Google plans Europe-Africa subsea cable

Google plans Europe-Africa subsea cable

Google has announced Equiano, a new private subsea cable that will connect Africa with Europe. Starting in western Europe, Equiano will run along the west coast of Africa, between Portugal and South Africa.

Equiano will incorporate branching units along the way; these can be used to extend connectivity to a number of African countries. The first branch is expected to land in Nigeria.

This new cable is fully funded by Google. It is the company’s third private international cable after Dunant and Curie, and its 14th subsea cable investment globally. Equiano is named after Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian-born writer and abolitionist who was enslaved as a boy.

A contract to build the cable with Alcatel Submarine Networks was signed in late 2018. The first phase of the project, connecting South Africa with Portugal, is expected to be completed in 2021.

The Equiano cable infrastructure is based on space-division multiplexing (SDM) technology, which, says Google, means approximately 20 times more network capacity than the last cable built to serve this region. Google’s Dunant undersea cable – which connects the US and France and is due to switch on in the third quarter of 2020 – will be the first cable in the water to use SDM technology, says the company. SDM increases cable capacity in a cost-effective manner with additional fibre pairs (twelve, rather than six or eight in traditional subsea cables) and power-optimised repeater designs.

Equiano will be the first subsea cable to incorporate optical switching at the fibre-pair level, rather than the traditional approach of wavelength-level switching. This greatly simplifies the allocation of cable capacity, says Google, giving the company the flexibility to add and reallocate it in different locations as needed.

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