Africa’s international Internet bandwidth will reach the 1 Tbps mark during 2012. By December 2011, Africa’s total international Internet bandwidth reached 801 Gbps, a 60% increase compared to 2010. This was split between North Africa which increased by 45% to reach 433 Gbps, and Sub-Saharan Africa which increased by 82% to reach 368 Gbps. Africa previously reached the 500 Gbps mark in late 2010, and the 100 Gbps mark during 2008 (see Africa’s International Bandwidth Reaches 500 Gbps Mark).
This figure of 368 Gbps for Sub-Saharan Africa is just a fraction of the total design capacity of 13.959 Tbps on the 13 submarine cables serving the region in December 2011. The amount of capacity which is actually lit (activated) on these cables is increased incrementally in line with demand. Following the entry into service of the LION2 submarine cable in April 2012 (1.28 Tbps), total design capacity on submarine cables serving sub-Saharan Africa will increase again to 25.799 Tbps once the WACS (5.12 Tbps), ACE (5.12 Tbps) and SEAS (320 Mbps) enter service.
A key factor underlying this bandwidth growth is the expansion of terrestrial fibre networks inland. Only 37.4 million people live within reach of the coastal submarine cable landing stations serving sub-Saharan Africa, a figure which will increase to 46.6 million once WACS, ACE and SEAS cables enter service, but there are now nearly ten times this number living within reach of terrestrial fibre networks (see also: Terrestrial Network Rollout Increases Africa’s Fibre Reach By 54 Million). The expansion of terrestrial fibre networks is bringing high capacity national and international fibre backbone networks to dozens of new towns and cities for the first time, increasing the number of people with access to broadband networks.
Africa Telecom Transmission Map Updates Q1, 2012
Africa’s inventory of terrestrial transmission network reached 702,294.9 route kilometres in the first quarter of 2012. A total of 1,127 changes were made to terrestrial networks in the Africa Transmission Map during the first quarter of 2012, with fibre backbones extended for 18 operators in 13 countries: Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, The Gambia, and Uganda. The map image below of South Africa taken from the Rolling Transmission Map shows its transmission networks superimposed over the updated range to nodes map layer, which shows 10, 25 and 50-km ranges to operational fibre nodes.
International bandwidth growth was slower in North African during 2011 than the previous year, the 45% growth seen in 2011 being slightly lower than 49% in 2010. However, Egypt for example saw resurgent growth in the second half of 2011 and reached 186 Gbps by the end of December 2011 compared to 123 Gbps in December 2010 and 135 Gbps by July 2011 according to the Ministry of Comunications and Information Technology.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, those countries connected to multiple, competing submarine cables saw the most rapid growth. Kenya, which was connected to the SEACOM, TEAMS and EASSy cables, saw its international bandwidth increase to 52.938 Gbps in December 2011 according to the Communications Commission of Kenya, a 160% increase compared to 20.384 Gbps in 2010. The LION2 submarine cable entered into service in April 2012 connecting Kenya to Madagascar and Mayotte, and providing onward connectivity through the LION1 cable from Madagascar to the SAFE cable landing in Reunion and Mauritius.
There was also notable growth from those countries now connected to submarine cables by fibre optic backbones through their neighbours. The volume of traffic backhauled to submarine cable landing points increased by some 60% to over 30 Gbps during 2011. The map shows that eleven new cross-border fibre routes are currently under construction, and others are planned, which will open new backhaul routes to submarine cables and provide diversity for existing ones.
N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, is over 1,000-km from the SAT-3 landing point in Douala (Cameroon), but the fibre link to the border with Cameroon was completed in 2011, and the route is now live and carrying traffic. Likewise, landlocked Rwanda increased its inbound bandwidth to 1.724 Gbps in December 2011 using fibre optic networks through Uganda and Kenya, and recently awarded a contract for a further 1.244 Gbps through the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB) operated by TTCL in Tanzania. Further capacity deals are expected once the fibre backbones currently under construction in Burundi, Malawi and Zambia are completed.
There remains a dozen countries in sub-Saharan Africa where these rates of bandwidth growth are yet to take off, and eight of these countries remain 100% dependent on satellite for their international connectivity. This is set to change with the arrival of three new submarine cables in the year ahead, which in turn has stimulated the development of national backbones to connect the main towns and cities to their landing points. WACS will be the first submarine cable to land in Congo, DRC, Namibia and Togo. SEAS, due to enter service in the third quarter, will connect the Seychelles to Tanzania with onward connectivity via the SEACOM and EASSy cables. The ACE cable will be the first cable to connect Mauritania, The Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe, and Equatorial Guinea.
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