Africa’s Fibre Reach Increases By 32 Million, To 40% Of Population

In the twelve months since July 2011, an additional 36,165-km of terrestrial fibre optic network has entered service across Africa, according to the Q2, 2012 additions to the Africa Telecom Transmission Map. Dozens of new towns and cities have been reached by fibre networks for the first time, increasing the number of people with access to high capacity national and international backbone networks. This roll out of terrestrial networks in the last year has brought an additional 31.903 million people across Sub-Saharan Africa within reach of an operational fibre node.

Across Sub-Saharan Africa, the table below shows that the percentage of population within a 25-km range of an operational (terrestrial) fibre node increased from 36.3% to 40.0% in the last year, from 313.2 million people to 345.1 million. Once fibre network which is currently under construction enters service, the reach of terrestrial fibre networks will increase to 43.8% of the population (377.9 million). And once fibre network which is planned or proposed is completed, this number will increase again to 50.9% (438.8 million).

Table: Population Within Reach Of Operational Fibre Networks, Sub-Saharan Africa 2010 – 2012

 Year% Popn 10-km% Popn 25-km% Popn 50-kmPopn 10-kmPopn 25-kmPopn 50-km
Terrestrial Fibre NodeJuly 201015.6%30.8%47.7% 131,230,412 259,327,721 401,057,432
Terrestrial Fibre NodeJuly 201118.6%36.3%56.1% 160,608,284 313,212,515 483,931,088
Terrestrial Fibre NodeJuly 201220.2%40.0%60.6% 173,906,195 345,115,390 522,300,323
Change, July 2011 - July 2012+1.6%+3.7%+4.5% +13,297,911 +31,902,875 +38,369,235
Submarine Cable Landing PointJuly 20101.8%4.4%5.9% 15,228,657 37,435,945 49,784,793
Submarine Cable Landing PointJuly 20111.8%4.4%5.9% 15,228,657 37,435,945 49,784,793
Submarine Cable Landing PointJuly 20121.9%4.6%6.2% 16,491,394 40,088,058 53,060,521
Change, July 2011 - July 2012+0.1%+0.2%+0.3% +1,262,737 +2,652,113 +3,275,728

Source: Hamilton Research.
Notes: (1) A country-by-country breakdown of these data for fibre reach are published as datasets for subscribers.

Over the same period, the reach of submarine cables increased slightly, from 4.4% of the population (37.436 million) to 4.6% (40.088 million). The completion of new submarine cables in the last quarter brought the first international submarine cables to arrive on the shores of six territories: LION 2 (Mayotte), WACS (Namibia, DRC, Congo and Togo) and SEAS (Seychelles). This will be followed by ACE later in 2012, which will be the first cable to land in Mauritania, The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Equatorial Guinea, and Sao Tome and Principe. The entry into service of ACE will increase the total population within a 25-km range of a submarine cable landing station again, by 6.537 million to a total of 46.625 million (see also Submarine Cables Reach 4.4% of Africa’s Population, Terrestrial Fibre Networks Reach 31%).

Africa Telecom Transmission Map Updates Q2, 2012

By July 2012, Africa’s total inventory of terrestrial transmission networks reached 732,662-km, compared with 660,230-kms in June 2011, 585,468-kms in June 2010 and 465,659 in June 2009. A total of 168 changes were made to terrestrial transmission networks on the map during the second quarter of 2012, including changes to 16,278-km of operational fibre, 4,182-km of fibre which was under construction, 13,341-km of fibre which was planned, and 192-km of fibre which was proposed.


Fibre Long Haul

Cross-Border Routes

Several vital new cross-border links were completed during the second quarter of 2012, increasing and diversifying the flows of traffic to submarine cables. In Zambia, the completion by ZESCO of an aerial fibre route to Nakonde closes a cross-border gap with Tanzania, and for the first time means that there is now contiguous terrestrial fibre optic networks running from Cape Town to Cairo. Vodafone Ghana notably completed the 120-km fibre link from Bolgantenga to Cinkasse, connecting Ghana to both Togo and Burkina Faso. Meanwhile, Onatel plans a second fibre link from Burkina Faso to Ghana, and is close to completing the route from Fada N’Gourma to Kantchari to complete a cross border fibre route to Niger. In Mali, Sotelma has completed the fibre route to Gogui on the Mauritania, which will cross-border link to Mauritania once the route being built by Mauritel from Nouakchott to Kobéni near Gogui is completed.

Submarine Cables

Five new submarine cables were completed during the second quarter of 2012: SAS-2, Loukkos, LION2, WACS and SEAS. In addition, i3 Africa announced plans to build the BRICS Cable, a new 34,000-km submarine cable that will interconnect Russia, China, India, South Africa, Brazil – the BRICS economies – to the United States of America (USA). This is the fourth Trans-Atlantic cable which has been proposed recently, after eFive Telecoms South Atlantic Express (SAEx), WASACE, and the Angola Cables – Telebras cable.


The launching of new submarine cables and terrestrial routes has altered the volume and directions of traffic flows within the region. Notably, Namibia which is connected to the WACS cable in May 2012 is positioning itself as a regional hub, with cross-border fibre links to all four of its neighbours Angola, Botswana, South Africa and Zambia. Both Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) and ZAMTEL (Zambia) are now connected to the WACS cable via Namibia.


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