16 February 2018
| Natalie Bannerman
Angola Cable's CCO Artur Mendes talks to Capacity about the company’s South Atlantic Cable System (SACS), its data centre in Fortaleza, Brazil and becoming a Microsoft ExpressRoute partner.
According to Mendes the recently launched point of presence (PoP)
in Cape Town is "going according to plan" and was ready to
go towards the end of December. As for the decision to deploy
this new PoP Mendes says "for us it’s a complement
to our existing services."
"We started with our first PoP in Teraco, Johannesburg and
we had a lot of customers asking us for a second position so we
could offer them choice in delivery and that was our main
objective in building the second one. Also because Cape Town is
an important spot for the landing of cables on the West Coast
of Africa," continues Mendes.
Angola Cables also joined the same ranks as
Liquid Telecom by becoming one the few Microsoft ExpressRoute
partners in the region.
"It’s always important to be connected to a
company like Microsoft, and their sites," says Mendes. "But
from our position it’s also to guarantee that we
have efficient routes and we create ExpressRoute partnerships
because the access time on that route is faster. So we are
proud to be accepted as such and to be able to provide a
dynamic route for Africa and we hope to build that partnership
with them as we build new assets in the region."
The biggest announcement to come from the
wholesale telco is the building of its South Atlantic Cable
System (SACS) connecting Fortaleza, Brazil to Angola
in South-West Africa. Mendes says that the construction of
the cable will be done in two different phases beginning with
the shore-end installation that started in August.He goes on to
say that because of the company’s CSR programme
they had to "protect the turtles in the area where we land the
cables" resulting in an early installation.
He goes on to say that because of the company’s
CSR programme they had to "protect the turtles in the area
where we land the cables" resulting in an early
"The beach where we chose to land that cable is one of the
protected beaches for those turtles," explains Mendes. "So we
installed the cable in August because they began laying their
eggs in September so it was anticipating the shore-end
installation. Then they begin the deep-water installation in
early November. So 90 days after that we’ll have
reached Brazil and the target is that by the beginning of
February 2018, to have the cable fully installed. And after
that there’s the cable testing equipment,
provisions etc., so that by mid-2018 the cable will be at RFS
(ready for service) stage."
But with cables like SABR (linking South Africa with Brazil
and the United States).and SAIL (linking Kribi, Cameroon with
Fortaleza, Brazil), how unique is the route that Angola Cables
are building? "Most people ask me if connecting Africa to
Brazil is really that adventurous and what I say is,
it’s not," continues Mendes. "It’s
not just about connecting two countries it’s about
connecting two continents."
Apparently SACS addresses a bigger need than just
connectivity but route diversification. "When we look to the
world, everything started passing through Europe and Asia, when
we look at the regions with the biggest populations
we’re talking about Asia, Africa and Latin America
so why do we keep insisting on keeping cables out on the
northern part of the hemisphere and not think about the
And aside from the diversity aspect, Mendes says that
it’s also efficient ad just makes sense.
"It’s efficient because geographically it makes
sense, if you compare it to a Pacific route you could be saving
anyway around 200 milliseconds. It’s an
alternative route and for us connecting to Brazil the biggest
Portuguese speaking country and we get a lot of content from
there, it’ll be a significant improvement, because
now we reach Brazil through Europe & the US, whereas now
will reach Brazil in 63 milliseconds. This will easily become
the best route to interconnect Africa to even the US."
Additionally, the decision to build a data centre in
Fortaleza, Brazil also came from a need driven by the SACS
"When we started works on SACS and visited Fortaleza,
Brazil, we discovered that despite being a major consumer
cables hub, with seven cables ready installed there, there was
a single data centre and container solutions there," explains
Mendes. "The development of the region had never really been
taken seriously. So we spoke to the government and got their
support to really try and develop the telecommunications
"We’ve been able to interconnect all of those
cables with a meet-me-room where we could all meet and grab
traffic from other regions. And of course if you look at Brazil
it’s a dynamic market with huge potential for
growth which was also part of the reason we decided to build it
there. First phase will be completed in the first quarter of
Contrary to many of the other companies like C&W
Networks and Seaborn Networks who view OTT’s as a positive influence on
the market, Mendes has more mixed opinions on the
"There are different types of discussions from people who
think, yes it’s helping, because there is lots of
money being invested in the subsea industry," he says.
"But it’s not clear how that will impact the
operators. Most of us believe that it will affect us
negatively, because there is capacity you’d now
sell to OTTs. [In the future] they will use their own cables,
so you’ll lose that business."
He says that because of the way the OTTs have been
developing these projects it "is creating some noise between
the operators". He explains: "Typically they use one operator,
to take care of the operation, maintenance and the local
licences etc. So that operator could be in a different position
from the other ones and may or not have a controlling monopoly
in the region."
While on the topic, Mendes says that the decision to connect directly into the
cable landing station is driven entirely by the customer.
"In our case our cable in Angola is in a data centre. We are
also building a data centre in Fortaleza and use a data centre
as a cable landing station in Boca Raton and
that’s because essentially our customers are
directly in the data centre," he says.
But he adds that it also makes sense financially, saying:
"If you are finalising at a data centre, you are at a
cross-connect distance from the other guy. So it’s
quite simple to just order a cross-connect and interconnect
with the other customer on a different route. When you are at a
landing station it is not as simple as that because most
customers don’t have access to the landing
station, so you need to pay for backhaul to connect.
It’s a lot more complicated to do."
There are no big plans for full scale developments in 2018
because as Mendes put "our roadmap for 2018 is to finalise our
current projects". He says that the Monet cable, SACS and
Brazil data centre’s full network will be ready by
mid-2018, which is "the main focus".
But he says that there’s always new PoPs being
installed and the company has one in Lagos, Nigeria that is to
be finalised by the end of January 2018. And it is planning to
launch a PoP in Sao Paulo & Forteleza which is due to
complete by Q1 2018. Beyond 2018 he says that the company will
look towards the United States and of course "sell, sell,
Microsoft ExpressRoute partner,
South Atlantic Cable System,