A new subsea cable that will cover Africa and the Middle East is in the process of being built. Known as the "2Africa Cable," it is a partnership between China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone, and WIOCC.

Alcatel Submarine Networks ("ASN") has been appointed by the partners to build the 2Africa cable.

“We’re excited to be collaborating with our 2Africa partners on the most comprehensive subsea cable that will serve the continent,” said Najam Ahmad, Vice President, Network Infrastructure at Facebook. “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," said Najam Ahmad, Vice President, Network Infrastructure at Facebook.

Coverage map of the 2Africa subsea cable. Source: 2Africa

More undersea cables but Africa needs more terrestrial fiber cables

Although probably the largest, 2Africa is not the first undersea cable to cover Africa. Over the past decade many subsea cables have been launched along Africa's coast.

However, as many analysts have sometimes argued, what Africa really needs is more terrestrial fiber cables to interconnect the continent.

Currently, many of the terrestrial fiber cables across Africa are country or region based. The only ambitious attempt currently known to try and interconnect the continent with a single fiber network is Liquid Telecom's One Africa broadband network which goes from Cape Town to Cairo.

Liquid Telecom's One Africa Network.

Largest undersea cable along Africa's coast

Coming in at 37,000km long, 2Africa is arguably one of the world’s largest undersea cable projects. The cable system is expected to go live in 2023 or 2024, delivering more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa today.

It has a design capacity of up to 180Tbps on key parts of the system.

“MTN GlobalConnect is delighted to participate in this bold 2Africa subsea cable project. This initiative complements MTN GlobalConnect’s terrestrial fibre strategy to connect African countries to each other and to the rest of the world. We are proud to be playing a key role in providing the benefits of a modern connected life – a core MTN belief," said Frédéric Schepens, CEO at MTN GlobalConnect.

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 parters say this will support healthy Internet ecosystem development by facilitating greatly improved accessibility for businesses and consumers alike.

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