Internet in SA could soon be 20% cheaper – thanks to Google’s new undersea cable

  • Google’s Equiano undersea cable entered South Africa in August, completing its 15,000km journey from Portugal.
  • Along the way, the cable also landed in Togo, Nigeria and Namibia.
  • Equiano, with 20 times more power than the last cable built to serve the region, promises cheaper and faster internet.
  • If Equiano goes online, internet connections could be about 20% cheaper, according to Google’s managing director for Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • But how cheap the data will be thanks to Equiano depends a lot on the country and the “various relationships along the way”.
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The Equiano subsea internet cable laid ashore at Melkbosstrand outside Cape Town earlier this year could reduce internet costs in South Africa by around 20%, according to Google.

Equiano arrived in South Africa at the beginning of August, his last stop after having already stayed in Togo, Nigeria and Namibia.

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The submarine internet cable, which stretches 15,000km from Portugal to South Africa along the west coast of the continent, includes 12 fiber pairs and a design capacity of 150Tbps. Equiano has 20 times the network capacity of the last cable built to serve the region, according to Nitin Gajria, Google’s managing director for Sub-Saharan Africa.

“There’s a positive knock-on effect, in terms of the digital economy, job creation… but, at the end of the day, for the end user, it’s a knock-on effect of this. [Equiano] fast internet and cheap internet,” said Gajria on Wednesday at the AfricaTech festival at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

“So, depending on what country you’re in, what location you’re in, and various partnerships along the way, this could be somewhere in the range of 20% cheaper internet locally.”

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Equiano will begin supplying more power to the network along the west coast of Africa – and South Africa – in phases, Gajria said, with the first phase expected to start in December.

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“What cable is doing is bringing a lot of network power to the continent. What we are doing now is working with our partners to bring this capability further. This involves working with ISPs, telcos, and other infrastructure players in the ecosystem to bring this position forward,” said Gajria.

“One of our goals is to start driving more communication and getting more people online and getting faster and cheaper internet in many parts of Africa, including rural areas.”

Of the estimated 1.1 billion people living in Sub-Saharan Africa, only 300 million are online, Gajria added. “And even with those 300 million people, they don’t have the full Internet experience that many of us have.”

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The challenge of getting more people in Africa connected to the Internet includes network availability, which can become a problem as telecommunications providers expand, says Gajria, access to an Internet-enabled device, and access to fast and affordable data.

“So, think about it [Equiano] such as bringing a much larger supply of network capacity to the continent. That’s what you’re going to do [internet] it’s faster and it makes data cheaper, so it works on both sides of the equation,” Gajria said.

Equiano’s stay in South Africa coincides with the installation of the 2Africa cable, the world’s longest undersea cable, which recently arrived in Marseille, France. The 2Africa cable will connect 33 countries and continents in Africa, Europe and Asia when it goes live in 2023, also improving capacity in the affected regions.


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