Africa: Africa’s International Bandwidth Reaches 5.825 Tbps In 2016

Africa’s total inbound international Internet bandwidth reached 5.825 Tbps by December 2016, according to the ninth annual edition of the Africa Telecom Transmission Map published by Hamilton Research. This was a 29% increase compared to 4.533 in 2015, 3.003 Tbps in 2014, 2.032 Tbps in 2013, 1.486 Tbps in 2012, and 805 Gbps in 2011 (see also Africa’s International Bandwidth Reaches 4.6 Tbps In 2015). All of Africa’s international bandwidth is supplied by submarine cables, terrestrial networks connected to submarine cables, or satellite.

The chart below shows that the total international bandwidth of 5.825 Tbps in 2016 was split between Sub-Saharan Africa, which increased by 21% to reach 3.319 Tbps, and North Africa which increased by 40% to reach 2.506 Tbps. Excluding Kenya, which only increased by 0.7% to 861 Gbps in 2016 (source: Communications Authority), the total bandwidth for other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa increased by 31% to reach 2.459 Tbps in December 2016.

Chart: Africa International Internet Bandwidth, 2007 - 2016
Click legend items to show or hide data for each region. Subscribers can access the international bandwidth datasets by logging in.

The amount of bandwidth capacity which is activated (equipped) and sold is increased by increments in line with demand. During 2016, 15 African countries saw annual growth over 50%, and five saw growth over 100%. Egypt’s international Internet bandwidth increased by 74% to reach 1.137 Tbps by December 2016 for example (see Egypt: Egypt’s International Bandwidth Increases by 74% During 2016), Mauritius increased by 99.5% to reach 42.5 Gbps by December 2016 (see also Mauritius: International Bandwidth of Mauritius Increases by 99.5% During 2016), and Comoros increased by over 1000% from 900 Mbps in 2015 to more than 10 Gbps in 2016 (see Comoros: Telma Comores Brings High Capacity Fibre Capacity To Comoros).

This annual regional growth of 29% to reach 5.825 Tbps in 2016 was lower than seen in previous years, due to a noticeable time lag in bandwidth utilisation catching up with the amount of bandwidth activated and sold in several countries. For example Tunisia’s international bandwidth increased by 6% to reach 190 Gbps in 2016 compared to 180 Gbps in 2015 (see Tunisia: Tunisia’s International Bandwidth Reaches 190 Gbps, December 2016), Algeria increased by 3% to reach 520 Gbps in 2016 compared to 505 Gbps in 2015, and Kenya increased by just 0.7% to reach 861 Gbps in December 2016, compared to 855 Gbps in December 2015 and actually lower than 878 Gbps reported in September 2016 (see Kenya: Kenya’s International Bandwidth Reaaches 860 Gbps, December 2016).

As bandwidth utilisation rises with more broadband subscribers, and increased bandwidth per subscriber, the amount of capacity which is activated is increased in line with demand. Morocco saw zero growth during 2015, reporting 450 Gbps in both 2014 and 2015 for example, but then saw an increase of 44% during 2016 to reach 650 Gbps by the end of the year (see Morocco: Morocco’s International Bandwidth Reaches 650 Gbps, December 2016).

Click here for larger view. To order your copy of the 2017/8 Africa Telecom Transmission Map click here.The 2017/8 Africa Telecom Transmission Map is sponsored by Liquid Telecom.

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank the dozens of network operators for providing information, and the following organisations for their input and advice into the research and production of this map: Africa Analysis, Balancing Act, ECCAS, ECOWAS, Europa Technologies, Liquid Telecom, WIOCC and the World Bank.

Domestic and Regional Submarine Cables Reinforce Connectivity

Of the total activated/ sold bandwidth of 3.319 Tbps in Sub-Saharan Africa by December 2016, 3.065 Tbps (92.3%) was supplied directly by submarine cable. There is plenty of room for future growth: this figure of 3.065 Tbps is still a fraction of the total design capacity of at least 94.4 Tbps that is potentially now available on the 19 submarine cables serving the region in December 2016. This total design capacity has increased from 70.4 Tbps in 2015, 60.3 Tbps in 2014, and 27.1 Tbps in 2013.

A number of domestic or regional submarine cables have been built or are planned which will reinforce connectivity by increasing resilience and route diversity. For those countries which for the time being still have single international fibre connections, cable cuts during the year have caused several weeks of disruption until they have been repaired, such as in Congo, Gabon, Somalia and Togo.

The Avassa cable connecting Comoros and Mayotte was completed in December 2016, providing the first link between the EASSy cable landing in Comoros and the LION 2 cable landing in Mayotte (see Comoros: Huawei Completes ‘Avassa’ Submarine Cable Connecting Comoros And Mayotte). The CEIBA 2 cable entered service in March 2017 providing a second link for Equatorial Guinea between Malabo (the capital) and the mainland at Bata, and also providing a second international link through a spur to Kribi in Cameroon (see Equatorial Guinea: CEIBA-2 Submarine Cable Enters Service). A construction and maintenance agreement (C&MA) was signed in July 2017 for the FLY LION 3 cable connecting Mayotte and Grand Comore, as an extension to the LION and LION2 cables connecting to the EASSy cable (see Mayotte: Orange Signs C&MA For FLY-LION3 Submarine Cable Between Mayotte And Grande Comore). And in July 2017, Guinea Bissau signed an agreement to connect to the Africa Coast ACE cable at Dakar in Senegal (see Guinea Bissau: Guinea Bissau To Build Festoon Cable To Connect To ACE Submarine Cable In Dakar).

Terrestrial Cross Border Traffic Increases By 65%

Of the total bandwidth of 3.319 Tbps in Sub-Saharan Africa by December 2016, 248 Gbps (7.5%) was supplied by terrestrial cross-border networks connected to submarine cables. The completion of new cross-border links, and the expansion of capacity on others, has seen the volume of intra-regional traffic backhauled to submarine cable landing points increase by 65% in the last year to reach 248 Gbps in December 2016. This compares to 150 Gbps in 2015, 111 Gbps in 2014, 61 Gbps in 2013, and 45 Gbps in 2012.

For example Zimbabwe’s activated international bandwidth reached 75.975 Gbps in December 2016 according to POTRAZ, a 283% increase compared to 19.864 Gbps reported in December 2015. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s utilised international Internet bandwidth reached 32.645 Gbps by the end of December 2016, a 107% increase compared to 15.785 Gbps in December 2015 (see Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe’s International Bandwidth Increases By 107% During 2016). Meanwhile in Burkina Faso, Onatel reported in May 2017 that its activated international bandwidth was 13.1 Gbps, with a utilisation rate of 47% (6.157 Gbps) at the time. The operator’s activated international bandwidth previously reached 10.6 Gbps in 2016, 5.6 Gbps in 2015, 4.2 Gbps in 2014 and 1.866 Gbps in 2013 (see Burkina Faso: Onatel’s International Bandwidth Reache 10.6 Gbps, December 2016).

The expansion of capacity has seen a number of cross-border routes to submarine cables upgraded from a capacity of 10G or 40G to 100G. This included 100G upgrades to sections of the fibre backbone networks of Ethio Telecom (see Ethiopia: Ethio Telecom Upgrades Fibre Backbone To 100G) and Orange Côte d’Ivoire (see Côte d’Ivoire: Orange Côte d’Ivoire Upgrades Fibre Backbone To 100G), and in September 2017 Liquid Telecom completed 100G upgrades to key routes on its East Africa Fibre Ring to the cities of Kigali in Rwanda, Kampala and Tororo in Uganda, and Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya (see Africa: Liquid Telecom Upgrades East Africa Fibre Ring To 100G Delivering Faster Speeds Across Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya).

52.1% Of Sub-Saharan Africa Now Within Reach Of Fibre Networks

Africa’s total inventory of terrestrial transmission networks increased to 1,254,413-km by June 2017, compared to 732,815-km in 2012. This total network inventory includes both terrestrial microwave and fibre networks which are operational, under construction, planned and proposed. By June 2017 the amount of operational fibre optic network reached 820,397-km, compared to 412,729-km in 2012. In the twelve months since June 2016, an additional 58,230-km of fibre optic network has entered service, an average of 160-km of new fibre optic network entering service per day. In addition, there was in June 2017 a further 119,366-km of fibre optic network under construction, 100,613-km planned, and 54,718-km proposed.

The continued expansion of terrestrial transmission networks is bringing additional countries, regions, cities and towns within reach of fibre networks for the first time. In the last seven years, network expansion has brought more than 262 million more people within access to high capacity national and international backbone networks. In June 2017, 52.1% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa (522 million) was within a 25-km range of an operational fibre optic network node. This compared to 48.1% (469 million) in 2016, 45.8% (436 million) in 2015, 41.8% (371 million) in 2013, 40% (345 million) in 2012, 36.3% (313 million) in 2011, and 30.8% (259 million) in 2010. Once the fibre network which is currently under construction enters service, the fibre reach of Sub-Saharan Africa will increase to 53.7% (539 million), and once network which is planned or proposed enters service it will increase to 59.0% (591 million).

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