The HARP Effect
Telecom Egypt, a key player in the global telecom industry, recently announced hybrid African ring path (HARP), a submarine system that circles the African continent, forming the shape of a harp. The system will connect Africa’s east and west bounds to Europe, from South Africa to Italy and France along the continent’s east coast, and to Portugal along its west coast.
Capacity heard from Adel Hamed, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Telecom Egypt.
Q. How will the HARP system impact the industry and the region?
AH: Telecom Egypt seeks to contribute to continental digital transformation that most, if not all African states are working hard to achieve. Our plans to launch this system come in line with Egypt’s strategy to sustain its strong relationship with African states and contribute to their economic development. Prior to 2021, Africa solely relied on very limited international submarine cables with low capacities that extended along the West Coast and operated separately from the cables along the East Coast. As a result, international connectivity was scarce and expensive, leading the regional data market to stagnate and fall behind the rest of the world where people had already begun to rapidly exploit internet-based applications.
HARP, on the other hand, will now support many African countries by providing a wide range of capacity solutions, mounting up to dark fibre, and connect them seamlessly to one another and to Europe and Asia, capitalizing on Telecom Egypt’s extensive global reach. The system will not only connect African coastal countries, but also landlocked ones with an option to branch out to multiple potential landing points. With the establishment of this very reliable and robust system, data traffic to and from Africa can be rerouted between the East and West Coasts, making HARP a highly secure solution.
"Multiple segments of the system will enjoy a range of geomesh solutions, from layer one to layer three
Q. How have your previous network investments helped you with the upcoming launch of HARP, which seems to be a very ambitious plan, and how do you expect to fulfil it?
AH: Throughout the years, we have invested heavily in submarine cable systems either on our own or in consortia with other partners. Such investments have allowed us to significantly expand our international footprint over the last 13 years. Our current portfolio is comprised of 10 landing stations in Egypt and one in Italy, 10 diversified crossing routes, and 13 submarine cables, compared to just 2 landing stations, four diversified crossing routes, and five submarine cable systems in the past. We plan to expand our portfolio and reach a total number of +16 landing stations, +14 diversified crossing routes, and +18 submarine cable systems by 2025.
Having said that, we are now capitalizing on our current and planned projects to offer end-to-end connectivity solutions through HARP. This new system will pave the way for Telecom Egypt to establish open points of presence in various new locations in Africa and Europe to serve enterprise and wholesale customers, which will expand the company’s global presence. We also plan to invest in building complementary terrestrial networks to bring international data closer to our end users.
Q. What “multiple ring protection topologies” will the HARP cable have, and how will they benefit customers and content providers across the region?
AH: Customers expect to enjoy an uninterrupted service that is offered through increased protection. As securing traffic is always at the top of our priorities throughout all of our infrastructure development plans and other projects, we choose diverse locations to expand in and use the “protection by numbers” concept to ensure customer satisfaction.
For years, we have accomplished tangible steps in revamping our international infrastructure and increasing the geodiversity of our assets to keep pace with the rising global demand for bandwidth and expand our global reach, with HARP being a culmination of such efforts. We plan to close the HARP ring terrestrially in Egypt, Europe, and South Africa by connecting the East and West landing facilities in all three locations to highly reliable terrestrial ring routes. All current and planned terrestrial Egypt crossing routes and their landings in Egypt will be part of the HARP system. These routes will cross the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, with multiple ring protection topologies, and will extend to include premium routes on both banks of the Suez Canal. The planned landing points in eastern coastal cities on the Gulf of Suez will form a hybrid terrestrial and submarine fibre connectivity solution between landing points in Egypt. HARP is also made up of multiple diversified submarine segments, as the company has heavily invested in submarine systems, which increases the capacities transmitted to major global hubs and new destinations.
Q. Will the HARP system deploy SDM or other next-generation technologies?
AH: HARP is a system that integrates various submarine and terrestrial segments of in-service and/or soon to be launched networks that Telecom Egypt has or will invest in. The system will deploy state-of-the-art technology in all of its segments, including SDM technology, which enhances its flexibility and allows it to scale up the number of fibre pairs on its segments as needed. This will enable the system to provide increased capacities at a lower cost. Multiple segments of the system will enjoy a range of geomesh solutions, from layer one to layer three, through the company’s multi-routed and low-latency mesh network that crosses Egypt and spans the Mediterranean Sea.
Q. Due to go live in 2023, what are the next stages in the development of this project?
"HARP comes in line with Egypt's strategy to sustain its strong relationship with African states and contribute to their economic development
AH: Even though HARP is yet to go live in 2023, most of its diverse trans-Egypt segments are already in service, with its Mediterranean, Europe-crossing, and West African segments expected to be completed by early 2022. We also plan to build new landing points, crossing routes, and submarine segments to complement HARP and form a robust ring network around Africa. As stated earlier, HARP will enable Telecom Egypt’s plans to establish open points of presence in various locations in Africa and Europe to serve its enterprise and wholesale customers, support the digital transformation efforts exerted throughout African nations, and expand the company’s international footprint.