China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone, and WIOCC announced last month they will partner to build 2Africa, which will be the most 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 that will significantly enhance connectivity across Africa and the Middle East.
At 37,000km long, 2Africa will be one of the world’s most significant subsea cable projects. It 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 2023/4, delivering more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa today, with a design capacity of up to 180Tbps on crucial 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. It 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 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 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,” said Jessica Gu, Director and Chief Technology Officer of China Mobile International. “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.”
“We’re excited to be collaborating with our 2Africa partners on the most comprehensive subsea cable that will serve the continent,” said Najam Ahmad, Vice President, Network Infrastructure at Facebook. “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.”
According to Frédéric Schepens, CEO of MTN GlobalConnect, this initiative complements MTN GlobalConnect’s terrestrial fibre strategy to connect African countries, 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.
“Improving connectivity for Africa is a significant step which lays the groundwork for increased digitalisation across the continent,” said Vinod Kumar, CEO Vodafone Business. “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.”
According to WIOCC CEO Chris Wood, for over a decade, WIOCC has been the hyper-scale capacity provider for Africa, based upon a strategy of ongoing strategic investment in key subsea and terrestrial infrastructure. Their participation in 2Africa continues this commitment to providing large capacity users with the resilient network they need to support their customers’ ever-growing bandwidth requirements. (