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New '2Africa' mega subsea cable announced

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A new subsea cable is coming to Africa and the Middle East, with hopes to bump up Internet connectivity in the region through a major partnership between both global and African players.

The cable, named 2Africa, is one of the largest subsea cable projects in the world, connecting 23 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

It comes with a laundry list of high-profile backers including Facebook, China Mobile International, Vodafone, Orange, Telecom Egypt, Saudi Telecom (stc), West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC) and MTN's wholesale operation, MTN GlobalConnect.

The cable will be built by Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) and is expected to be 37,000km long. It will interconnect Europe (eastward via Egypt), the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia) with 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa.

The system is expected to go live in 2023/2024 and will reportedly be able to deliver more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa today, with a design capacity of up to 180 Tbit/s on key 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 underpin the further growth of 4G, 5G and fixed broadband access for hundreds of millions of people," a joint statement from all the partners reads.

The planned route of the 2Africa subsea cable.
The planned route of the 2Africa subsea cable.

The group said that in countries where the 2Africa cable will land, service providers will obtain capacity in carrier-neutral data centers or open-access cable landing stations on a fair and equitable basis.

"The 2Africa cable has been designed to improve resilience and maximise performance, including the option of a seamless optical crossing between East Africa and Europe," reads the statement.

The 2Africa parties and operator Airtel have also signed an agreement with Telecom Egypt to provide a completely new crossing linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, the first in over a decade. This includes new cable landing stations and deployment of next-generation fiber 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.

The 2Africa cable will implement a new technology, SDM1 from ASN, allowing deployment of up to 16 fiber pairs instead of the eight fiber pairs supported by older technologies, which is expected to bring greater and more cost-effective capacity.

— The Staff, Connecting Africa

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