Africa: Four undersea cables to watch out for

Africa is a big continent spanning over 30.2 million square km which makes connecting it with high speed internet not a task for a single entity. Of course satellite coverage can help provide large areas with internet and other communication channels, but this is not stopping high speed undersea cables from mushrooming.

There are several new cables that have been initiated recently that that are not only connecting corners of the continent left out by initial infrastructure, but seeming to grow capacity with every installation. Here are four that promise to push Africa into greater connectivity.


Djibouti Africa Regional Express (DARE)

DARE undersea cables aim to touch and connect the horn of Africa where most internet developments have been minimal. This includes countries such as Somali and Djibouti. The cable will have landing points in Mombasa in Kenya, Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, Djibouti and in Yemen.

The 5,500 kilometre cable was launched in mid 2016 and is estimated to be completed by May 2018. DARE will give capacity for regions that have not been served by the big boys. Its bandwidth will also compete with the major cables. There are estimates that the cable will carry 60 Terabits compared to Seacom’s 1280 Gigabits.

The project is being funded by Djibouti Telecom, Africa Marine Express, TeleYemen, Telesom, Hormuud Telecom Somalia, Golis Telecommunications and Somtel International.

Djibouti Telecom hopes to create, “diversified Points of Presence (PoP) and future connectivity options in Djibouti, Yemen, Kenya, and Tanzania,” that will provide vital flexibility for the consortium carriers and their customers.


South Atlantic Cable System (SACS)

Known also as the Angolan Cables, the SACS connects Angola and Brazil in an undersea cable and it is intended to bring over 40 Terabits to the Portuguese speaking nation. The cable’s length is 6,500 kilometres.

Language similarity between Brazil and Angola is something that connects the two countries that are separated by the South Atlantic Ocean. The cable, which has been pushed by Angola, costs US$300 million and will see the set up of a data centres in each country.

According to the company, SACS is part of a global reach plan. It is working with Algar Telecom (Brazil), Antel (Uruguay) and Google in the Monet undersea cable that connects Uruguay, Brazil and the United States. Once complete later this year the cable will connect the west coast of Africa to the Americas and to Europe.

In November 2016 Angolan Cables opened its first point of presence in South Africa and aims to envelope other southern African countries in its service.

During the launch of the PoP, the CEO Antonio Nunes, outlined the company’s goals in the region. “Beyond the connectivity between Africa and the Americas, the first South Atlantic route to connect these continents will also provide a reliable new route to customers in Asia in the South Hemisphere, as well as a range of connectivity and content services to global organisations.”


Africa-1 Undersea cable

Africa-1 has been scheduled to be completed by end of 2018 and will connect Africa to the Middle East and Asia. The total length of the cable is expected to be 17,000 kilometres. The project is co-owned by PCCW, Saudi Telecom, MTN Group, Telecom Egypt, Telkom South Africa.

During the announcement of the undersea cable, the chief executive officer of PCCW Global, Marc Halbfinger, said “We view Africa-1 as a natural extension to facilitate the increasing capacity demands of the Asia-Africa trade corridor with better levels of reliability to connect people and business in the world’s fast growing economies.”

Tamer Gadallah, the chief executive officer of Telecom Egypt underlined the importance of the cable saying it will be a competitive system for a diversified African market.

“The addressable market of African wholesale bandwidth customers is more promising than in many other regions. The weakness of the continent’s international bandwidth is due to the lack of new systems coming into Africa to enhance the competitiveness of the African market,” Gadallah said.


Liquid Sea

The cable was announced by Liquid Telecom in late 2015. The company which has mostly concentrated on inland fibre optic is looking to build a 10,000 kilometre which will run from South Africa to the Middle East. The cable is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

“The impact of Liquid Sea will be far more reliable and ultra-fast connections for governments, businesses, schools and homes in both coastal and land locked countries across Africa,” Nic Rudnick said in 2015 during the launch. The cable is expected to offer speeds of 20-30 terabits, up to 10 times the capacity of existing submarine cables in the region.

The uniqueness of this project is that it will connect with the inland network that Liquid Telecom has built over the years, spanning 40,000 kms and making it the largest network on the continent. Its inland network supports offshore cables on both East and West of Africa.


What the future holds

Africa’s international bandwidth is set to grow over the next year due to the implementation of new cables and increasing capacity in the old ones. Hamilton Research projects growth of over 1 Tbps in some of the African countries.

“At current growth rates, a CAGR of 55.8% from 2010 – 2015, Africa’s international bandwidth will reach 7 Tbps by the end of 2016. Some of the largest markets are expected to pass the 1 Tbps mark in the near future. Already by June 2016, Egypt had reached 992 Gbps, and Kenya had reached 878 Gbps,” the report said.

The research firm now says 52 countries in Africa are connected to the cable system either directly or by terrestrial cross border fibre optics.

Although Africa has fewer kilometres and few pipes compared to the Americas and Asia, this might change as demand for bigger capacity increases.


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Vincent Matinde

Vincent Matinde is an international IT Journalist highlighting African innovations in the technology scene.

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