Seacom, a fiber network operator that is one of the largest undersea cable providers in Africa, has tapped into Equiano, a subsea cable system being lined by Google.
The carrier’s join-up connects the South African legislative capital of Cape Town to Lisbon in Germany, which Seacom says makes it the fastest direct route between Africa and Europe.
Equiano, a billion-dollar project, made what was its final landing in Melkbosstrand, a coastal town in the southwestern stretch of northern Cape Town in August last year.
The undersea cable originated in western Europe, and runs along Africa’s western coast, between Portugal and South Africa. However, it so far branched in Lome, Togo; Lagos, Nigeria; Swakopmund, Namibia; and the Islands of Saint Helena. Equiano is 15,000 kilometers long, comes with 12 fiber pairs, and capacity of 144 terabytes per second.
Seacom, which counts Sanlam and Remgro as its investors, sells internet data capacity to businesses via its network. Not only to conventional businesses but also to internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile operators.
In 2009, Seacom launched an undersea cable to connect South Africa to Europe and Asia via eastern Africa.
Before then, South Africa had only one cable connecting it to the rest of the world and it was under the auspices of Telkom. With about 25 percent of the local wholesale fiber market, Seacom puts up a fair fight amid Vodacom, Liquid Telecom, and Dimension Data-backed Internet Solutions.
Loadshedding woes have impacted South Africa’s economic environment. But as businesses resort to alternative forms of energy generation, Seacom says it is seeing a renewed drive towards services in the connectivity space.
Equiano’s presence in the country will create jobs, and by way of its increased bandwidth carriage, substantially reduce internet prices in a market where people stay up all night to access cheaper data bundles.
“The Equiano subsea cable represents a new stage in Africa’s digital transformation meeting Africa’s growing data requirements, enabling cross-border digital trade, and offering citizens and enterprises new opportunities,” said Prenesh Padayachee, Seacom’s group chief digital officer.
“This launch results from years of project negotiations and planning, driven by a goal to be ready to offer quality service to our customers from day one,” he added.
Seacom, in the last few years, has been shifting its business purposefully toward IT services, looking to tap its [own] network to make money beyond connectivity. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) loaned the company USD 260 M in May 2022.
To link with Equiano, Seacom upgraded its transmission lines and IP network, both locally and otherwise. This is to ensure uninterrupted connections, connecting South Africans directly to Europe and eliminating the need to reroute to other counties mid-transmission.
Per a Google-commissioned 2021 regional economic impact assessment (PDF) by Africa Practice, Equiano will increase South Africa’s GDP by USD 5.8 B and create 180,000 indirect jobs come 2025.
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