Undersea cable market steams ahead in Africa and Middle East

Twofold capacity increase supports East Africa’s digital transformation as work continues on Equiano subsea cable linking Africa to Europe

Three major submarine projects delivering hitherto unserved capacity and throughput across Africa and the Middle East have been revealed, satisfying surging digital demands regionally, as well as cost-effectively improving connectivity to Europe, the Americas and Southeast Asia.

EASSy, the 10,000km submarine cable system traversing Africa’s east and south coasts, is now using Ciena’s GeoMesh Extreme, powered by WaveLogic 5 Extreme coherent optical technology, to increase capacity and performance in sub-Saharan Africa. With the new deployment, EASSy is doubling network capacity from 18Tbps to 36Tbps across the system to maintain pace with voracious and ongoing bandwidth growth.

By using its latest coherent technology, Ciena said EASSy is adding intelligence and efficiency to its cable system, maximising fibre capacity and substantially reducing the transported cost per bit. The network is managed by Ciena’s Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) domain controller. By adopting a software-driven, automated approach, EASSy is said to be able to gain maximum operational proficiency and service agility while reducing OPEX.

The upgrade is designed to help EASSy satisfy surging digital demands regionally, as well as cost-effectively improve connectivity to Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. EASSy is also using Ciena technology to implement the hardware upgrade, including migration of legacy traffic, as well as to manage and support its network operations centre (NOC) in South Africa.

“There’s a great need for affordable and reliable international connectivity in East Africa,” said Jacques Van Der Walt, procurement group chair at Telkom South Africa. “We worked with Ciena to make our submarine cable network simpler and higher speed, allowing us to scale to unprecedented capacities at a lower overall cost. This places EASSy in a better position to expedite the closing of the digital divide for Africans who are increasingly dependent on cloud-based services.”

Also in Africa, pan-African technology group Liquid Intelligent Technologies, a business of Cassava Technologies, has acquired a fibre pair on the Equiano subsea cable, allowing it to transport traffic up to 12 Tbps, bringing a much-needed increase in international connectivity in Western and Southern Africa.

Noting that older sub-sea cables are almost at the end of their lifespan, Liquid said the Equiano cable system will address the growing need for internet capacity, supporting cloud services in both coastal and landlocked countries on the continent.

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The Equiano subsea cable will link Africa to Europe via the West Coast of Africa when it is ready for service later in 2022, aiming to provide the Terabit per second capacity to meet the growing and varied business needs of organisations across Europe, Western and Southern Africa. It has landings planned in Sesimbra (Portugal), Lomé (Togo), Lagos (Nigeria), Swakopmund (Namibia), Rupert’s Bay (Saint Helena) and Melkbosstrand (South Africa), with more stations planned in the future. Through its fibre backbone and satellite services, Liquid is confident that it can offer reliable telecommunications and cloud services to more than 1.3 billion people across thousands of towns and cities in Africa.

“In the past few years, we have witnessed a steady increase in adoption of digital technologies,” said David Eurin, CEO of Liquid Dataport. “This wouldn’t have been possible without our investments in high-speed connectivity in coastal, as well as landlocked, African countries. The continent needs companies like Liquid who not only land Terabit per seconds of capacity with subsea cables but also distribute that capacity inland, enabling these countries to see the same benefits as those where the cable lands.”

For their part, Infinera and telecoms service provider PCCW Global have announced completion of what they call a significant deployment on the Peace cable system between Marseille, Cyprus and Abu Talat.

The two firms believe network operators are continually expanding cloud-based services to create more connected communities, driving the need for subsea network upgrades globally. PCCW Global said that by using Infinera’s ICE technology it can now offer network operators the ability to significantly increase capacity per fibre pair on what are described as critical Middle East and Mediterranean fibre routes.

By using the GX Series Compact Modular Platform, PCCW Global is confident that it can reach individual wavelength speeds of 650Gbs, resulting in more capacity, with less hardware, and providing up to 25 terabits per fibre pair. The combination will enable network operators to efficiently provide high-capacity services between the Middle East and the Mediterranean region.

“The Peace cable system is the highest-performing open cable system connecting Asia, Europe and Africa,” said Haitham Zahran, vice-president of EMEA subsea cable systems for PCCW Global. “By collaborating with Infinera to upgrade our network segment to increase fibre capacity, we are able to offer customers industry-leading innovation that provides the most reliability and highest capacity fibre pair available.”

PCCW Global’s capacity upgrade on the Peace cable system is one of a series of upgrades planned for this year.

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