Eight companies have come together to build 2Africa, a subsea cabledesigned to serve the African continent and Middle East region. The cable willalso connect via east Africa with other subsea cables for expanded connectivityto 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 largestsubsea cable projects. It will interconnect Europe (eastward via Egypt), theMiddle East (via Saudi Arabia), and 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa. Theconsortium has chosen Alcatel Submarine Networks to build the cable in a fullyfunded project.
2Africa will have a design capacity of up to 180Tb/s on keyparts of the system, and the expected 'go live' date will be in 2023/4. Incountries where the cable will land, service providers will obtain capacity incarrier-neutral data centres or open-access cable landing stations on a fairand equitable basis. This will support healthy internet ecosystem developmentby facilitating greatly improved accessibility for businesses and consumersalike.
The 2Africa parties and Airtel have signed an agreement withTelecom Egypt to provide a completely new crossing linking the Red Sea and theMediterranean, the first in over a decade. This includes new cable landingstations and deployment of next-generation fibre on two new, diverseterrestrial routes parallel to the Suez Canal from Ras Ghareb to Port Said, anda new subsea link that will provide a third path between Ras Ghareb and Suez.
From a technology standpoint, 2Africa will be using freshtechnology in the form of SDM1 from Alcatel, allowing deployment of up to 16fibre pairs, bringing much greater and more cost-effective capacity. The cablewill incorporate optical switching technology to enable flexible management ofbandwidth. Cable burial depth has also been increased, and routing will avoidlocations of known subsea disturbance.
Jessica Gu, director and chief technology officer oat ChinaMobile International said: 'The launch of 2Africa enables us to offer ourcustomers seamless connection between Africa and Europe, together with ourSEA-ME-WE 5 and AAE-1 subsea cable resources to further extend to Asia, whichis an important milestone of our global development strategy,'
Najam Ahmad, vice president, network infrastructure at Facebookstated: '2Africa is a major element of our ongoing investment in Africa tobring more people online to a faster internet. We've seen first-hand thepositive impact that increased connectivity has on communities, from educationto healthcare.'
According to Frédéric Schepens, CEO of MTN Group's wholesaleoperation, MTN GlobalConnect: 'MTN GlobalConnect is delighted to participate inthis bold 2Africa subsea cable project. We are proud to be playing a key rolein providing the benefits of a modern connected life – a core MTN belief.'
Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa said: 'Thismajor investment will complete our existing submarine and pan-Africanterrestrial infrastructures to provide access to international connectivity ina redundant fashion throughout the west coast of Africa.'
Mohammed A. Alabbadi, wholesale VP in stc added: 'The 2Africacable will be integrated into stc's MENA Gateway (MG1) data centre in Jeddah,enabling customers to access our extensive international content and extendtheir regional connectivity through stc terrestrial geo-mesh network thatextends to all neighboring countries. The partnership demonstrates stc'scommitment, in line with Saudi Vision 2030, to deliver meaningful digitaltransformation and build a digital society for all.'
Adel Hamed, Telecom Egypt's managing director and chiefexecutive officer said: 'Telecom Egypt's contribution to 2Africa marks animportant milestone in our endeavor to contribute to digital transformation inAfrica. We are honored to be part of such a revolutionary project alongsiderenowned global and African partners.'
Vinod Kumar, CEO at Vodafone Business stated: 'Improvingconnectivity for Africa is a significant step which lays the groundwork forincreased digitalisation across the continent. 2Africa will give localbusinesses and consumers a better online experience while more connectivitybetween Africa, Europe and the Middle East will help to build a wider, moreinclusive digital society across the globe.'
WIOCC CEO, Chris Wood added: 'For over a decade WIOCC has beenthe hyperscale capacity provider for Africa, based upon a strategy of ongoingstrategic investment in key subsea and terrestrial infrastructure. Ourinvestment both future-proofs our network capabilities and provides additionalresilience 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 selectedfor this project. With this state-of-the-art subsea system, Africa will take agiant leap to the digital age thanks to the best-in-class technologies.'
Africa is of particular interest as a market, when it comes tosubmarine cables. Last year saw Google announce its investment inthis market, with a private subsea cable that connects Africa with Europe.