21 June 2018
As Angola Cables’ new SACS cable goes into operation, CEO António Nunes tells Alan Burkitt-Gray of his idea for a terrestrial extension across southern Africa
The South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) is operational and
will go into service from Fortaleza in Brazil to Sangano in
Angola in July or August. At Sangano, SACS connects to a number
of other subsea cables and to Angola’s own fixed
and mobile service providers, which are its shareholders. But
I sat down with Angola Cables CEO António Nunes at
International Telecoms Week in Chicago in early May, and he was
already thinking about the next step. "We have a border with
Zambia, and Zambia has borders with Tanzania and Mozambique,"
he says. And both of those countries are on
Africa’s Indian Ocean coast, giving access to
cables running to the Gulf, to India and
In Tanzania, cables land at Dar es Salaam; in Mozambique,
the only landing is at Maputo in the far south. But a
connection from the west coast of Africa to the east coast
would provide "a big portion of the traffic" on SACS, he says.
It could be a joint venture with an African terrestrial fibre
company. "We’ve already started the research, but
I’m not sure of the timescale."
Even before that terrestrial extension is planned and built,
the new SACS opens up new routing possibilities for the
world’s carriers. "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."
Fortaleza is becoming a vast data junction on the Atlantic
coast because of the number of subsea cables already landing
there. Before SACS, Monet – in which Angola Cables is
a shareholder – was just the latest, calling into
Fortaleza on its way from Florida to southern Brazil. There are
"15 subsea cables in Fortaleza", he says. Those other subsea
links connect to the east coast of the US – Florida,
Virginia and New York/New Jersey.
The place is helping to open up the north of Brazil, which
until now has had "relatively poor infrastructure and
connectivity", he says. "We’re building two data
centres, one in Angola and one in Brazil."
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."
Both Angola and Nigeria are oil-producing states.
"There’s a lot of interaction between Nigeria and
Houston," says Nunes, suggesting potential traffic from the oil
industry for WACS from Nigeria to Angola, SACS across the South
Atlantic, and then Monet to Florida to connect with Houston.
Angola Cables will be a one-stop shop for the WACS-SACS-Monet
route, he says.
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.
At the same time, Angola Cables has joined
DE-CIX’s reseller programme, so it can resell
peering points and connect its customers to
DE-CIX’s hubs in North America and
"We are proud to become the first Angolan reseller of DE-CIX
premium interconnection services, targeting Africa and South
America," said Nunes. "The recent implementation of DE-CIX
reseller services highlights our commitment to helping our
customers expand into new markets, lessening the digital
divide, and improving the internet experience for end-users in
main markets of Africa and South America."
Angola Cables will connect to the DE-CIX locations in New
York, Frankfurt, Madrid and Marseille, and the agreement with
DE-CIX indicates that the African and South American networks
will have an alternative route between Europe and North
Angola Cables is already expanding its horizons to Asia,
even before Nunes realises his dream of a terrestrial cable
across Africa. WACS ends at Cape Town, where there are
connections onwards to Asia. "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."
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