Facebook-backed cable to land in Nigeria, 3 others

2Africa, a Facebook-backed subsea cable project, is finalising plans to become the largest internet service provider in Nigeria and the rest of Africa, with the announcement on Monday that Southeast Nigeria is now a new landing for the cable.

The cable will also extend connectivity to Seychelles, the Comoros Islands, and Angola. The branches will join the recently announced extension to the Canary Islands.

The 2Africa project, launched in May 2020, is one of the largest subsea cable projects in the world and would interconnect 23 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

At nearly 37,000 kilometres long, the 2Africa project is nearly equal to the circumference of the earth and would provide nearly three times the total network capacity of all the subsea cables currently serving Africa.

Nigeria has five major fibre cable operators: MainOne (10 Terabyte per second (Tbps)); SAT3/SAFE (800 gigabyte (Gb)); WACS (14.5Tbps); Glo1 (2.5Tbps), and ACE (5Tbps), with a combined capacity of 32.800Tbps.

Read Also: Nigeria drifts off broadband target as internet access slows

The subsea cable is being built by a consortium comprising China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, Saudi Telecom Company, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone, and WIOCC.

“2Africa cable landing stations will be owned and managed by 2Africa parties or, where necessary experienced local partners managed by one of 2Africa partners,” Kezia Anim-Addo, head of communications, Facebook Africa, told BusinessDay.

BusinessDay had reported in May 2020 that the project would commence operations between late 2023 and early 2024.

The consortium led by Facebook confirms in an email that it is preparing for the deployment of the cable, expected to ‘go live’ in late 2023. Most of the subsea route survey activity is now complete. ASN has started manufacturing the cable and building repeater units in its factories in Calais and Greenwich to deploy the first segments in 2022.

In its 2020 report, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said the total submarine fibre deployment in kilometres was 25,128.3km as against 24,729.3km in the year 2019. This is an increase of 1.36 percent within the year under consideration. The fibre deployment by four mobile operators are as follows: – MTN-15,244km; Glo – 9,800km; Airtel – 14km and Ntel – 70km.

The total on-land fibre deployment was 43,898.8km as against 43,898.10km in 2019. The on-land fibre deployment was reported as follows;- MTN – 14,612km; Glo – 13,306km; Airtel – 11,151km; EMTS – 4,650km and Ntel – 180km.

This brings the total to 69,027.1km of fibre (on-land and submarine) deployed as of December 2020. According to the NCC, Nigeria needs about 120,000km of fibre optics to achieve full connectivity.

When the 2Africa cable is completed, Facebook expects it to deliver an expansive internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability across Africa; supplement a rapidly increasing demand for capacity in the Middle East, and support further growth of 4G, 5G, and broadband access for hundreds of millions of people.

The 2Africa consortium has selected Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) to deploy the new branches, which will increase the number of 2Africa landings to 35 in 26 countries, further improving connectivity into and around Africa. As with other 2Africa cable landings, capacity will be available to service providers at carrier-neutral data centres or open-access cable landing stations on a fair and equitable basis, encouraging and supporting the development of a healthy internet ecosystem.

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