Serving as a Lifeline

The Infrastructure Telecommunications in Equatorial Guinea (GITGE) is supporting the fight against COVID-19 in Equatorial Guinea by strengthening Internet speed to research laboratories and connecting hospitals to the national fiber optic network, Miriam Atenea Mangue, Commercial Director at GITGE , spoke to Africa Oil & Power.

Established by the Ministry of Transport, Technology, Post and Telecommunications, the Manager of Infrastructure Telecommunications in Equatorial Guinea (GITGE) manages public telecommunication infrastructures developed by the government. Structures within the national fiber optic network include the Ceiba-1 submarine cable connecting Malabo and Bata; the Ceiba-2 submarine cable connecting Malabo and Bata with Kribi; the submarine ACE cable linking Equatorial Guinea with Europe; and the publicly-owned terrestrial fiber optic network.

What initiatives has GITGE implemented to combat the consequences of the COVID-19
pandemic, and how would you evaluate the efficacy of such initiatives thus far?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a large challenge for all countries in the world. Telecommunications are part of the lifeline that keeps essential services working, companies operating and friends and family communicated. GITGE has been actively working in increasing the resiliency of the telecommunications network. At the international level, we have activated a new connectivity to the U.S. via the SAIL submarine cable, adding a new path to the existing routes via WACS and ACE submarine cables.

At the national level, we have connected the Hospital of Sampaka to the fiber network and have
increased the capacity to the Baney COVID-19 Lab. We have also increased the international
bandwidth to all operators by 30% at no cost.

How critical is reliable Internet and electricity access to preventing further spread of the
virus, and how would you characterize the intersection between technology and public
health and safety?

Internet and technology play a multifaceted role in COVID-19. It allows people and families to communicate. It provides education and entertainment to people staying at home, and provides teleworking functionalities to people at work. Videoconference communications have become a key application in providing coordination to private companies and government officials. With reliable communications, we are seeing that our health officials can communicate in an efficient way internally and to the world.

Specifically within the oil and gas sector, how has the provision of telecommunications
services been impacted by the outbreak?

GITGE has maintained its quality of services, and even has improved it during the COVID-19 outbreak. In January, a new, low latency route to the U.S. was established via the SAIL and BRUSA submarine cables with an initial 10G capacity, with a direct peering location at Ashburn DC2 (VA), which reduces the latency to 130 milliseconds to the U.S. At the same time, GITGE has decreased the unit cost of the IP transit services by 30%, in application of directives from the Ministry of Telecommunications, and on top of that, has implemented an additional 30% in traffic growth free of charge. In summary, today, the oil and gas sector has better communications, in latency terms, and a 70% higher capacity than three months ago, without additional costs. We expect that these improvements will expand the use of telecommunications even more by the oil and gas sector, and that this will improve their productivity and secure their operations during COVID-19.

How is the degree of development of telecommunications infrastructure on the continent aiding or inhibiting efforts to contain the virus?

In order to block the spread of COVID-19, it is clear that is necessary to isolate people with
symptoms, as well as people who recently have been in close contact with them. Today, we see applications being created and distributed that report health status and track contacts. Unfortunately, in Africa, the smartphone penetration is lower than in other countries, which prevents the massive deployment of these technologies.

In light of recent developments, how would GITGE characterize its outlook for 2020 and
beyond?

We see 2020 as a transformative year. Telecommunications are starting to become widely used
by the population and by companies, cost are becoming much more affordable, and traffic is
growing month by month at a significant level. During COVID-19, we have faced outages at an
international level, including submarine cable cuts that have been repaired without any impact on operations.

We are also seeing a high level of collaboration between regional and international
telecommunication operators, which has provided GITGE with an opportunity to be considered as a reliable international partner. We see COVID-19 as an opportunity for growth and for
internationalization. We will face a challenging year in 2020, but we are prepared to turn these
challenges into opportunities.