunications/ICT providers has determined that the frequency of the ACE fibre cable cuts is as a result of fishing activities on a rocky area that the cable is laid. A regulation declaring the area as a Protection ZONE has been enacted and the procurement of shipping vehicles for the Gambia Navy to patrol the area has commenced.
The Authority in consultation with the Ministry determined that all operators must have a permanent backup of traffic on the ACE cable to ensure services are not disrupted when the ACE fibre is faulty. The operators have complied and have bought the necessary bandwidth on the Sonatel Fibre cable via Senegal to the outside world. The Sonatel Fibre is routed from the Gambia via Amdalaye to Selete for redundancy purposes.
The ACE fibre cable is currently faulty and being repaired by the consortium and due to the permanent backup that the operators had, customers were able to seamlessly communicate with the outside world without any major issues. Unfortunately, Sonatel had a technical issue with the fibre cable which resulted in the whole country to experience an Internet blackout for about 4 hours.
The Authority, operators, MOICI, and the Government are exploring other options of making sure that the Gambia has a second fibre cable backup considering the impact that these failures are having on our national security, economy, and social activities.