Facebook is building an undersea cable around Africa

Original article was published on Artificial Intelligence on Medium

Facebook is building an undersea cable around Africa

Dubbed as ‘2Africa’, the 37,000 km long cable around the continent would bring better connectivity for 1.3 billion Africans

A huge mesh of undersea fiber-optic cables already provides the basic infrastructure for providing seamless connectivity for the global population. And the information superhighway continues to extend its reach. Despite having such an extensive network to provide connectivity, the African continent remains the least connected in the World.

The current pandemic has further highlighted the importance of connectivity as demand for online systems surge with more people relying on the internet infrastructure to work, study and stay connected with loved ones.

Apart from the traditional ecosystem, the big techs have been involved in building spare online capacity for the future. Project Starlink by SpaceX, Project Loon by Google & Project Kuiper by Blue Origin are part of this massive endeavor. And now the social media giant Facebook has entered the arena with the aim to bring more of Africa’s 1.3 billion inhabitants online.

According to the company blog post, FB is building a 37,000-kilometer-long undersea cable around Africa to provide it with better internet access. The subsea cable being laid (pictured below) will interconnect 23 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. The first phase will include a subsea cable system connecting East and West Africa across a single open system.

“2Africa is a continuation of our ongoing efforts to expand global network infrastructure. We have collaborated with partners all over the world to build several subsea fiber-optic cables that are leading the industry in terms of reach, capacity, and flexibility.” ~ Facebook

Image Credit — Facebook

Dubbed as 2Africa, it is part of the company’s initiative to build an open and inclusive internet ecosystem that would contribute towards the continent’s digital economic growth. It would also be one of the largest subsea cable projects in the world with the length of the cable equal to the circumference of the Earth. More importantly, however, it would provide three times the total network capacity of all the subsea cables serving Africa today.

The social media giant has roped in an impressive list of partners including — China Mobile, South Africa’s MTN, France’s Orange and Britain’s Vodafone as well as local network operators on the project. Nokia-owned cable systems provider Alcatel Submarine Networks will be building the subsea cable. The project would be far more efficient since it would be using aluminum rather than copper fibers, thus increasing the network capacity.

Apart from Project Loon which has expanded recently into the African nation of Mozambique, Google is also working on an undersea cable called Equiano — connecting Africa and Europe. Keep in mind that, Facebook has already shuttered a project in 2018 called Aquila, which aimed to bring internet to remote areas using solar-powered drones.

However, the focus of silicon valley giants on Africa is not just an example of using technology for the good of the people but also cashing in on a high-growth investment opportunity of the future.