Facebook to surround all of Africa in optical fibre and tinfoil

Plans new sub cable running from the UK to Spain on just-about the longest route possible

Facebook has backed a new submarine cable that it says will circumnavigate Africa and deliver three times more capacity than is currently connected to the continent.

The forthcoming 2Africa cable will be 37,000km long, with one end starting in the UK and touching Portugal before reaching in 19 African nations, Oman and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. After passing through Egypt the cable will also connect Italy, France and Spain on a Mediterranean leg.

The cable will use Spatial Division Multiplexing and up to 16 fiber pairs, delivering capacity that Facebook says will “provide nearly three times the total network capacity of all the subsea cables serving Africa today.” Helping that along is aluminium conductors instead of copper, an innovation developed by Facebook and Alcatel as a way of reducing voltage drop along the very long transmission distances required of submarine cables. More voltage means the ability to keep more fiber pairs lit. The Social Network™ says this cable will be the first time tinfoil cables have been deployed at this scale.

Facebook’s teamed with local and global companies to build the cable and says access will be open.

The company’s billed the cable as both a long-term boost to economic development across Africa and a welcome project given the economic effects of COVID-19.

There’s no word on when the cable will see first light, but these things can often be built in a matter of months when, as is the case for 2Africa, the route does not involve tricky trips across the widest and deepest oceans. ®

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