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China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC announced that they will partner to build 2Africa, which will be the most comprehensive subsea cable to serve the African continent and Middle East region. The parties have appointed Alcatel Submarine Networks (“ASN”) to build the cable in a fully funded project which will greatly enhance connectivity across Africa and the Middle East.

Alain Biston, president of Alcatel Submarine Networks said, “We are honored by the trust of our partners and proud to have been selected for this project. With this state-of-the-art subsea system, Africa will take a giant leap to the digital age thanks to the best-in-class technologies. Africa is a long story for ASN: we have deployed the majority of submarine cables around the continent. 2Africa will be a great new chapter!”

At 37,000km long, 2Africa will be one of the world’s largest subsea cable projects and will interconnect Europe (eastward via Egypt), the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia), and 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa. The system is expected to go live in 2023/4, delivering 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. 2Africa will deliver much needed internet capacity and reliability across large parts of Africa, supplement the fast-growing capacity demand in the Middle East and underpin the further growth of 4G, 5G and fixed broadband access for hundreds of millions of people.

Mohammed A. Alabbadi, wholesale VP in stc commented, “stc is delighted to be a partner in 2Africa. The 2Africa cable will be integrated into stc's MENA Gateway (MG1) datacentre in Jeddah, enabling customers to access our extensive international content and extend their regional connectivity through stc terrestrial geo-mesh network that extends to all neighboring countries. This will undoubtedly play a significant role in enhancing stc's international network capabilities, whilst also positioning stc as a leading regional digital player in the MENA region. The partnership demonstrates stc's commitment, in line with Saudi Vision 2030, to deliver meaningful digital transformation and build a digital society for all.”

In countries where the 2Africa cable will land, service providers will obtain capacity in carrier-neutral data centres or open-access cable landing stations on a fair and equitable basis. This will support healthy internet ecosystem development by facilitating greatly improved accessibility for businesses and consumers alike. 

The 2Africa cable has been designed to improve resilience and maximise performance, including the option of a seamless optical crossing between East Africa and Europe. The 2Africa parties and Airtel have signed an agreement with Telecom Egypt to provide a completely new crossing linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, the first in over a decade. This includes new cable landing stations and deployment of next-generation fibre on two new, diverse terrestrial routes parallel to the Suez Canal from Ras Ghareb to Port Said, and a new subsea link that will provide a third path between Ras Ghareb and Suez.  

Adel Hamed, Telecom Egypt’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, commented, “Telecom Egypt’s contribution to 2Africa marks an important milestone in our endeavor to contribute to digital transformation in Africa. Egypt’s relationship with African states has and will always be one of Egypt's top priorities, it extends here to align with Egypt’s strategy to contribute in the current development in Africa. We are honored to be part of such a revolutionary project alongside renowned global and African partners. For years, we have accomplished tangible steps in revamping our international infrastructure and increasing our assets' geodiversity in order to keep pace with the rising global demand for large bandwidth and global reach. We trust that 2Africa will be a rich addition to our diversified investments in the subsea cable industry.”    

The 2Africa cable will implement a new technology, SDM1 from ASN, allowing deployment of up to 16 fibre pairs instead of the eight fibre pairs supported by older technologies, bringing much greater and more cost-effective capacity. The cable will incorporate optical switching technology to enable flexible management of bandwidth. Cable burial depth has also been increased by 50% compared to older systems, and cable routing will avoid locations of known subsea disturbance, all helping to ensure the highest levels of availability.

According to Frédéric Schepens, CEO of MTN Group’s wholesale operation, MTN GlobalConnect, “MTN GlobalConnect is delighted to participate in this bold 2Africa subsea cable project. This initiative complements MTN GlobalConnect’s terrestrial fibre strategy to connect African countries to each other and to the rest of the world. We are proud to be playing a key role in providing the benefits of a modern connected life – a core MTN belief.”

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