Facebook has announced plans to build a massive 37,000-kilometer undersea cable around Africa in an effort to increase the continent’s internet connectivity, as detailed in a blog post by the company this week. The cable will be “nearly equal to the circumference of the Earth” according to Facebook and will interconnect 23 countries across Africa, the Middle East and Europe once complete.
Africa currently has approximately 1.3 billion residents, yet it is one of the “least connected” regions in the world as the tech giant notes. “We are committed to bringing more people online to a faster internet — and with 3.5 billion people globally unconnected, there is still a lot to do,” said Facebook.
The company has partnered with various global network providers for the project — which is dubbed 2Africa — including China Mobile, MTN of South Africa, France’s Orange and Britain’s Vodafone. Alcatel Submarine Networks, a Nokia entity, has been recruited to construct the actual cable, which will be designed so that it can be buried three meters deeper than average in order to help prevent damage.
The cable will reportedly offer about three times the total network capacity of all the other cables currently serving Africa. Facebook notes that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic makes the investment (which Bloomberg reports will cost nearly $1 billion USD) all the more timely.
“2Africa is being completed as part of our efforts toward an open and inclusive internet ecosystem, which is a vital part of the continent’s digital economic growth,” Facebook stated. “The first subsea cable system to seamlessly connect East and West Africa across a single open system, 2Africa will enable new avenues of communication from coast to coast.”