“2Africa”, the giant submarine cable that should improve the continent’s connection

37,000 km around the African continent. It is a gigantic project announced this week by a consortium of 8 companies including Facebook, the French Orange and China Mobile International: the construction of an underwater cable called “2Africa” ​​which will leave from the United Kingdom, direction Portugal for then go around Africa. The cable, which is expected to be operational in 2023 or 2024, is expected to improve the continent’s Internet access.

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Provide access “greater than the total combined capacity of all submarine cables serving Africa at present”. This is the objective of the consortium of telecom multinationals which will build a 37,000 km submarine cable all around Africa in order to improve internet access for this continent and the Middle East.

Among the members of the consortium, the French operator Orange, China Mobile International, Facebook, the South African MTN GlobalConnect, STC (Saudi Telecom Company), Telecom Egypt, the British Vodafone and WIOCC (West Indian Ocean Cable Company). Edst Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) which was responsible for the construction of this gigantic project, baptized “2Africa”.

The cable, one of the longest in the world, will connect Western Europe to the Middle East and to 16 African countries, crossing the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the African coast of the Indian Ocean to the Cape of Good Hope, to go up the Atlantic Ocean to Great Britain.

Facilities still underused

The partners are targeting commissioning in 2023 or 2024. The 2Africa cable “ provide many regions of Africa with the Internet connectivity and reliability they so badly need, say the partners in a press release. It will meet the ever-increasing demand for capacity in the Middle East and will facilitate the deployment of 4G, 5G and fixed broadband access for hundreds of millions of people.

But for the network of NGOs Internet without borders, the announced objectives call for caution. ” Project stakeholders praise the fact that this is a sustainable project, as long as data centers and landing stations, which will be installed, will provide capacity on an equitable basis, explains Qemal Affagnon, West Africa manager within the NGO, joined by Pierre Firtion, from the RFI Africa service. But this is a goal that will have to be observed after the cable is put into service, because today, despite the existence of many submarine fiber optic cables, these installations are still often underused. ”

Qamal Affagnon highlights the results of studies which ” have shown that at the west coast of the African continent, the cables that are installed work at approximately 20%, or sometimes even less than this capacity. So African countries do not always enjoy the benefits that these facilities should provide them.

Healthy internet ecosystem “And private interests

The 2Africa cable will integrate the new SDM1 technology, designed by ASN, deploying a maximum of 16 pairs of fibers, where the old technologies only supported eight.

The cable will also incorporate technology ” optical switching To allow flexible management of bandwidth, said the consortium press release. The cable will be more buried than for old systems and the route will avoid the areas affected by underwater disturbances so ” offer the highest level of availability possible

The consortium members therefore boast of a sustainable project that will provide capacities ” in a fair and just manner “, Thus participating in a” healthy internet ecosystem

But for Qemal Affagnoin Internet without borders, ” there are concerns about the guarantees around the data in transit. Because today, these cables belong to these private companies and there is a whole activity which is developing. Ultimately, this activity risks further benefiting private interests, while the populations to whom these facilities should benefit are still unable to access content online, and sometimes even download documents.

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