The 2Africa subsea cable is expected to have a ripple effect on South Africa’s internet connectivity and significantly boost economic growth, when it is completed later this year.
This was the word from David Eurin, CEO of Liquid Dataport, speaking to ITWeb about the company’s investment in several submarine cables, as part of the company’s vision to connect Africa to the rest of the world and catapult international trade and markets.
A business of Cassava Technologies, Liquid Dataport is a wholesale division of Liquid Intelligent Technologies focused on supporting its organisations to access international connectivity, from and into Africa, by leveraging its investment in 11 submarine cables, including WACS, SAT-3, Equiano, 2Africa, PEACE and ACE.
Billed as the world’s longest subsea cable project, 2Africa is a Meta-backed project being built by the 2Africa consortium, which comprises China Mobile International, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone/Vodacom and the West Indian Ocean Cable Company.
It is manufactured and deployed by Alcatel Submarine Networks.
Discussing the impact of the 2Africa cable, Eurin points out the cable will deliver much-needed internet capacity and reliability across Africa, supplementing the fast-growing capacity demand on the continent and in the Middle East.
It will underpin further growth of 4G, 5G and fixed broadband access for hundreds of millions of people on the continent – with its ripple effect expected to boost job creation across several sectors in SA, including software development, internet connectivity and data centres, he notes.
“We expect 2Africa West and 2Africa East to be live by the end of the year,” says Eurin.
“The deployment of new subsea cables, bringing up to a hundred times more capacity than older cables, will help internet service providers and other IT companies to lower the cost of their services. This is crucial for South Africa to pivot to a digital economy, catching up with other developed economies and developing new services. This will lead to the creation of many value-added jobs in the service sector.”
Additionally, the completion of 2Africa is expected to result in the upgrade of telecommunication services and other infrastructure programmes across the country, with subsea capacity to be felt in all major towns across SA, continues Eurin.
At 45 000km long, 2Africa will interconnect Europe (eastward via Egypt), the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia), landing in 46 global locations and 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa. The project is expected to deliver more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa today, with a design capacity of up to 180Tbps on key parts of the system.
According to an RTI International study, 2Africa has the potential to provide an economic effect of $26.2 to $36.9 billion, or 0.42-0.58%, of Africa's GDP, within two to three years of its commissioning.
In August 2023, the East African portion of the 2Africa subsea cable landed in Mozambique and Tanzania, resulting in the establishment of a new data centre in the city of Nacala-Porto by Master Power Technologies.
More landings are expected in the coming months before the cable officially goes live this year.
According to its website, the 2Africa consortium has agreed to work collectively to facilitate an open access system. Under the open access principle, the operator of every 2Africa cable landing station must provide effective wholesale access at fair and reasonable prices, and on transparent and non-discriminatory terms.
This model will enhance competition for international bandwidth providers and lead to better broadband connectivity for consumers at competitive rates, it says.
According to Eurin, Liquid Dataport has a network of over 110 000km of fibre, expanding across Africa, and is transporting data to more than 20 countries.
He explains that 2Africa will allow more South African firms to access digital services, like the cloud, cyber security, satellite connectivity, internet of things networks and other essential digital infrastructure, enabling companies to expand their operations beyond African borders due to the availability of a more reliable, extensive network and lower latency.
“We are integrating the 2Africa with our global network and as soon as it goes live, our network will make use of it. It will add much value, especially during instances where something happens to our other cables, like the Equiano, for example – our traffic will be rerouted to the 2Africa and the impact won’t be felt by customers.
“We made this investment because a lot of companies rely on us for connectivity. There is a lot of economic value creation from digital services and access to cloud companies. Liquid is supporting big cloud service providers to have their equipment hosted in SA, such as data centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town.”
In 2022, the company acquired a pair of fibre cables on the Equiano West Coast submarine cable, which it says is capable of delivering up to 12TB of new internet capacity.
“Investments in the Equiano cable and significant capacity on the PEACE and 2Africa undersea fibre cables, together with our extensive terrestrial cross-border fibre broadband network, ensures reliability, cost-efficiency and reach to millions of businesses and people across the continent, with unprecedented bandwidth,” concludes Eurin.