“Through Cooperation With Huawei We’re Sure to Break the Digital Divide”

Judith Yah Sunday Achidi, General Manager of Cameroon Telecommunications (CAMTEL).

In recent years, Cameroon has made greater achievements in the ICT domain than the other countries in Central and West Africa. As a provider of ICT infrastructure, CAMTEL played a greater role in leading the communication infrastructure in Cameroon. How far are you with different projects that have been put in place?

Cameroon Telecommunications (CAMTEL), the incumbent telecommunications operator in Cameroon, from its creation two decades ago, has always had its principal mission - the development of state-ofthe-art telecommunication infrastructure in Cameroon. It’s committed to offer quality and affordable services in Cameroon and beyond. It operates a nationwide backbone network which interconnects neighbouring countries such as Nigeria, Central African Republic and Chad. CAMTEL aims to develop Cameroon as an international traffic Hub in Africa, through trans-border terrestrial cable and international submarine cables. It was against this backdrop that the initiative to construct another submarine optical fiber cable, the South Atlantic Inter Link (SAIL) was conceived. It is a consortium between CAMTEL, CHINA UNICOM and its subsidiary CHINA UNICOM DO Brazil. The consortium announced the completion of the close to 6,000km of its 25-year-life-span transatlantic optical fiber subsea cable on September 4 , 2018. It has been designed to be a fast and direct path, utilizing the industry leading 100G transmission technology and to deliver a design capacity of 32 Tbsp, through a 4-fiber pair configuration since its inception in 2016. It marks a significant milestone: for the first time, two continents, Africa and Americas are fully connected to their respective landing stations (Kribi in Cameroon and Fortaleza in Brazil). What about the other projects like the National Broadband network? The CAMTEL’s National Broadband network was set up in 2006 to enable it to densify its telecommunication network by 2020. The objective was the construction of over 20,000km of a national fiber optic backbone to link up all 10 regions with broadband services and secure the national network. So far, CAMTEL has deployed close to 10,000km of optical fiber which covers seven regions, 48 divisions and about 40% of sub divisions of our country and some CEMAC countries like Chad. Work is still ongoing to cover the entire country as it is part of government’s policy to combat high cost of living, implement a digital governance programme, interconnect our State universities and deploy new generation multipurpose Community Tele-centers in many suburban and rural areas all these though optical fiber. Upon completion, it will be able to provide services such as data backup and archiving, internetcontrolled access, authorization and authentication management, architecture design services, diverse firewalls and anti-malware programmes, just to name a few. In 2019, CAMTEL will continue to sell its services through the commercialization of capacities of its most recent submarine cable SAIL; the broadband services to end-users and stakeholders through Fiber to the X (FTTX) and the mobile.

As the newly-appointed General Manager of CAMTEL, will there be any new changes in the development strategy in the next few years?

In line with the digital Cameroon 2020 strategy, CAMTEL will strive to be transformed from an ICT infrastructure provider to a digital economy driver and a customer-friendly company. The company will continue to invest in the broadband sector to achieve digital strategic goals and further strengthen the commercial operations of submarine cables, backbones and data center so as to be the ICT Hub in the Central African sub-region. As you mentioned before, the SAIL submarine cable was commercialized in November 2018, and the data center will be in second quarter of 2019.

What do you think of the commercialization strategy of these projects?

SAIL comes at a time when competition is stiff, there is a high demand in capacities and information and communication resources from operators and stakeholders. Thus, the urgent need to modernize the broadband network and increase internet capacities in Cameroon and in the Central African Subregion. The commercialization of SAIL will benefit Cameroon, Africa and the rest of the world thanks to its strategic position. International access will be diversified as communication will be linked directly to America without being routed through Europe. Concerning the center, it is the foundation for the future development of the digital world, and we will further join our partners to unite these assets and maximize its commercialization.

What do you think of Huawei's contribution in Cameroon?

As far as I know, Huawei has been working in Cameroon for nearly 14 years and has made in-depth cooperation with CAMTEL to promote the development of ICT. Without the participation of Huawei, Cameroon's ICT industry will be lagging behind. Thanks to the cooperation with Huawei, the rapid development of CAMTEL’s network has not only achieved fast growth and increased revenue for its own users, but has also brought a quality experience to end users in Cameroon. The national broadband project under the cooperation between CAMTEL and Huawei allows ordinary residents to enjoy rapid Internet access and feel like in a global village, which has a very practical effect on bridging the digital gap. As part of the Head of State’s plans to alleviate unemployment rate and empower the youths to be leaders of tomorrow through projects in the area of digital economy and innovation, Huawei has been working closely with CAMTEL to enhance ICT talent development in Cameroon in a bid to endow the youths with state-of-the-art technological know-how. More than 400 persons participated in the Huawei ICT talent development programme from October to December 2018. All these participants received a certificate of international value which can help them to find jobs anywhere in the world. Through our cooperation with Huawei in a win-win perspective, we are sure to break the digital divide in Cameroon and build a better digital Cameroon 2020.

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