Google and Facebook are in a race to surround Africa with high-capacity subsea broadband infrastructure.
Google said on Friday that it has contracted Alcatel Submarine Networks to build a new submarine cable that will connect Cape Town in South Africa with Lisbon in Portugal in the first phase of a planned roll-out. Known as Equiano, the Google cable is expected to be ready for service by 2021 and will be the first subsea cable to “incorporate optical switching at the fibre-pair level” rather than traditional wavelength-level switching.
“This greatly simplifies the allocation of cable capacity, giving us the flexibility to add and reallocate it in different locations as needed,” Google said in a statement. “And because Equiano is fully funded by Google, we’re able to expedite our construction timeline and optimise the number of negotiating parties.”
Google claimed the system will have 20 times the capacity of the most recent cable laid long the route, which is already served by the Sat-3, Wacs and Ace systems.
Facebook, meanwhile, is said to be advancing plans to work with partners to build the Simba cable system, which will run down both the west and east coasts of Africa. The east coast already has a number of cable systems, including Seacom and Eassy.
Less is known currently about Facebook’s plans than Google’s — and the company declined to comment when contacted recently by TechCentral — but a report in April by the Wall Street Journal suggested (paywall) that Simba, which is named after the lead character in The Lion King, will be built in three phases.
According to the Journal, Simba “could link up with beachheads in several countries on the continent’s eastern, western and Mediterranean coats”. It said the exact route and number of landings is “in flux”, citing unnamed sources familiar with the plans.
MTN Group and Vodafone Group have reportedly partnered with Facebook in the venture, though neither MTN nor Vodafone subsidiary Vodacom Group were able to provide any further details when contacted recently by TechCentral for comment. — (c) 2019 NewsCentral Media