Google’s Equiano landing is good news for South Africa’s fibre networks

Google’s Equiano cable landed in Melkbosstrand in Cape Town on 8 August 2022, and the additional undersea capacity promises several benefits to South African fibre network operators (FNOs) and their customers.

MyBroadband asked several FNOs in South Africa whether they had bought Equiano fibre pairs and if they had benefitted from the additional capacity.

A Vodacom spokesperson told MyBroadband that it and its customers are expecting to benefit from various aspects when the cable system goes live commercially, including:

  • Additional resilience on the international network through more geographically diverse route options
  • Additional capacity for future demand
  • Lower latency between certain destinations — all resulting in improved customer experience

“Vodacom has acquired capacity on the Equiano cable system both for its own use and for wholesale to the market,” they said.

“Vodacom has further invested in the 2Africa cable system, of which 2Africa GERA (East/North/Med) is expected in Q1 of 2024, and [we] will participate in the upgrade of WACS, which is expected later this year.”

MTN SA and MTN GlobalConnect weren’t specific about whether they had purchased Equiano pairs but said they benefited by directly investing in new and existing undersea cables.

“MTN continues to benefit from additional undersea capacity in South Africa by directly investing not only in our existing subsea cables (WACS & ACE) with upgrades, but also in the new cable systems that will come online in 2023 (2Africa and Equiano),” MTN SA and MTN GlobalConnect said.

MTN is part of the consortium of companies that owns the 2Africa undersea cable. MTN GlobalConnect also handled the cable’s first South African landing in December 2022 at Yzerfontein, near Cape Town.

Afrihost told MyBroadband that as it has not bought any capacity, it hasn’t benefitted from the new link.

“We are, however, always looking at alternative international breakout points as long as it’s beneficial for our clients,” it added.

MyBroadband also asked Cybersmart, Mweb, Telkom, and Rain for comment, but they had not answered our questions before publication.

While Telkom didn’t respond to our request for comment, its wholesale fixed-line division — Openserve — earlier welcomed the Equiano cable’s landing in South Africa.

“The Equiano undersea cable will ultimately transform the connectivity experience in South Africa from Internet Service Providers to the end-user,” Openserve CEO Althon Beukes said.

“ISPs will be able to provide lower retail prices, and the end-user will enjoy seamless connectivity, lower latency and faster internet speeds.”

MyBroadband recently spoke to BluNOVA CEO Suveer Ramdhani regarding the impact of the new undersea capacity landing in South Africa on broadband in the country. “It will absolutely have an impact on Internet capacity,” Ramdhani said.

“Typically companies like Google and Facebook, because they are pursuing increasing the number of subscribers that connect to their global services, they effectively peer away their traffic at peering points.”

“That adds a tremendous amount of supply and capacity at peering points, and the important thing is the peering point is for free,” he added.

The mention of free peering is a nod to NAPAfrica’s Internet exchange points, which offer free peering at Teraco data centres. Since our conversation with Ramdhani, Africa Data Centres and INX-ZA have launched free remote peering.

Ramdhani said the improved supply and capacity would mean that local Internet providers won’t have to invest as much to connect globally as they have in the past.

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