2018 plan is to “sell, sell, sell!” says Angola Cables

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) connectingFortaleza, 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 installation.

“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 south?”

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 project.

“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 sector.”

“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 2018.”

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 matter.

"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, sell!”