Facebook and some of the world’s largest telecommunications carriers, China Mobile and MTN Group (2Africa consortium) are set to build a wider-than-earlier-planned giant subsea cable in Africa.
The companies plan to add the Indian Ocean island countries of Seychelles and Comoros, as well as Angola and a new connection to Nigeria, according to a statement released on Monday. This is in addition to a recently announced link to the Canary Islands and would bring connection-landings to 35 in 26 countries.
The 2Africa consortium comprised of China Mobile International, FacWIOCC, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC.
2Africa, which will be the largest subsea cable project in the world, will deliver faster, more reliable internet service to each country where it lands. Communities that rely on the internet for services from education to healthcare, and business will experience the economic and social benefits that come from this increased connectivity.
Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) has been selected to deploy the new branches, which will increase the number of 2Africa landings to 35 in 26 countries, further improving connectivity into and around Africa. As with other 2Africa cable landings, capacity will be available to service providers at carrier-neutral data centres or open-access cable landing stations on a fair and equitable basis, encouraging and supporting the development of a healthy internet ecosystem.
Since launching the 2Africa cable in May 2020, the 2Africa consortium has made considerable progress in planning and preparing for the deployment of the cable, which is expected to ‘go live’ late 2023. Most of the subsea route survey activity is now complete. ASN has started manufacturing the cable and building repeater units in its factories in Calais and Greenwich to deploy the first segments in 2022.
“The significant investment by Facebook in 2Africa builds on several other investments we have made in the continent, including infrastructure investments in South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” a Facebook spokesman said in an e-mail.
The project is part of Facebook’s long-held plans to lead the race to provide more reliable and faster Internet in Africa.
The undersea cable sector is experiencing a resurgence, with Facebook and Google behind about 80% of recent investments in transatlantic links. The tech giants are seeking to tap growing demand for fast data transfers used for everything from streaming movies to social messaging and telemedicine. During the 1990s dot-com boom, phone companies spent more than US$20-billion laying fibre-optic lines under the oceans.
The project is part of Facebook’s long-held plans to lead the race to provide more reliable and faster Internet in Africa, a continent of more than 1.2 billion people with an increasing up take of smartphones. The US social media giant first announced plans for a new undersea cable in May 2020. That followed attempts to launch a satellite in 2016 to beam signal around the continent — but the SpaceX rocket carrying the technology blew up.
2Africa, set to be one of the largest subsea cable project in the world, will cost just under $1-billion, sources said last year. Manufacturing of the first segments of the infrastructure has started in the US, according to the statement. Nokia’s Alcatel Submarine Networks was picked to build the cable.
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The marine surveys for the new sections of the cable will probably be completed by the end of the year, according to the companies. The 37 000km-long cable will connect Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
2Africa is expected to come into operation by 2024 and will deliver more than the combined capacity of all subsea cables that are currently serving Africa, according to the statement. Other project partners include Telecom Egypt, Vodafone Group and Orange.