A massive new submarine broadband cable is to be built around Africa and the Middle East and is being backed by the likes of Facebook, China Mobile, MTN Group, Vodafone Group and Orange.

Called 2Africa, the backers – which also include WIOCC, Saudi Arabia’s stc and Telecom Egypt – say it will be the “most comprehensive subsea cable to serve the African continent and Middle East region”.

The parties have appointed Alcatel Submarine Networks to build the cable in a fully funded project. The cable will be 37 000km in length, making it one of the longest in the world. 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 or 2024, delivering more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa today, with a design capacity of up to 180Tbit/s on key parts of the system, the backers said in a statement.

“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 statement said.

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, it said.

Diverse routes

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, SDM from Alcatel Submarine Networks, 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% compared to older systems, and cable routing will avoid locations of known subsea disturbance, all helping to ensure the highest levels of availability.” — © 2020 NewsCentral Media

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