St Helena Government (SHG) announced on July 19 that it had issued a letter of intent to connect St Helena to Google's Equiano subsea cable project. This will provide the first fibre optic connectivity from St Helena to the outside world through both Europe and South Africa.
On 28 June 2019, the Executive Council of SHG made the decision to proceed after assessment of the benefits of the Equiano subsea cable project in comparison with other options. Connecting to Equiano meets SHG's timing and budgetary requirements for the European Development Fund and supports the Digital ICT Strategy for St Helena.
The spur between the main trunk of the Equiano cable and St Helena will be 1140km long. The target is to deliver broadband to St Helena as early as August 2021, providing the cable laying and associated works to start the service proceed on time. The marine survey of the Equiano cable route is in progress, the survey in the vicinity of St Helena possibly is expected to be in August 2019.
In June 2018, SHG secured €21.5 million European Development Fund to support the delivery of the SHG Digital Strategy through the realisation of a submarine cable to enable faster and more reliable internet connectivity on the Island. Earlier in late 2017, SHG signed MOU to connect the South Atlantic Express cable (SAEx) which was then planned to connect South Africa to Brazil and onwards to the US East Coast.
Unfortunately, it seems there is no progress on the SAEx cable project. And SHG has decided to seek altantive option to connect to Google's Equiano cable.
With the original plan to connect to the SAEx cable, the distance from St Helena to the SAEx main cable was 60km. While it is now 1140km from St Helena to the branching point on the Equiano cable, which will be about 20 times longer. The cost of the St Helena connection to Equiano cable must be more than originally anticipated for the connection to SAEx.
Although it is not announced, additional investment for connecting St Helena to Equiano cable might come from Google. Google might invest in the branch to St Helena to own fiber pairs in the branch.
According to connectsthelena.org, a single fibre pair can offer sufficient capacity to St Helena, with a population of less than 5000. It's said there are 16 fibre pairs in the trunk of the Equiano cable. Google might deploy multiple fiber pairs in the branch to St Helena. SHG will get one fiber pair and Google might own all the remaining fiber pairs.