24 May 2018
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
The new SACS cable from Angola to Brazil will be in service within weeks, António Nunes tells Alan Burkitt-Gray. But it’s more than just A to B: it will open up new routes between Asia and Africa to North and South America
The new subsea cable from Angola to Brazil is live and is
due to go into operation in the next few weeks – and
the CEO believes it will open up new routes from as far away as
Asia and the US.
But the first challenge is commercialising the new South
Atlantic Cable System (SACS), says António Nunes, the
CEO of Angola Cables.
It runs from Sangano in Angola to Fortaleza in Brazil, a
place that is becoming a vast data junction on the Atlantic
coast because of the number of subsea cables already landing
there. Monet – in which Angola Cables is a shareholder
– is just the latest, calling into Fortaleza on its
way from Florida to southern Brazil.
"Now Monet is operational and SACS is waiting for a data
centre to be finalised. It will be operational in July or
August," says Nunes. "The cable is already live.
We’ve tested the cable, from Angola to Brazil and
back. The next step, the challenge, is commercialising it."
But SACS offers more than simply connectivity between Angola
and Brazil, two Portuguese-speaking nations.
"SACS is a completely new route," says Nunes. "People
don’t yet know the route. From Fortaleza you can
serve South America in a very efficient way. And from Angola we
can reach Nigeria and South Africa. We are in the middle."
Look at a map and you’ll see what he means. At
the western end – via Monet and half a dozen other
cables – Fortaleza is not just connected to
terrestrial networks in northern Brazil, but also via subsea
links to the east coast of the US – Florida, Virginia
and New York/New Jersey.
At the eastern end, SACS connects to the West Africa Cable
System (WACS) and will connect to the Africa Coast to Europe
(ACE) cable. Both of those give connections to South Africa
and, to the north, Nigeria and Europe. "When SACS is live it
will expand the demand from South Africa to the US."
Intriguingly, both Angola and Nigeria are oil-producing
states. "There’s a lot of interaction between
Nigeria and Houston," says Nunes, suggesting lots of potential
from the oil industry for WACS from Nigeria to Angola, SACS
across the South Atlantic, and then Monet to Florida to connect
Angola Cables will be a one-stop shop for the
WACS-SACS-Monet route, he notes.
The normal current alternative runs into London and then
across the North Atlantic before heading to Texas. "This offers
redundancy for the North Atlantic route," says Nunes.
But Nunes is looking beyond the oil fields of Nigeria. Cape
Town, at the southern tip of WACS, is connected to Asia and
there are other cables to Asia from the east coast of South
"You can now link South America efficiently to Asia avoiding
the US and Europe," says Nunes. "In terms of network
configuration that’s a new type of diversity."
Nunes and his team have started to market SACS to carriers.
"At the beginning not many believed we could do it. The big
challenge will start right now."
It’s more complex than even he expected, he
hints, pointing at protectionism by some countries of their
carriers. "We have a nice IP transit configuration but it is
tough to come into some countries. A lot of countries are very
But even before conquering those challenges
he’s looking for more. Look again at the Angolan
end of the cable: it is connected to other subsea cables that
land there, but inland just to Angola’s fixed and
mobile telecoms operators – which are its
Wouldn’t it be handy, thought Nunes, if there
were a terrestrial link across southern Africa from the
Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean? From there it would be
possible to connect with cables running to the Gulf, to India
That would mean getting to Tanzania, where cables land at
Dar es Salaam, or to Mozambique, where the only landing is at
Maputo in the far south. "We have a border with Zambia, and
Zambia has borders with Tanzania and Mozambique," says
A connection from the west coast of Africa to the east coast
could provide "a big portion of the traffic" on SACS, he says.
It could be a joint venture with a African terrestrial fibre
company. "We’re already started the research, but
I’m not sure of the timescale."
Until then Angola Cables can deliver traffic from the
Americas into Africa’s inland fibre networks only
via the ACE and WACS connections into South Africa.
SACS is vital to the economic future of Angola, he says, as
the economy moves from crude oil to data. "If we
don’t have the infrastructure we
won’t survive in new markets. We are getting one
step forward so when the market is ready the highways are
And those data centres at each end of SACS?
"We’re building two data centres, one in Angola
and one in Brazil. The south of Brazil is already well
connected, very First World."
But the north of Brazil, the region served by Fortaleza, "is
a completely other reality", he says. "It’s quite
similar to Africa, with relatively poor infrastructure and
connectivity." However, there are "15 subsea cables in
Fortaleza", he says.
That’s why the data centre is there. Fortaleza
could be a centre of diversity in communications like Miami is