AfTerFibre Mapping Terrestrial Fibre Optic Cable Projects in Africa

Click on the image to see the AfTerFibre Map

Click on the image to see the AfTerFibre Map

The African Terrestrial Fibre Optic Cable Mapping Project or AfTerFibre for short is an open initiative to gather and share information about terrestrial fibre optic cable projects in Africa and map them in a manner that helps people to understand how communication infrastructure is evolving in Africa and also to see who the players are.  There is a kick-off blog post here.  If you’re interested in contributing or just finding out about the project, please join the discussion group.

In addition, there is a an evolving Wikipedia entry for the growing list of African terrestrial fibre projects.  The page contains a list of projects with links to maps where available along with summary information.

Where we have been able to find maps online, we link to them directly.  Where maps are not available online, we upload them to an AfTerFibre Flickr Set.

How are we rendering the maps?

If we can’t get GIS data directly from the operators and we live for that happy day when an operator does provide GIS data, then we import the maps we find into Google Earth for tracing.  Google Earth has an absolutely brilliant facility for tracing image maps.  Very simple to use and very intuitive.  Once a map has been traced, we export it in KML format and save the KML files in an AfTerFibre repository on GitHub.  Here are complete instructions on how you can convert and add a map to AfTerFibre.

The code for the map was developed by Greg Mahlknecht, who also happens to be the author of Greg’s Cable Map.  The map gathers the data directly from the GitHub repository and converts it into GeoJSON format for rendering via Google Maps.  This means that updating the map is a pretty easy.  Let’s suppose you happen to be an employee of Sonatel in Senegal and you notice that the fibre infrastructure listed on the map is not quite connect.  You navigate to the Sonatel KML file on GitHub.  Click on it to save it locally and open it in Google Earth.  Editing the infrastructure is as simple as adding or deleting links.  Once you’re finished you can either submit the file directly to the GitHub repository if you’re familiar with how it works or email it to me directly and I’ll add it to GitHub for you.   Using a version control repository like GitHub means we can keep a complete history of cable maps for every operator which will hopefully be useful as a historical record as well as infrastructure evolves on the continent.

This project exists thanks to some support from Google Africa.

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  • Bernhard

    A legend would be greatly appreciated!

  • Steve Song

    Sorry about that. That map is just a proof of concept. Hope to have something better complete with legend very shortly.

  • http://Scanbi-Invest Olof Hesselmark

    Great work! The .kml file is a really essential resource for all who are interested in how African backbones are evolving. I have a few queries about the realism of some of the routes. For example: The bundle with the heading Fibre optic cable – West and Northern Africa, especially the red routes in Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea are probably not past the feasibility study stage. Similarly, the Proposed Optic Cable West Africa group is doubtful – it is proposed by whom, and what evidence exists about it being planned? You have also accepted a route from western DRC to the Zambian border, indicated as Airtel fibre. The route probably exists as a fibre along the power line owned by Electricité de Congo, but is it operative, and does Airtel have the sole use of it?

  • Steve Song

    Thanks Olof and thanks for your comment which I think goes to the heart of this project. The fact is that it is very difficult to know which projects are live, which are at the planning stage, etc. We rely on infrequent announcements from operators. However, there is lots of local knowledge on these projects and our mission is to leverage that knowledge. That’s why we post all the maps we find on flickr and try to keep an ongoing wiki resource that documents the fibre projects. As soon as the map itself is live, you should be able to click on any link and see the source of the data. I’m still working on an easy means for people to comment on and question elements of the map in an organised way but for now either the google group or the wiki is the best place to do that.

  • http://Scanbi-Invest Olof Hesselmark

    Steve – I have replied to your “many possibilities” reply mail. Pls check your spam inbox!

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