France Telecom to build new Africa cable - TechCentral

France Telecom to build new Africa cable

Steve Song

Sub-Saharan Africa will soon be drowning in international bandwidth.

France Telecom’s Orange has announced an extension to the Lower Indian Ocean Network (Lion) cable, adding yet more capacity to the east coast of Africa.

The €56,5m (R533m), 3 000km undersea cable, known as Lion 2, will extend the original Lion cable to Kenya through the island of Mayotte.

France Telecom is the principal investor in the new system, but other investors include associate companies Telkom Kenya, Mauritius Telecom and Orange Madagascar.

The original Lion system, which connects Madagascar, Réunion and Mauritius to Africa and onward to Asia via the Safe system, was lit up less than a year ago.

The service is expected to go live in the first half of next year and will have a design capacity of 1,28Tbit/s, making it the same size as the Seacom cable between SA and Kenya.

The Lion 2 cable's route (click to enlarge map)

France Telecom has also started construction on the 5,1Tbit/s Africa Coast to Europe (Ace) cable that will link SA to France along the west coast of the continent.

Kenya is enjoying an Internet boom ever since the landing of The East African Marine System (Teams), which started carrying traffic in June last year.

A year later, the East African nation is connected to the world via Teams, Seacom and the East Africa Submarine System (Eassy).

Steve Song, telecommunications fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation and the man behind a popular African undersea cables map, says Kenya is becoming the economic hub of East Africa and so it makes sense for the country to have access to even more cable systems.

But, Song says, the “amount of fibre being deployed around the continent is completely bananas”.

“I am constantly amazed by the ongoing new announcements of cables.”

Song says telecoms operators are probably deploying undersea cable infrastructure in anticipation of a boom in Africans accessing the Internet from mobile phones.

“I believe there is enough demand for the capacity but it is a question of how long it will take to connect all that demand to all that fibre,” he says.

France Telecom’s decision to expand the Lion system, and to build a branch to the African mainland, is part of the company’s global expansion strategy, says Song.

“I think they want end-to-end fibre around Africa,” he says. Last week, France Telecom announced it was buying 40% of Morocco’s second mobile operator, Medi Telecom (better known as Meditel), for €640m.  — Candice Jones, TechCentral


  1. I might have guessed you wouldn’t be able to leave that line alone. For those readers not familiar with the broadband industry, “bananas” is a technical term related to Quality of Service. It means very good. 🙂

    I think there may be some industry casualties in the undersea fibre stakes but one thing is clear, the big winner is going to be Africa.

    And within Africa, the big winners are going to be governments that get behind broadband.

    South Africa is the classic case of the Hare and the Tortoise, except we’re not sleeping, we’re just too busy fighting amongst ourselves. We need one influential leader in government to stand up and take ownership of this issue.

  2. I love the quote: “The amount of fibre being deployed in Africa is bananas”. I say it’ll keep the continent regular 😉

  3. I ve got a feeling the current capacity of fibre being rolled out around the African continent will not be enough to sustain demand in a few years time. just a gut feel whenever I hear the notion that there is excess capacity. Somehow excess of technology capacity seems to find good use. What if SA wins the bid to host the SKA. this capacity may become mickey mouse stuff. Who knows?

  4. @Molefe I think it’ll be fine for a while – remember that the current fibers can push more bandwidth as the technology improves. Remember the SAT-3 cable is almost 10 years old, and can still handle the entire country’s bandwidth requirements if need be. New technology allowed the cable to push more banwdith, and this will hold true for all the cables we’re putting in place.

    The SKA apparently needs 100gbit of bandwidth – that’s less than 1% of the bandwidth we’ll have available. Scary, actually!

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