International telecom giants are partnering to build one of the longest subsea cables in the world, connecting Europe and Africa.

China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC today announced plans to build 2Africa, a 37,000km long cable that will improve connectivity in Africa and the Middle East.

Alctel Submarine Networks has been appointed to build the cable, which will serve 16 countries in Africa and seven in the Middle East and Europe once it goes live in 2023 or 2024, and will deliver more than the total capacity of all subsea cables currently serving Africa.

The 2Africa organisations and Airtel have also signed an agreement with Telecom Egypt to create a new crossing linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, the first in over a decade.

How the 2Africa subsea cable will boost connectivity for millions

2Africa is designed to improve internet capacity and reliability for millions of people, as well as supporting the further growth of 4G, 5G and fixed broadband. It will use a new technology, SDM1, to allow 16 fibre pairs instead of eight to be deployed, to enable greater capacity in a cost-effective way. It will also incorporate optical switching technology for flexible bandwidth.

Service providers will use carrier-neutral data centres or open-access cable landing stations on an equal basis to support a healthy internet ecosystem.

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By GlobalData

The depth at which the cables are buried has been increased by 50%, and will avoid areas of subsea disturbance

“The launch of 2Africa enables us to offer our customers seamless connection between Africa and Europe, together with our SEA-ME-WE 5 and AAE-1 subsea cable resources to further extend to Asia, which is an important milestone of our global development strategy,” said Jessica Gu, Director & Chief Technology Officer of China Mobile International.

“The utmost capacity and faster transmission allows us to satisfy the needs of African nations today and in the future, reflecting our firm commitment to building a global digital life.”

“We’re excited to be collaborating with our 2Africa partners on the most comprehensive subsea cable that will serve the continent,” added Najam Ahmad, vice president, Network Infrastructure at Facebook.

“2Africa is a major element of our ongoing investment in Africa to bring more people online to a faster internet. We’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that increased connectivity has on communities, from education to healthcare. We know that economies flourish when there is widely accessible internet for businesses. 2Africa is a key pillar supporting this tremendous internet expansion as part of Africa’s surging digital economy.”

Read more: Vodafone swoops for Liberty Global’s European cable networks.