Openserve eyes Google’s Equiano cable to boost connectivity

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 17 Nov 2021
Althon Beukes, Openserve CEO.
Althon Beukes, Openserve CEO.

Telkom’s fibre unit Openserve is looking forward to the landing of Google’s Equiano submarine cable, in order to boost capacity across SA.

As the demand for connectivity in SA grows, Openserve has teamed up with Google as a landing partner in SA for the Equiano undersea cable.

The Telkom subsidiary will provide its cable station facility at Melkbosstrand as the SA landing station and will offer terrestrial services connecting the cable landing to South African carrier-neutral data centres.

In 2019, Google announced its Equaino subsea cable that will connect Africa with Europe. Once complete, Equiano will start in Western Europe and run along the West Coast of Africa, between Portugal and South Africa, with branching units along the way that can be used to extend connectivity to additional African countries.

The first branch is expected to land in Nigeria. This new cable is fully funded by Google, making it the company’s third private international cable after Dunant and Curie, and its 14th subsea cable investment globally.

This private undersea cable will be the first submarine cable to incorporate optical switching at the fibre-pair level as opposed to the traditional approach of wavelength-level switching.

Last month, the US-based internet search giant said it will invest $1 billion (R15 billion) over a period of five years to support digital transformation in Africa.

During the first “Google for Africa” event hosted virtually in October, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said the investment will include the landing of the Equiano subsea cable, which will enable faster internet speeds and lower connectivity costs.

Connecting Africa

The other submarine cable also expected to boost connectivity on the African continent is the 2Africa cable being bankrolled by a consortium comprising Facebook (Meta), China Mobile International, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC.

Openserve CEO Althon Beukes says: “Through the partnership with Google, Openserve will have access to a new submarine system offering connectivity to Europe, providing additional diversity for international communications, which should lead to improved customer service levels for international access, services and products.”

Openserve says while SA continues to advance its internet infrastructure, penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa sits at just 26%, an alarming figure considering the important role of internet connectivity in terms of enabling economic development.

According to Huawei’s 2020 Global Connectivity Index, SA ranks number 56 out of 79 countries, as one of the connectivity adopters which experience the largest GDP growth from investment in ICT infrastructure.

The Telkom unit notes the South African government aims to create internet access for 80% of the population by 2024, and to achieve this, SA needs sufficient internet infrastructure that will create the capacity the country needs to generate internet connectivity for millions of users.

“As SA explores more options to meet the growing demand for connectivity, Equiano is expected to accelerate digital transformation and stimulate the digital economy, boosting overall economic growth,” Beukes says.

Openserve believes that enhancing connectivity through Equiano is expected to have a significant impact on the domestic economy.

It notes the connectivity that will be enabled by the undersea cable will play a crucial role in developing human capital and equipping the country’s workforce with digital skills that are required in order to take SA forward digitally.

Through this partnership, Openserve will help Google provide high bandwidth capability to Equiano fibre-pair owners and expected lower latency to Southern European destinations, it adds.

“The increased internet connectivity the advanced undersea cable will offer will also bring about new employment and business opportunities, as this connectivity will allow businesses to fully tap into digital transformation and drive innovation. Enhanced internet access will help businesses to digitise operations and increase their capabilities, creating new revenue streams,” Beukes says.

Public sector boost

Openserve points out Equiano will also play a crucial role in allowing the public sector to improve service delivery and advance its systems.

For example, it explains, increased connectivity will create new learning channels in the education sector, allowing for more learners to have access to tools that will expose them to an array of career opportunities.

“Access to internet connectivity is crucial to future-proofing the country’s technology requirements.

“SA cannot keep up with the ever-changing global technology trends when millions of its people still do not have access to internet. Smart cities that promote sustainability and drive economic development cannot be achieved without sufficient access to connectivity.

“With the rise of digital trends such as internet of things, virtual reality and blockchain, SA needs to enhance access to connectivity in order to fully leverage these technologies and other future trends.”