Submarine communications network supplier Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) has been appointed to build the 37 000-km-long 2Africa subsea cable – one of the largest subsea projects globally, which will connect 23 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
“We are honoured 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 in the digital age thanks to the best-in-class technologies. Africa is a long story for ASN, as we have deployed most submarine cables around the continent,” says ASN president Alain Biston.
Telecommunications company China Mobile International, social networking company Facebook, wholesale infrastructure company MTN GlobalConnect, multi-service telecommunications operator Orange, telecom and technology services provider stc, telecommunication services providers Telecom Egypt and Vodafone, and wholesale connectivity solutions WIOCC announced last month that they would partner to build 2Africa, which would be the most comprehensive subsea cable to serve Africa and the Middle East. The fully funded project will greatly enhance connectivity across Africa and the Middle East.
2Africa will interconnect Europe (eastward through Egypt), the Middle East (through 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 180 TB/s 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 increase performance, including the option of a seamless optical crossing between East Africa and Europe. The 2Africa parties and Indian global telecommunications services company 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 ten years.
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 a new technology, SDM1 from ASN, allowing deployment of up to 16 fibre pairs instead of the eight fibre pairs supported by older technologies, and is expected to bring much greater and more cost-effective capacity.
The cable will incorporate optical switching technology to enable flexible management of bandwidth.
The cable burial depth has also been increased by 50% compared with older systems and cable routing will avoid locations of known subsea disturbance to help ensure the highest levels of availability.
“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,” says China Mobile International director and CTO Jessica Gu.
Facebook network infrastructure VP Najam Ahmad says 2Africa is a major element of Facebook’s 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. We know that economies flourish when there is widely accessible Internet for businesses. 2Africa is a key pillar supporting this tremendous Internet expansion as part of Africa’s surging digital economy.”
According to MTN GlobalConnect CEO Frédéric Schepens the initiative complements MTN GlobalConnect’s terrestrial fibre strategy to connect African countries to each other and to the rest of the world.
Orange Middle East and Africa CEO Alioune Ndiaye states that, as the company is present in 18 countries in Africa and the Middle East, it was natural for Orange to be part of the 2Africa project.
“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. It will enable Orange to securely meet the demand for increased bandwidth, which is necessary for the continued digital development of regions throughout the 2Africa system.”
stc wholesale VP Mohammed Alabbadi says the 2Africa cable will be integrated into stc’s MENA Gateway (MG1) data centre in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, enabling customers to access its international content and extend their regional connectivity through the stc terrestrial geo-mesh network that extends to all neighbouring 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.”
Telecom Egypt MD and CEO Adel Hamed adds that the company’s contribution to 2Africa also marks an important milestone in its endeavour to contribute to digital transformation in Africa.
“Egypt’s relationship with African States has and will always be one of Egypt’s top priorities, it extends here to align with Egypt’s strategy to contribute in the current development in Africa. For years, we have accomplished tangible steps in revamping our international infrastructure and increasing our assets’ geodiversity to keep pace with the rising global demand for large bandwidth and global reach. We trust that 2Africa will be a rich addition to our diversified investments in the subsea cable industry.”
Vodafone Business CEO Vinod Kumar notes that 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 comments that WIOCC has been the hyperscale capacity provider for Africa for more than ten years.
“Our investment both future-proofs our network capabilities and provides additional resilience to increase uptime for our critical infrastructure.”