How 5G undersea cable will benefit Africa


Kenya is among 16 African countries set to benefit from one of the biggest and fastest subsea 4G and 5G internet projects in the world.

The project, dubbed 2Africa, will link the African states to 5 nations in Europe and 2 in the Middle East in what will be will be arguably the most comprehensive international subsea cables.

Seven telecommunication companies have pulled together to give the project, which aims to tremendously boost internet accessibility and affordability in Africa, a perfect kick off.

China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, Stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC have announced that they will partner to build 2Africa. The parties have appointed Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) to build the cable in a fully funded project.

At 37,000 kilometres, 2Africa will be one of the world’s longest subsea cable projects and will interconnect Europe, eastward via Egypt, the Middle East via Saudi Arabia with 21 landings in the 16 countries in Africa.

African states to reap the benefits of the collaboration are Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Egypt, Djibouti, Sudan and Somalia.

In Europe, the cable will link the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Portugal and France while the Middle East will be served through Oman and Saudi Arabia.

The system is expected to go live in 2023, delivering more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa today, with a design capacity of up to 180 Terabytes per second on key parts of the system.

In a statement seen by the Business Daily, the project promises to deliver the 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,” reads the statement.

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 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 a new technology, Subscriber Data Management (SDM) 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 percent compared to older systems, and cable routing will avoid locations of known subsea disturbance, all helping to 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 subsea cable resources to further extend to Asia, which is an important milestone of our global development strategy,” Jessica Gu, Director and Chief Technology Officer of China Mobile International said.

He added that the utmost capacity and faster transmission “allows us to satisfy the needs of African nations today and in the future, reflecting our firm commitment to building a global digital life.”

Najam Ahmad, Vice President, Network Infrastructure at Facebook expressed his excitement in partnering with several players to help boos universal access to affordable internet.

“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. We know that economies flourish when there is widely accessible internet for businesses. This is a key pillar supporting this tremendous internet expansion as part of Africa’s surging digital economy,” he said.

According to Frédéric Schepens, chief executive of MTN Group’s wholesale operation, MTN GlobalConnect, the initiative complements the telco’s terrestrial fibre strategy to connect African countries to each other and to the rest of the world.

“We are proud to be playing a key role in providing the benefits of a modern connected life – a core MTN belief,” he said.

Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa, said the major investment will complete 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 necessary for the continued digital development of regions throughout the 2Africa system,” he remarked.

Mohammed A. Alabbadi, Wholesale vice president at Stc was delighted that the cable will be integrated into Stc’s Middle East Gateway datacentre in Jeddah, enabling customers to access extensive international content and extend their regional connectivity through Stc terrestrial geo-mesh network that extends to all neighboring countries.

“This will undoubtedly play a significant role in enhancing Stc’s international network capabilities, whilst also positioning stc as a leading regional digital player in the MENA region. 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 CEO, said the initiative marks an important milestone in the endeavor to contribute to digital transformation in Africa.

“For years, we have accomplished tangible steps in revamping our international infrastructure and increasing our assets’ geodiversity in order 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,” he commented.

“Improving connectivity for Africa is a significant step which lays the groundwork for increased digitalisation across the continent,” said Vinod Kumar, CEO Vodafone Business.

He explained that 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. We’re delighted to work with our partners in the project to help deliver this.

WIOCC CEO, Chris Wood, said his company’s participation will give way for more commitment to providing large capacity users with the resilient network they need to support their customers’ ever-growing bandwidth requirements.

“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 said, “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 a long story for ASN: we have deployed the majority of submarine cables around the continent. 2Africa will be a great new chapter!”

Afcacia seeks to be a powerful tech mouthpiece, giving a voice to your products and services in a way that has never seen before.