New subsea cable to connect 23 African countries, courtesy of collaboration

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Eight companies have come together to build 2Africa, a subsea cable designed to serve the African continent and Middle East region. The cable will also connect via east Africa with other subsea cables for expanded connectivity to Asia. 

The big-name parties involved are China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC. The cable will be some 37,000km long, making it one of the world’s largest subsea cable projects. It will interconnect Europe (eastward via Egypt), the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia), and 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa. The consortium has chosen Alcatel Submarine Networks to build the cable in a fully funded project.

2Africa will have a design capacity of up to 180Tb/s on key parts of the system, and the expected ‘go live’ date will be in 2023/4. In countries where the cable will land, service providers will obtain capacity in carrier-neutral data centres or open-access cable landing stations on a fair and equitable basis. This will support healthy internet ecosystem development by facilitating greatly improved accessibility for businesses and consumers alike.

The 2Africa parties and Airtel have signed an agreement with Telecom Egypt to provide a completely new crossing linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, the first in over a decade. This includes new cable landing stations and deployment of next-generation fibre on two new, diverse terrestrial routes parallel to the Suez Canal from Ras Ghareb to Port Said, and a new subsea link that will provide a third path between Ras Ghareb and Suez.

From a technology standpoint, 2Africa will be using fresh technology in the form of SDM1 from Alcatel, allowing deployment of up to 16 fibre pairs, bringing much greater and more cost-effective capacity. The cable will incorporate optical switching technology to enable flexible management of bandwidth. Cable burial depth has also been increased, and routing will avoid locations of known subsea disturbance.

Jessica Gu, director and chief technology officer oat China Mobile International said: ‘The launch of 2Africa enables us to offer our customers seamless connection between Africa and Europe, together with our SEA-ME-WE 5 and AAE-1 subsea cable resources to further extend to Asia, which is an important milestone of our global development strategy,’

Najam Ahmad, vice president, network infrastructure at Facebook stated: ‘2Africa is a major element of our ongoing investment in Africa to bring more people online to a faster internet. We’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that increased connectivity has on communities, from education to healthcare.’

According to Frédéric Schepens, CEO of MTN Group’s wholesale operation, MTN GlobalConnect: ‘MTN GlobalConnect is delighted to participate in this bold 2Africa subsea cable project. We are proud to be playing a key role in providing the benefits of a modern connected life – a core MTN belief.’

Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa said: ‘This major investment will complete our existing submarine and pan-African terrestrial infrastructures to provide access to international connectivity in a redundant fashion throughout the west coast of Africa.’

Mohammed A. Alabbadi, wholesale VP in stc added: ‘The 2Africa cable will be integrated into stc's MENA Gateway (MG1) data centre in Jeddah, enabling customers to access our extensive international content and extend their regional connectivity through stc terrestrial geo-mesh network that extends to all neighboring countries. The partnership demonstrates stc's commitment, in line with Saudi Vision 2030, to deliver meaningful digital transformation and build a digital society for all.’

Adel Hamed, Telecom Egypt’s managing director and chief executive officer said: ‘Telecom Egypt’s contribution to 2Africa marks an important milestone in our endeavor to contribute to digital transformation in Africa. We are honored to be part of such a revolutionary project alongside renowned global and African partners.’

Vinod Kumar, CEO at Vodafone Business stated: ‘Improving connectivity for Africa is a significant step which lays the groundwork for increased digitalisation across the continent. 2Africa will give local businesses and consumers a better online experience while more connectivity between Africa, Europe and the Middle East will help to build a wider, more inclusive digital society across the globe.’

WIOCC CEO, Chris Wood added: ‘For over a decade WIOCC has been the hyperscale capacity provider for Africa, based upon a strategy of ongoing strategic investment in key subsea and terrestrial infrastructure. Our investment both future-proofs our network capabilities and provides additional resilience to maximise uptime for our critical infrastructure.’

Alain Biston, president of Alcatel Submarine Networks concluded: ‘We are honored by the trust of our partners and proud to have been selected for this project. With this state-of-the-art subsea system, Africa will take a giant leap to the digital age thanks to the best-in-class technologies.’

Africa is of particular interest as a market, when it comes to submarine cables. Last year saw Google announce its investment in this market, with a private subsea cable that connects Africa with Europe.

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