African Undersea Cables

Update March 2014
French version now available.  Cliquez ici pour la version française.
There is also a map showing only the cables that are currently live.
Sub-saharan Undersea Cables in 2014 - maybe (version 35)

Please contact me if you’d like a copy of the map in SVG format.

For a history of African undersea cables, have a look at this presentation. If you’re interested in seeing how these cables are changing access, Stanford University’s PINGer project is monitoring the impact of Seacom and other east coast cables as they come online. Also check out the UbuntuNet Alliance’s map of terrestrial fibre in Africa. Finally, for a more comprehensive look at undersea cables, check out Greg Mahlknecht’s map of undersea cables.

Seacom EASSy TEAMs WACS MainOne GLO1 ACE SAex WASACE BRICS
Cost (millions of USD) 650 265 130 600 240 800 700 500 ? ?
Length (km) 13,700 10,000 4,500 14,000 7,000 9,500 14,000 9,000 9,000 34,000
Capacity 1.28 Tb/s 4.72 Tb/s 1.28 Tb/s 5.12 Tb/s 1.92 Tb/s 2.5 Tb/s 5.12 Tb/s 12.8 Tb/s 40 Tb/s 12.8 Tb/s
Completion July 2009 July 2010 Sept 2009 Q3 2011 Q2 2010 Q3 2010 Q2 2012 Q2 2013 2014 2014

Investor detail

Seacom (http://www.seacom.mu)

Industrial Promotion Services (25%), an arm of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (USD 75 million)

(Kenya – founded by Prince Karim Aga Khan IV of Pakistan)

VenFin Limited (25%) – USD 75 million)

Herakles Telecom LLC (backed by Blackstone) (25%), New York-based lead company, no website (USD 75 million)

Convergence Partners (12,5%) – USD 37.5 million

Shanduka Group (12.5%) – USD 37.5 million

EASSy (http://www.eassy.org/)

EASSy is 90% African-owned although that ownership is underwritten by a substantial investment by Development Financial Institutions (DFIs) including World Bank/IFC, EIB, AfDB, AFD, and DfW. Total DFI investment is apparently $70.7 million, with $18.2 million coming from IFC, 14.5 million from AfDB. This is a smaller amount than the originally advertised $120 million investment from DFIs.

South African investors in EASSY include Telkom/Vodacom ($18.9 million) , MTN ($40.3 million),  and Neotel (~$11 million).

WIOCC, an SPV created to facilitate open access is the largest shareholder, with 29%.  WIOCC consortium members include: Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, Dalkom Somalia, Djibouti Telecom, Gilat Satcom Nigeria Ltd., the Government of Seychelles, the Lesotho Telecommunications Authority, ONATEL Burundi, Telkom Kenya Ltd., Telecommunicacões de Mocambique (TDM), U-COM Burundi, Uganda Telecom Ltd., Zantel Tanzania and most recently, TelOne Zimbabwe and Libyan Post, Telecom and Information Technology Company (LPTIC)

Other investors in the system include Bharti Airtel Limited of India,  British Telecommunications, Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates, France Telecom, Mauritius Telecom, Saudi Telecom Company, Comores Telecom, Sudan Telecom Company, Tanzania Telecommunications Company, Telecom Malagasy,  Zambia Telecommunications Company, Zanzibar Telecom.

TEAMs

85 per cent of the cable is owned by TEAMs (Kenya) Ltd and the rest by Etisalaat of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).   The TEAMS (Kenya) Ltd holding breaks down as follows:

  • 42.5% – Telkom Kenya Ltd
  • 22.5% – Safaricom Ltd
  • 10% – Kenya Data Networks Ltd
  • 10% – Econet/Essar Telecom Ltd
  • 5% – Wananchi Group
  • 3.75% – Jamii Telecom Ltd
  • 1.25% – Broadband Access/AccessKenya Ltd
  • 1.25% – Africa Fibrenet (Uganda) Ltd
  • 1.25% – InHand Ltd
  • 1.25% – iQuip Ltd
  • 1.25% – Flashcom Ltd

West African Cable System (WACS)

 

  • Telkom
  • Vodacom
  • MTN
  • Tata Communications (Neotel)
  • Broadband Infraco
  • Cable & Wireless
  • Portugal Telecoms
  • Congo Telecoms (formerly Sotelco)
  • Telecom Namibia
  • Togo Telecom
  • OCPT (Office Congolais des Postes et Telecommunications)
  • Angola Telecom

MaIN OnE

Privately owned.  On June 1, 2009, the African Development Bank confirmed  USD 66 million financing for the project.

Africa Coast to Europe (ACE)

ACE consortium signatories:

  • Baharicom Development Company
  • Cable Consortium of Liberia
  • Companhia Santomense de Telecomunicações
  • Côte d’Ivoire Telecom
  • Expresso Telecom Group
  • France Telecom
  • Gambia Telecommunications Company
  • International Mauritania Telecom
  • Office Congolais des Postes et Télécommunications
  • Orange Cameroun
  • Orange Guinée
  • Orange Mali
  • Orange Niger
  • PT Comunicações
  • Republic of Equatorial Guinea
  • Republic of Gabon
  • Sierra Leone Cable Company
  • Sonatel
  • Sotelgui
  • Steve Song

    Hi Michael. They don’t actually specify two cables but they certainly do speak in the plural. I am not sure what additional cable(s) they might be referring to. AFAIK, there is only the existing SAT3 cable and ACE cable that will land there. MainOne do have plans for a phase II which would include Gabon but I have heard nothing recently about it.

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  • http://www.saharatechnology.com Darren Wilkins

    Hey Steve,

    How goes it? Do you know the latest scoop on the ACE Fiber optics cable system? How far have they gone? Has it even landed in any country yet? Will it even make the Q2 or Q3 RFS date?

    Darren

  • http://www.saharatechology.com Darren Wilkins

    Hey Steve,

    HOw goes it? What’s the lastest scoop with the ACE System? Has it landed in any country yet? Is it going to meet the RFS date?

    Thanks

    Darren

  • Steve Song

    The northern part of the cable in under construction. No country landings yet thought to my knowledge. Probably a little late for RFS. Expect early 2013. South African landing partner still not announced.

  • Jaco Smit

    Isn’t Q2 for 2011 past? Is WACS active and when will they start easing pressure of the “fast” Seacom cable?

  • http://None Salieu Kargbo

    Hi!
    This a good news which all of us may happy through accessible internet facilities around the world which of course its getting smaller very day and night.
    Thanks to the present Sierra Leone Government thinking of ourselves and children yet to born by facilitating the speedy operational system of internet connectivity through undersea cable.
    Please update me with latest information on how this activity will commence for usage. Since all of us longing for better internet connectivity throughout the world.
    Best Regards!
    Salieu.

  • Steve Song

    Hi Jaco. You’re right. Latest estimate seems to be Q3 2011. I’ve heard the month of September bandied about and I think that is probably realistic.

  • Jaco Smit

    Thx Steve, should we see the sudden MTN & 8ta price drops as a precurser of more price drops? Heck, Telkom might even upgrade my 384K ADSL to 512K (well, there’s hoping isn’t there…).

  • Stuart Gill

    I’m surprised the WACS cable is not active yet. I created a lot of the charts for the initial survey for the WACS cable about 11-12 years ago.

    Good job Steve. I also remember working on a worldwide database of known cables, again 11-12 years ago and was surprised by the shear number of (telegraph) cables that have been laid over the last 100 years.

  • Steve Song

    Interesting. I think the first dot com bomb has a lot to answer for both in undersea cable surplus in the transatlantic and deficit in the last 10 years around Africa. If AT&T’s AfricaOne project had come two years earlier, things might have been very different.

  • Jaco Smit

    Hi Steve
    Will SAex be running to the USA?

  • Steve Song

    Not directly but it will join up with other cables at Fortaleza like the South American Crossing cable and others. SAex are marketing their cable based on the lower latency times that they can provide from South Africa to both North and South America.

  • Jaco Smit

    Nice!!! We lack a propper connections to N America as most of the online games I play have hosted servers in the US.
    If we can eliminate a few hops to the states and have a backup if one fails… Rosy indeed.

  • Jaco Smit

    I see on the IT news that Seacom has increased their capasity and also that Telkom wants to start testing 20Mb and 40Mb DSL… Probably all thanks to WACS and ACE.
    Bring it on Telkom, I am tired of my 384K DSL at home!

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  • Michael

    Another small comment: It’s quite difficult to see from your map that MainOne connects to Accra, Ghana. I know it becomes harder and harder to fit them all in, the more new cables are added.

  • Steve Song

    @Michael. You’re right. That connection does get a bit lost. I’ll see what I can do about it.

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  • Michael

    Aug. 1 2011, SAS-2 completed. I’m not sure when it goes live though…
    http://www.sudan.net/completenews.php?nsid=1583&cid=1

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  • Francois

    Hello Steve,
    Thank you for your very precise submarine cable map.
    I have some difficulties with the latest announcements about TE North. I understand that TE North is crossing Egypt and Meditteranea up to Marseille and also that the TE North also includes one (or more?) Seacom fibre pair. In such case does it mean that the 12 August 2011 is also a kind of RFS date for the Seacom Africa to Europe direct route? Do you have any information on this topic?

  • Steve Song

    Bonjour Francois. I am not entirely sure. This article seems to indicate that Seacom is using both SEA-ME-WE4 and TE North for transit to Europe. It does seem as if TE North is a bit of a glaring omission from my map though.

  • brianlmerritt

    Hi Francois

    The Seacom Marseille route has been up for quite a few months now. Africa to Europe direct route is live & transmitting ;-)

  • http://www.nwankama.com Nwankama Nwankama

    With this extensive cable system, we no longer question the volcanic impact of social media and networks have made in North Africa, with the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. But, many people still question whether anything like this could happen in Sub-Saharan Africa. Discoveries by Nnenna Nwakanma, a prominent social media expert shows that things are happening in strange places in Sub-Saharan Africa and that the potential of social media and networks in citizen policy engagement can only be likened to a pregnancy whose term is already here.

  • http://isoc.sl Evelyn

    Good job Steve and Co.
    Sierra Leone cannot wait till ACE gets here and go live.The internet situation is a nightmare right now in cost and speed. I applaud the government and ISOC for the push to get this baby going. Do you know of a current blow by blow page on ACE for project monitoring etc.,? What can one do now before the cable lands to make sure access becomes affordable to the masses?
    Thanks,
    Evelyn

  • Steve Song

    Hi Evelyn. Thanks. France Telecom/Orange are not the most forthcoming of companies when it comes to undersea cables. They have never responded to any of my queries. In terms of news, your best bet is to set a google alert for the terms “ace cable africa”. On the ground, you can put pressure on the government to ensure that there is open access to ACE at the landing point so that no one operator can put a stranglehold on access to ACE. If memory serves, the World Bank is involved in funding the ACE connection to Sierra Leone. It would be worth asking for the terms of their funding to be made public.

  • http://www.bmacapital.net M. Jenkins Bawoh

    This ia a very exciting period for development and more importantly the development of telecom in Africa. As African countries and governments become active players in telecom development, it becomes increasingly evidence that the continent is making giant strides in building the technology infrastructure neccessary to grow economies in the millennium. Africa has a unique opportunity to migratate from delapidated copper back- bone to Fiber optic in the local loop. And, there couldn’t be a better time to do it than now.

  • Steve Song

    National and regional fibre backbones, absolutely. Local loop fibre in anywhere but the wealthiest suburbs of the biggest cities is economically unfeasible for the near future at least. Especially as the primary client device on the continent is the mobile phone.

  • http://www.bmacapital.net M. Jenkins Bawoh

    Steve thanks for your input.
    Great observation, however in some of these countries especially my native Sierra Leone, where there is a reliable copper network in the Local loop, it might make sense to make the leap to optics. It may also be a good idea to include the commercial/business centers and the wealth suburbs in the first phase.

    In 1987 I worked for a small Massachussets base company designing FO test equipment, South Africa Telecom was one of the companies that purchsed our test instruments, today SA has more Fiber deployed than any othre country in sub-Saharan Africa. When we were building the all fiber network for RCN in Boston, our competition at Verizon thought it was not feasible, today Verizon is engaged a in agrresive Fiber to the premise build out that has positioned them favorably to compete with Comcast.

  • http://www.bmacapital.net M. Jenkins Bawoh

    Steve: I meant to say that there is no reliable copper backbone in Sierra Leone, therefore it makes sense to leap forward to fiber in the local loop.

  • Steve Song

    It’s true that fibre is getting cheaper all the time.

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  • michael sesay

    My profound thanks and appreciation to the present Government for connecting my Country sierra leone to the African Undersea Cable network. This i am quiet convinced would help to fast track our internet facilities in Mother suierra leone. Having said that . let me join hands with friends to admonish the Govt. in the area of monitoring the very system with regards it sustainability. As some body fighting corruption, please ensure that the management is well chosen with people of integrity, God fearing character, transparency and can be accountable to the people of Sierra Leone, so that we can live to enjoy this wonderful initiative. To Kotor I.B. i say bravo

  • Michael

    There seems to have been a complete makeover of the ACE consortiums website recently: http://www.ace-submarinecable.com

    By the way, both the map at http://www.ace-submarinecable.com and the map at http://www.submarinecablemap.com/ show that ACE will not be connected to Guinea-Bissau, however yours does?

  • Steve Song

    Hi Michael. Thanks for pointing that out! I wasn’t aware that Guinea-Bissau had dropped off the list. I guess it makes sense given the proximity of other landing points. Thanks too for the link to the new ACE map.

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  • Gavin Piper

    Hi Michael, any updates on when WACS will be live or what the proposed latency from London to Melkbosstrand will be ? Also do you know when the SAT2 cable system will be turned off ?

  • Cheryl Emvula

    Hi Steve, I would just like to find out would a cable like the ACE cable be viable for a country such as Namibia. As the population is only 2 million people. And another question is just on the speed of the transfer data. On the ACE cable will the data transfer slower then on the WACS cable. My theory being that the ACE cable has more connecting points, in several more countries, then the WACS cable has. Shouldn’t this slow the data transfer to the household consumer or is that theory incorrect.

  • Steve Song

    Hi Cheryl. The viability of ACE in Namibia is a difficult question to answer. Much depends on the will of government and industry to build the kind of affordable national infrastructure that will reach all Namibians. If that happens then I would say yes, ACE landing in Namibia is viable. As to it being slower than WACS, no. Most cables these days have some fibre dedicated to express routes and some to local connections. I believe ACE is no different. However, even for the local connections, the data transfer rate would be the same but there might be some small increase in latency. Either way the difference would only be noticeable to businesses where milliseconds increase in latency can make a difference such as in automated trading systems and the like.

  • Cheryl Emvula

    Hi Steve. I would like to ask another question if possible about the namibian connection to the ACE cable. You said it would be viable if the infrastructure was installed to transfer the data to the Namibian consumer. Now this question is more on the legal and economic side of things. You see in namibia we are run by a monopoly when it comes to telecommunications. So is it possible that a company apart from the main one (only one which is Telecom Namibia which owns MTC) to have exclusive rights to that data for that link point to namibia, on the ACE cable, and if so would it be a worthy investment. Bearing in mind that you stated that PT Comunicações are already part of the ACE cable, and they own 34% of shares in MTC. Sorry for the very difficult question but I am really struggling to understand. Thank you for all the help.

  • Steve Song

    Hi Cheryl. You put your finger on a key challenge. Competition is necessary to drive the cost of access down. The good news for Namibia is that both WACS and ACE will land there which should introduce some competition but there also need to be competition for the delivery of rural access services and more than just two players that engage in price following.

  • Tyronne Fourie

    Hi Steve, are there any updates on WAC’s in Namibia going Live? I followed a news paper article and they said it was imanent, a meeting was taking place in Singapore etc.. Next article I found on the same topic said the the consumers will probarly have to wait a few more years before they experience its benifits. :\

    It was from the same paper, can you confirm or deny any of this?

    Our internet suuuuuucks. Thanks.

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  • Michael
  • Charles

    That Singapore meeting was long time ago. WACS was initially scheduled to be in operation in Q3 2011, but that date has been postponed quite a while ago. It seems to be impossible to find reliable information, but various sources indicate “early in 2012″, “Q1 2012″ or “first half of 2012″, with Q1 2012 and early 2012 being the more frequently read.