A massive new undersea cable - part-funded by Facebook - will bring faster, cheaper internet to SA

Business Insider SA
A model of the 2Africa cable
A model of the 2Africa cable
  • Facebook, MTN and others are planning a massive undersea cable to connect the whole of Africa to the internet.
  • The group wants to start laying the cable next year, and is hoping to have it in place by 2023.
  • Data prices could fall, because all operators will be able to have access to the cable.
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A consortium of Facebook, MTN, Vodafone and others have just announced plans for Africa's largest undersea cable – which should lower data prices.

The massive 2Africa cable is expected to go live in 2023 or 2024. It is being built by the consortium which also includes China Mobile and Orange.

It is the world’s first cable designed to serve the whole of Africa, and will deliver more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving the continent at the moment. 

“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 consortium said in a statement.

The cable has greater capacity for fibre, and is being offered to all networks in countries where it lands. That means no network has exclusive access to the data. Local pricing will still be set by operators, but the increased competition and availability of data should make data prices tumble.

“This will support healthy internet ecosystem development, enabling needed accessibility whilst supporting the growth of 4G, 5G, and fixed broadband access for hundreds of millions of people,” said the group.

According to the consortium the cable has a design capacity of 180TBps on key parts of the system and “will be the most comprehensive subsea cable to serve the African continent and Middle East region”.

It will be sunk at 50% deeper than existing cables, which will hopefully means fewer internet disruptions. In the past few months, South Africans have suffered repeated outages due to problems with undersea cables. One of the biggest outages was caused by a short circuit in a cable that was trapped by heavy sediment flowing from the Congo River. 

The consortium says it is busy preparing for marine surveys. Component manufacturing is expected to start by the end of next year, which is also when the group wants to starts laying cable.

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