Submarine cable systems connecting Europe and Africa

The West Africa Cable System (WACS) is a 14530km submarine cable system connecting 15 countries, starting from South Africa and ending in London.

The WACS consists of four fibre pairs. It was initially designed with 128 wavelengths per fiber pair, running at 10 Gbps per wavelength, and design capacity of 5.12 Tbps. The initial investment of WACS is about US$650million.

WACS Initial Configuration:

  • 4-fibre pair cable system linking South Africa (SA) to Portugal, with landings in several intermediate countries and an extension Segment to the United Kingdom (UK) and London Point of Presence (Global Switch)
  • System Design Capacity: 5.12 Tbps ( 4 FPs * 128 wavelengths * 10Gbps/wavelength), upgraded to 14.5Tbps with 100Gbps techonology in 2015
  • 40Gbps wavelengths deployment on the segment between Portugal and United Kingdom from first day of operation.
  • Express fibre pair – interconnect SA, Portugal, and UK through to London PoP  (Global Switch).
  • Semi-express 1 fibre pair – interconnect SA, Nigeria, and UK through to London.
  • Semi-express 2 fibre pair – interconnect SA, Angola, Democratic Repubblic of Congo, Ivory Coast and UK through to London.
  • Omnibus Fibre pair – interconnect SA, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal, UK through to London.

WACS system delivers a round trip delay (RTD) of 138.5 ms between Yzerfontein CLS in South Africa to Highbridge CLS in the UK.  

The Yzerfontein CLS in Western Cape Town serves an alternative international submarine gateway othar than the Melkbosstrand CLS in Western Cape Town, South Africa. 

The WACS landing Parties are: Telkom (South Africa), Telecom Namibia (Namibia), Angola cables (Angola), OCPT (Democratic Republic of Congo), Congo Telecom (Congo), Camtel (Cameroon, acquired from MTN Cameroon), MTN (Nigeria), Togo Telecom (Togo), MTN (Ghana), MTN (Ivory Coast), PTC (Cape Verde), Vodacom Group (Canary Islands), Tata Communications (Portugal), Tata Communications (UK), Cable and Wireless (London PoP).

WACS was supplied by ASN, and completed in 2012.

In May 2015, Huawei Marine completed an upgrade of WACS (Upgrade I) using 100Gbps technology, increasing the WACS system design capacity to 14.5Tbit/s.

In Feb 2019, the WACS Upgrade II was completed with Huawei Marine's solutions to support 32*100Gbps from South Africa to Portugal.

MainOne cable system is a 7,000km submarine cable with landing stations in Nigeria, Ghana and Portugal, with reserved branching units Morocco, Canary Islands, Senegal and Ivory Coast.

MainOne cable system is the first private subsea cable along the West African coastline, owned by MainOne Cable Company based in Nigeria. MainOne began the construction project in February 2008 and launched for commercial service in 2010. MainOne cable system was supplied by TE SubCom.

MainOne cable system has been proven to provide capacity of at least 4.96 Tbps.

MainOne cable is able to interconnect with SEACOM and other international cables from Seixal in Portugal, and extend to MainOne PoP at Telehouse North, London, via Tata Communications’ European and Transatlantic networks.

In September 2018, Orange announced to invest in the MainOne cable system, constructing two new branches and stations connecting the MainOne cable to Dakar in Senegal and Abidjan in the Côte d’Ivoire.

 

Equiano cable system is the third private international cable owned by Google and the 14th subsea cable invested by Google

Equiano connects Portugal and South Africa, running along the West Coast of Africa, with branching units along the way that can be used to extend connectivity to additional African countries. The first branch is expected to land in Nigeria. 

Named for Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian-born writer and abolitionist who was enslaved as a boy, the Equiano cable is state-of-the-art infrastructure based on space-division multiplexing (SDM) technology, with approximately 20 times more network capacity than the last cable built to serve this region. The SDM technology was first deployed in Google's second private subsea cable, Dunant.

Equiano will be the first subsea cable to incorporate optical switching at the fiber-pair level, rather than the traditional approach of wavelength-level switching.

A contract to build the Equiano cable with Alcatel Submarine Networks was signed in Q4 2018, and the first phase of the project, connecting South Africa with Portugal, is expected to be completed in 2021.

Equiano Cable Map
Equiano’s planned route and branching units, Source: Google

 

Simba is a multi-stage subsea cable project led by Facebook. Its goal is to connect the entire continent of Africa to the internet, increasing accessibility while also driving down bandwidth prices significantly, which could make it easier to sign up new users. And it could be a major disruption to the current service provider model.