Facebook to build 37,000km 2Africa subsea cable

Facebook to build 37,000km 2Africa subsea cable

14 May 2020 | Natalie Bannerman

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Facebook, along with a consortium of China Mobile International, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC have announced plans to build 2Africa.

"We're excited to be collaborating with our 2Africa partners on the most comprehensive subsea cable that will serve the continent," said Najam Ahmad, vice president of network infrastructure at Facebook.

"2Africa is a major element of our ongoing investment in Africa to bring more people online to a faster internet.  We've seen first-hand the positive impact that increased connectivity has on communities, from education to healthcare.”

“We know that economies flourish when there is widely accessible internet for businesses. 2Africa is a key pillar supporting this tremendous internet expansion as part of Africa's surging digital economy."

The 37,000km subsea cable system, one of the largest in the world, will 23 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) has been named as builder of the new system, which is described as a fully funded project.

"With this state-of-the-art subsea system, Africa will take a giant leap to the digital age thanks to the best-in-class technologies,” said Alain Biston, president of Alcatel Submarine Networks.

 With a tentative completion date of 2023/24, the cable will interconnect Europe (via Egypt), the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia), and 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa. 

With a design capacity of up to 180Tbps on certain parts of the system, 2Africa will deliver much needed internet capacity and reliability across large parts of Africa, supplement the fast-growing capacity demand in the Middle East and support the growth of 4G, 5G and fixed broadband access for hundreds of millions of people.


"The launch of 2Africa enables us to offer our customers seamless connection between Africa and Europe, together with our SEA-ME-WE 5 and AAE-1 subsea cable resources to further extend to Asia, which is an important milestone of our global development strategy," said Jessica Gu, director & chief technology officer of China Mobile International.

Services providers will gain access to capacity on the system via carrier-neutral data centres or open-access cable landing stations in what is described as a ‘fair and equitable basis”.

"This initiative complements MTN GlobalConnect's terrestrial fibre strategy to connect African countries to each other and to the rest of the world,” said Frédéric Schepens, CEO of MTN GlobalConnect.

“We are proud to be playing a key role in providing the benefits of a modern connected life – a core MTN belief."

In addition, Africa2 includes the option of a optical crossing between East Africa and Europe. The consortium along with Airtel have entered into an agreement with Telecom Egypt to provide a new crossing linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

This includes new cable landing stations and the deployment of next-gen fibre on two new, diverse terrestrial routes parallel to the Suez Canal from Ras Ghareb to Port Said, and a new subsea link that will provide a third path between Ras Ghareb and Suez.  

“Egypt's relationship with African states has and will always be one of Egypt's top priorities, it extends here to align with Egypt's strategy to contribute in the current development in Africa,” said Adel Hamed, managing director and chief executive officer, Telecom Egypt.

“We trust that 2Africa will be a rich addition to our diversified investments in the subsea cable industry."   

2Africa cable will use ASN’s new SDM technology, enabling the deployment of up to 16 fibre pairs instead of the eight fibre pairs supported by older technologies, bringing much greater and more cost-effective capacity.

“This major investment will complete our existing submarine and pan-African terrestrial infrastructures to provide access to international connectivity in a redundant fashion throughout the west coast of Africa,” said Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa.

“It will enable Orange to securely meet the demand for increased bandwidth necessary for the continued digital development of regions throughout the 2Africa system."

The cable will incorporate optical switching technology to enable flexible management of bandwidth.

Cable burial depth has also been increased by 50%, in comparison to older systems, and cable routing will avoid locations of known subsea disturbance.

“The 2Africa cable will be integrated into stc's MENA Gateway (MG1) datacentre in Jeddah, enabling customers to access our extensive international content and extend their regional connectivity through stc terrestrial geo-mesh network that extends to all neighbouring countries,” said Mohammed A. Alabbadi, vice president of wholesale, stc.

The 2Africa cable has long been a rumoured project for Facebook. Previously referred to as the Simba cable, it was originally thought to be a project with just MTN and Vodacom.

"2Africa will give local businesses and consumers a better online experience while more connectivity between Africa, Europe and the Middle East will help to build a wider, more inclusive digital society across the globe,” said Vinod Kumar, CEO of Vodafone Business.

"Participation in 2Africa continues this [our] commitment to providing large capacity users with the resilient network they need to support their customers' ever-growing bandwidth requirements,” said Chris Wood, CEO, WIOCC.