China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, STC, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC have announced that they will partner to build 2Africa, a comprehensive subsea cable to serve the African continent and Middle East region. The parties have appointed Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) to build the cable in a fully-funded project which aims to enhance connectivity across Africa and the Middle East.
At 37,000km long, 2Africa will be one of the world’s largest subsea cable projects and will interconnect Europe (eastward via Egypt), the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia), and 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa.
The system is expected to go live in 2023-24, delivering more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa today, with a design capacity of up to 180Tbps on key parts of the system.
2Africa will deliver much-needed internet capacity and reliability across large parts of Africa, supplement the fast-growing capacity demand in the Middle East and underpin the further growth of 4G, 5G and fixed broadband access for hundreds of millions of people.
In countries where the 2Africa 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 cable has been designed to improve resilience and maximise performance, including the option of a seamless optical crossing between East Africa and Europe. 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.
The 2Africa cable will implement new technology, SDM1 from ASN, allowing deployment of up to 16 fibre pairs instead of the eight fibre pairs supported by older technologies, 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 by 50% compared to older systems, and cable routing will avoid locations of known subsea disturbance, all helping to ensure the highest levels of availability.
Commenting on the partnership, Najam Ahmad, Vice President, Network Infrastructure at Facebook, said: “We’re excited to be collaborating with our 2Africa partners on the most comprehensive subsea cable that will serve the continent. 2Africa is a major element of our ongoing investment in Africa to bring more people online to faster internet. We’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that increased connectivity has on communities, from education to healthcare. We know that economies flourish when there is a widely accessible internet for businesses. 2Africa is a key pillar supporting this tremendous internet expansion as part of Africa’s surging digital economy.”