The new cable, “Equiano”, will run from Portugal to SA; an undersea data highway running the whole length of the African continent.
Deep under the waves of the world’s oceans, huge data cables are laid down to connect the continents with high-speed internet. These cables are huge projects to complete and maintain, and require big companies to climb on board to oversee the construction and financing. In the case of a new high-speed cable, that company is Google.
The browser giant has announced that construction will begin on an undersea internet cable, known as “Equiano”, that will run the length of the African continent. Connecting Europe and Africa, the cable will start in Portugal and end in Cape Town, South Africa. It will have several branches that connect it to West African nations, such as Nigeria. The cable is named after Nigerian writer and abolitionist, Olaudah Equiano.
Funded entirely by Google, the first phase of the project is expected to be completed by 2021. It is the 14th cable investment that the company has made and it comes just after it completed the “Curie” project (another cable running from Chile to the US, completed in April this year).
Equiano will be a first for Google and the technology, as it will be the first undersea cable to use optical switching by way of a fibre network. Optical switching is a way in which data is transported. When you have one internet connection that links several computers to the internet, switching allows for the right data to be transferred to the right place.
Optical is the next best thing above the common switching method, which uses an electrical signal. This means that the cable will be able to transfer 20 times more data than other cables, and allows for Google to modify and improve the connection section by section.
South Africa already has access to some underwater cables. On the Eastern side of the continent are the Seacom cables, built in 2009, and the South African Far East Cable (SAT-3/SAFE). On the Western side lies the West Africa Cable System (WACS), which was completed in 2012 and is supported by the likes of Telkom, Vodacom, and MTN.
The cable means that more data can be shared between SA and other countries. The optical technology combined with our fibre network means the connection is faster and further equips us for things like a 5G network.
The announcement comes just as it was reported that Facebook is planning to build it’s own cable, one that encircles the whole of Africa. The aim of that project is to help the cost of data on the continent, and is being referred to as “Simba”, a character from Disney’s animation film, The Lion King.