The 2Africa project, championed by social media giant, Facebook and seven other companies — China Mobile International, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone, and WIOCC — is adding four new branches to its 37,000km undersea Internet cable.
The new branches extend the cable’s connectivity to Seychelles, Angola, the Comoro Islands and a new landing in South-East Nigeria. They will join the recently announced extension to the Canary Islands.
Per Facebook’s statement, the new branches will be deployed by Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) — Nokia-owned cable systems provider — and will increase the number of 2Africa landings to 35 in 26 countries.
In May 2020, Facebook announced this project, a cable connection it says would provide nearly three times the total network capacity of all the subsea cables serving Africa today.
Facebook says considerable progress has been made, and the cable is expected to go live in late 2023. Most of the subsea route survey activity is now complete as ASN has started manufacturing the cable to deploy the first segments in 2022.
It also says one of the cable’s key segments, the Egypt terrestrial crossing — interconnects landing sites on the Red and the Mediterranean Seas via two completely diverse terrestrial routes — has been completed ahead of schedule. A third diverse marine path will complement this segment via the Red Sea.
Africa struggles with Internet connectivity. According to a 2020 GSM Association Factsheet, mobile Internet adoption in sub-Saharan Africa stood at 26% in 2019. The region accounts for almost half of the global population not covered by a mobile broadband network
As the International Telecommunications Union’s Digital Trends Report 2021 reveals, infrastructure is not the real problem. As of the end of 2019, 28 African countries had at least one submarine cable landing.
According to data from Many Possibilities, the West and East African coasts each have cables with an Internet capacity of at least 100 Tbps. By the end of 2021, the number could double.
As we noted in an earlier article, more subsea cables do not translate to faster Internet capacity. Service providers might only have to pay less to connect due to increased competition. In principle, this should reduce the cost of data for end-users.