World’s longest undersea fibre cable lands in Amanzimtoti.

The West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC) expects to land the Facebook-backed, 45,000km-long 2Africa undersea fibre cable at Amanzimtoti near Durban on Monday.

Update: WIOCC has said it now expects to land the cable on Tuesday, 7 February 2023.

This comes after successful landings at Yzerfontein by MTN GlobalConnect in December  and Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) by Vodacom in January. 2Africa is a consortium cable that comprises China Mobile International, Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook), MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, Center3, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone, and WIOCC.

While the cable landings happened at Yzerfontein and Amanzimtoti, operators’ cable landing stations are located elsewhere. MTN GlobalConnect’s cable landing station for the Yzerfontein leg is in nearby Duynefontein, while WIOCC’s cable station for the Amanzimtoti landing is at its Open Access Data Centres facility in Durban.

First announced in 2020, 2Africa was initially designed to stretch 37,000km with 21 landing stations in 16 countries in Africa.

In September 2021, the consortium announced the 2Africa PEARLS branch extending to the Arabian Gulf, India, and Pakistan — bringing the length of the system to over 45,000km. It was also expanded to have 48 landing stations, including 27 in Africa, according to TeleGeography.

Alcatel Submarine Networks was appointed to build 2Africa and its extensions using a new technology called Spatial Division Multiplexing (SDM). One benefit of SDM is that it allows 2Africa to support up to 16 fibre pairs, whereas older technologies used in existing African cables supported a maximum of eight.

However, the 2Africa consortium has been tight-lipped about how many fibre pairs would eventually be deployed, and how many wavelengths per fibre pair would be supported.

It has only claimed that the cable will offer a design capacity of 180 terabits per second (Tbps). The next-largest cable serving the African continent is Google’s Equiano cable, which boasts a 144Tbps design capacity. Equiano landed in South Africa in August 2022. It was the first new Cape-to-Europe cable system to launch in years.

Equiano beats its next-nearest rival in terms of design capacity by several factors. Excluding cables like PEACE that don’t fully extend to South Africa, Equiano was over seven times larger than other cables connecting the country to Europe and Asia. Therefore, the arrival of 2Africa and Equaino substantially increased the Internet capacity connecting Africa to Europe.

However, despite Google’s claims to the contrary, this will likely not translate into massive speed increases or broadband price cuts for South Africa. This is because South Africa already has a glut of international capacity available on cables like Seacom, WACS, and Eassy. However, other African nations stand to benefit greatly from the two cables.

2Africa and Equiano also provide South African network operators with additional route diversity in the event of outages on other cables.

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