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Huge Microwave Radio Project Set for West African Nations.

No less than eight international telecommunications companies--two from France and one each from the United States, Italy, Canada, West Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom--have tendered bids for the second phase of a massive $45-million plan to provide an integrated telecommunications network for West Africa being drawn up by the Lome, Togo-based ECOWAS Fund for Cooperation, Compensation and Development.

The first phase of the project, code-named Intelcom 1, is already under way and scheduled to be completed by October 1985. It includes four links--between Ghana and Upper Volta, Benin and Upper Volta, Nigeria and Niger, and Mali and the Ivory Coast.

Capable of operating in sub-tropical conditions, the equipment has been designed to withstand temperatures as high as 150 degrees (Fahrenheit) and wind conditions of up to about 90 miles per hour.

Now with the completion of the feasibility report for the next phase between Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Guinea completed and submitted by British Telconsult, the ECOWAS Fund is studying the bids that have been submitted for the project, one of the largest telecommunications ventures currently being undertaken in the Third World.

The French TRT Group (Telecommunications Radioelectriques et Telephoniques) and the US International Commerce and Communications both tendered for the Kaolack-Banjul-Ziguinchou-Cacheau link, which comprises a 960-channel microwave telephone, telex and 625-line television link between Kaolack, Senegal and Banjul, about 60 miles away in Gambia, and on another 75 miles to Ziguinchou, Senegal. From there it continues as a 120-channel microwave telephone, telex and 625-line television link to Cacheau, 22 miles away in Guinea Bissau.

Belgium's Bell Telephone Company tendered for the 166-mile Tambakounda-Keodougou-Mali link comprising a similar 960-mile microwave telephone/telex/TV link, while the remaining five companies--Wade Adams Construction of the UK, Telettra (Telefonia elettronica and Radio) of Italy, Incanda Corporation of Canada, CIT Alcatel of France and Siemens of West Germany--tendered for both projects.

"This is a major project for us; the objective is to establish automatic telephone and telex links between all of the 16 capital cities of ECOWAS member states without transmitting through Paris or London," explains Dr. Robert Tubman, managing director of the fund. "We want people to be able to make calls directly from one end of West Africa to another without having to transit another country outside the community. We also want people in the villages to be able to call the capitals. Once we reach that situation we will be able to operate more efficiently and more effectively." Improving Economic Climate

According to Tubman, "When completed, the excess demand for telephone facilities throughout the subregion will generate more revenues for the various PTT administrations. Though telecommunications operations are capital intensive, there will also be increased demand for skilled manpower, which in turn will pay more income taxes to the governments."

He sees the tender-evaluation process taking about three months, and expects contracts to be awarded by the end of the year. Work will then begin early next year and take two years to complete.

Throughout ECOWAS, only Togo, Liberia, Sierre Leone and the Ivory Coast have first-class telecommunications facilities.

The feasibility report and technical specifications for the network were prepared by British Telconsult, the overseas consultancy service of British Telecom that is currently working in more than 20 countries. The project took a 10-person team three months to complete.

British Telconsult's brief covered five specific areas: to review existing tender procedures to prepare new specifications for microwave and associated equipment; to carry out financial responsibility studies of six microwave radio routes in the region; to assist in launching, administering and receiving subsequent tenders; and to assist in evaluation of bids.

Based on a feasibility report carried out by ECOWAS's own telecommunications specialists, Cephas Pobi and Yao Kouame, in cooperation with the International Telecommunications Union, the first phase of the project is already under way, and covers four separate projects:

* A 300-channel microwave telephone/telex/TV link between Ouagadougou, Upper Volta, and Bolgatanga, 125 miles away in Ghana. The route is divided into five hops or sections with four intermediate microwave radio stations. Special circuits are provided for national use to aid the development of their internal network, as well as the cross-border communication. Facilities are also being provided to enable the two countries to interchange their television programs with the provision of two sound channels because of their different languages. The route eventually will extend to Accra.

* A 120-channel telephone/telex/TV link between Fada N'Gourman, Upper Volta, and Porga, Benin. The 93-mile route is divided into three hops with two intermediate microwave radio stations.

* A 300-channel microwave telephone and telex link between Sokoto in Nigeria and Birni Nkonni, 93 miles away in Niger. The route is divided into three hops with two intermediate microwave radio stations. This eventually will be extended to link Niamey and Kaduna.

* A major 960-channel telephone/telex/TV link between Sikasso, Mali and Korhogo in the Ivory Coast. The 155-mile route is divided into five hops with four intermediate microwave radio stations. There will also be additional facilities for cross-border communications.

In addition, sites are being acquired for the project and access roads and buildings are being constructed. Power supply and storage batteries with up to a 10-day life are also being provided for each site. The solar panels on the microwave radio stations, which all will face south, will be capable of producing up to 400 watts.

TRT (France) and Siemens (West German) are providing the transmission equipment, including the solar power system in association with CGCT and Jeumont Schneider, which is supplying the switching equipment, and La Signalisation, which is providing the cable network.

The next phase of the project, which is being financed by the European Investments Bank, is scheduled to begin early next year. It will include:

* A 960-channel microwave telephone/telex/TV link between Kaolack, Senegal, and Banjul, 62 miles away in Gambia, comprising there hops with two intermediate microwave radio stations.

* A 960-channel microwave telephone/telex/TV link between Banjul and Ziguinchor, 75 miles away in Senegal, comprising three hops with two intermediate microwave radio stations.

* A 120-channel microwave telephone and telex link between Ziguinchor and Cacheu, 22 miles away in Guinea Bissau, comprising one hop.

* A 960-channel microwave telephone/telex/TV link between Tambacounda via Kedougou in Senegal to Mali 165 miles away in Guinea, comprising six hops with five intermediate microwave radio stations.

All of the equipment selected will have to operate in extreme sub-tropic climatic conditions, especially between August and February, when temperatures are at their highest. The towers and antennas will also have to withstand extreme wind conditions. In addition, ECOWAS Fund has insisted that remotely controlled and supervised systems be installed in all of the intermediate microwave radio stations and that the whole system operates on a low-energy-consumption basis. Severe Conditions

Another phase of the project for which funds are still being raised covers the more outlying parts of the region and some of the harshest weather conditions in the world. The phase will include:

* A 960-channel microwave telephone/telex/TV line between Gabu, Guinea Bissau, and Koundara, 100 miles away in Guinea, comprising four hops and three intermediate microwave radio stations and then on 75 miles farther to Mali, also in Guinea, comprising two more hops and one intermediate microwave radio station.

* A 300-channel microwave telephone and telex link between Nouakchott and Kaedi in Mauritania, a distance of 255 miles, comprising 11 hops with 10 intermediate microwave radio stations, followed by a 120-channel link to Selibaby, over 185 miles away in seven hops with six intermediate stations, and then on another 47 miles to Kayes, Mali in two hops, and finally on another 155 miles to Nioro, Mali in six hops with five intermediate microwave radio stations.

* A 960-channel microwave telephone/telex/TV link between Bamko, Mali, and Siguiri, 103 miles away in Guinea, comprising four hops and three intermediate stations.

* A 960-channel telephone/telex/TV link in Mali, from Mopti to Gao via Timbuktu, a total distance of 435 miles, comprising 14 hops with 13 intermediate stations.

This phase of the project also includes the installation of a small combined local and trunk exchange for 500 subscribers at Gao to replace the existing mobile containerized 200-line exchange.

Further phases of the project are at an early stage of definition.
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Author:Biddlecombe, P.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Oct 1, 1984
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