Telecom Egypt, Facebook, and 6 telcos to build 2Africa – one of world’s largest subsea cables

Telecom Egypt is partnering with China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, STC, Vodafone, and WIOCC to build 2Africa, which will be the most comprehensive subsea cable to serve the African continent and Middle East.

The parties have appointed Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) to build the cable in a fully funded project which will greatly enhance connectivity across Africa and the Middle East, the companies said in a joint statement.

At 37,000km long, 2Africa will be one of the world’s largest subsea cable projects and will interconnect Europe – eastward via Egypt; the Middle East – via Saudi Arabia; and 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa.

The cable system is expected to go live in 2023/2024, delivering more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa today, with a design capacity of up to 180Tbps on key parts of the system.

According to the statement, 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.

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

This will support healthy internet ecosystem development by facilitating greatly improved accessibility for businesses and consumers alike, it added.

2Africa cable is set to improve resilience and maximise performance, including the option of a seamless optical crossing between East Africa and Europe.

The 2Africa parties and Airtel have signed an agreement with Telecom Egypt on Wednesday 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 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.

The cable will implement a new technology, SDM1 from ASN, allowing 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. It will incorporate optical switching technology to enable flexible management of bandwidth.

2Africa subsea cable

Cable burial depth has also been increased by 50 percent compared to older systems, and cable routing will avoid locations of known subsea disturbance, all helping to ensure the highest levels of availability.

Telecom Egypt

“Telecom Egypt’s contribution to 2Africa marks an important milestone in our endeavour to contribute to digital transformation in Africa. 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.” Adel Hamed, TE Managing Director and CEO, said.

Hamed called the 2Africa cable as “a revolutionary project” Telecom Egypt is taking part alongside renowned global and African partners.

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

China Mobile International

Meanwhile, Jessica Gu, Director and Chief Technology Officer of China Mobile International, said: “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,”

“The utmost capacity and faster transmission allows us to satisfy the needs of African nations today and in the future, reflecting our firm commitment to building a global digital life.” Gu added.

Facebook

Najam Ahmad, Vice President, Network Infrastructure at Facebook, also commented: “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.” Ahmad added.

MTN GlobalConnect

According to Frédéric Schepens, CEO of MTN Group’s wholesale operation at MTN GlobalConnect, the “bold 2Africa subsea cable” project “complements MTN GlobalConnect’s terrestrial fibre strategy to connect African countries to each other and to the rest of the world.”

Orange

Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa, said, “As one of the world’s leading multi-service telecommunications operators and present in 18 countries in Africa and the Middle East, it was natural for Orange to be part of the 2Africa project.”

“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.

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

STC

Mohammed A. Alabbadi, Wholesale VP in STC said: “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 neighboring countries.”

“The partnership demonstrates stc’s commitment, in line with Saudi Vision 2030, to deliver meaningful digital transformation and build a digital society for all.” Alabbadi added.

Vodafone

Moreover, Vinod Kumar, CEO Vodafone Business, said: “Improving connectivity for Africa is a significant step which lays the groundwork for increased digitalisation across the continent,”

“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. We’re delighted to work with our partners in the project to help deliver this.” Kumar added.

WIOCC

Chris Wood, WIOCC CEO, commented, “For over a decade WIOCC has been the hyperscale capacity provider for Africa, based upon a strategy of ongoing strategic investment in key subsea and terrestrial infrastructure.”

“Participation in 2Africa continues this commitment to providing large capacity users with the resilient network they need to support their customers’ ever-growing bandwidth requirements. Our investment both future-proofs our network capabilities and provides additional resilience to maximise uptime for our critical infrastructure.” Wood added.

Alcatel

Alain Biston, President of Alcatel Submarine Networks said, “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. Africa is a long story for ASN: we have deployed the majority of submarine cables around the continent. 2Africa will be a great new chapter!”