Africa: Design Capacity on Submarine Cables Serving Sub-Saharan Africa Reaches 14 Tbps, Five Cross-Border Gaps Closed

The total design capacity on the 13 submarine cables landing in Sub-Saharan Africa will reach 13.959 Tbps at the end of 2010. This will be a 77% increase compared to 7.881 Tbps on the 10 cables operational at the end of 2009, and 4.151 Tbps on the 7 cables operational at the end of 2008. By the end of 2011, the total design capacity will increase from 13.959 Tbps to reach 19.079 Tbps, and by the end of 2012 will reach 25.799 Tbps.

These capacity increases have been brought by the introduction of new submarine cable systems, and also by the upgrading of capacity on systems which are either operational or under construction (see below). In particular, the implementation of Alcatel Lucent’s 40G technology on the EASSy, WACS and ACE cables in recent months has increased the design capacity on these three cables from 7.160 Tbps to 14.080 Tbps.

(1) On the basis of design capacity announced at the time that Construction and Maintenance Agreements (C&MA) had been signed and supply contracts awarded, at the end of each calender year.
(2) Data does not include capacity on domestic festoon submarine cable systems in Angola, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique and Nigeria.
(3) Not all of the capacity on these cables is allocated for sub-Saharan Africa, as capacity on the SEAMEWE III, Atlantis II, SAT-3, SAFE, and FLAG FALCON cables for example is used primarily for intra-contintental traffic flows. Furthermore, the total design capacity does not account for routing: while the LION 1 and LION 2 cables for example provide new additional capacity for Madagascar and Mayotte, they do not provide additional external capacity for the region as they interconnect with other cables landing at in Mauritius, Reunion and Kenya.

Africa Telecom Transmission Map Updates Q3, 2010

In the third quarter of 2010, a total of 10,783-kms of network was added or its operational status was changed in the African Telecom Transmission Map, bringing the total inventory to 593,156-km. By comparison, in July 2010 this stood at 585,471–km, and in July 2009 at 465,659-km (restated).

Fibre Long Haul

A total of 91 changes were made to terrestrial transmission networks on the map during the quarter, with terrestrial backbones extended in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Malawi, Morocco, Rwanda, South Africa and Sudan. This included 8,047-km of operational fibre, 716-km of fibre under construction, and 2,020-km of fibre which was planned.

Cross-Border Routes

Five cross-border fibre links were completed during the quarter, with three further links currently under construction and expected to be completed shortly. The Kenya Power & Lighting Corporation (KPLC) announced that it had completed a fibre route on its powerlines from Nairobi (the capital) to the border with Uganda, in addition to its route from Mombasa to Nairobi. The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) announced the completion of the fibre link from Kigali (the capital) to Gatuna on the border with Uganda, and the completion of the link from Kigali to Rusomo on the border with Tanzania, to interconnect with the NICTBB in Tanzania. MTN Rwanda have meanwhile completed the fibre route from Kigali to Rusomo. Malawi Telecom Ltd (MTL) completed a fibre link from Blantyre to Zobue on the border with Mozambique to interconnect with TdM there.

Meanwhile, the fibre link from Koupela (Burkina Faso) to Niger is under construction, in Cameroon the fibre link from Yaounde (the capital) to Kye Osi on the border with Gabon has been completed, awaiting the build of the national fibre backbone in Gabon, and ZAMTEL and BTC signed an MoU to close cross-border fibre gap at Kazungula

Submarine Cables

Two new submarine cables entered service during the third quarter: Main One (July 2010), and EASSy (July 2010). In addition, a France telecom led consortium signed the construction and maintenance agreement (C&MA) for the LION2 cable connecting Madagascar to Mayotte and Kenya, and Bharti Airtel announced during its acquisition of Telecom Seychelles a new cable called SEAS which would connect Seychelles to Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). eFive Telecoms selected Alcatel Lucent to build a submarine cable connecting South Africa to Angola and Nigeria, and a second trans-Atlantic cable which would link Angola to Brazil. The cable running from Nigeria to South Africa would link the Main One and SEACOM cables, by first landing at Cape Town and then running on to Mtunzini to meet up with SEACOM.


During 2009 the design capacities on the SAT-3 and SAFE submarine cables were upgraded from 120 Gbps and 130 Gbps to 340 Gbps and 440 Gbps respectively. In particular, the implementation of Alcatel Lucent’s 40G technology on the EASSy, WACS and ACE cables has increased the design capacity on these three cables from 7.160 Tbps to 14.080 Tbps. The EASSy cable for example was originally designed with a capacity of 320 Gbps, but this was upgraded to 1.4 Tbps by the time it entered service in July 2010, and subsequently its design capacity upgraded again to 3.84 Tbps. Over the horizon, the future introduction of 100G technology could be used to extend the capacity on submarine cables even further.

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