SEACOM goes live on the Equiano subsea cable

The SEACOM undersea cable's complex installation aboard the CS Tyco Reliance Ship near Egypt earlier this year. SEACOM said its services via the cable would be available from Wednesday.

The SEACOM undersea cable's complex installation aboard the CS Tyco Reliance Ship near Egypt earlier this year. SEACOM said its services via the cable would be available from Wednesday.

Published Mar 16, 2023


SEACOM, Africa’s telecommunications and managed services provider, announced on Wednesday that it had gone live on the Equiano subsea cable following the cable’s landing in Cape Town in August last year.

SEACOM offers private line services with latency speeds of +/-110ms between South Africa and Europe, making it the fastest direct route between the continents.

SEACOM said its services via the cable would be available from Wednesday.

It fulfilled the necessary equipment and installation requirements with the help of its technology partner, Infinera. The cable now forms part of SEACOM’s subsea cable ecosystem surrounding Africa, which was supported by a continent-wide IP-MPLS network.

Prenesh Padayachee, SEACOM’s group chief digital officer, said this launch was the result of years of project negotiations and planning, driven by a goal to be ready to offer quality service to our customers from day one.

“The Equiano subsea cable represents a new stage in Africa’s digital transformation, meeting Africa’s growing data requirements, enabling cross-border digital trade, and offering citizens and enterprises new opportunities,” Padayachee said.

SEACOM said that load shedding has had a major impact on the local economic environment. However, as businesses made alternative arrangements for stable power, they were starting to see a renewed drive to connectivity services. It said the fact that this cable system was capable of carrying more bandwidth than current cable systems that land in South Africa would also drive down connectivity prices, making online services more affordable to more people.

The group’s chief digital officer said that going live on the Equiano cable now provided the country with the lowest latency cable path to Western Europe.

“This will have a fundamental impact on latency-sensitive applications. This cable now also provides an additional subsea path on the South African West coast to Europe which increases online redundancy in the country. The capacity on this newer cable will be the catalyst for more content to be hosted locally, thereby improving local internet experience,” he said.

Padayachee said the system has sufficient redundancy built in to avoid the impacts of load shedding. However, the country still needed to deal with its impact on the end user of the services provided via this cable system.

“Businesses are starting to reduce their dependence on grid power, which may warrant more bandwidth into corporate offices as end users move back into the office environment post-Covid. The technology utilised on the cable allows for much more bandwidth to be carried across the cable than older cable systems, which in a way mitigates some of the bandwidth constraints the country was faced with previously.”

Nick Walden, Infinera senior vice-president at Worldwide Sales, said their company was delighted to partner with SEACOM to light the Equiano subsea cable with their industry-leading ICE6 800G technology.

“With the industry’s highest spectral efficiency, ICE6 enables SEACOM to maximise the number of high-speed services they can offer, providing multiple terabits of capacity on this critical subsea link,” Walden said.

Initially announced in 2019 by Google, the Equiano subsea cable is one of the highest-capacity cables serving Africa. The cable stretches 15 000 km from Portugal to South Africa, boasts 12 fibre pairs, and has a design capacity of 144 Tbps.

In addition to its landing station in Melkbosstrand, Cape Town, the cable also has landing stations in Africa in Rupert’s Bay, St Helena; Lomé, Togo; Lagos, Nigeria; and Swakopmund, Namibia. From these stations, branching units will extend connectivity to other African countries.

The launch comes after SEACOM has completed extensive work to support the new connection, including upgrades to its transmission and IP network both locally and internationally.

As part of the service available to wholesale and enterprise clients from March, SEACOM will offer an express route from Cape Town to Lisbon. This means clients will enjoy high-speed connectivity without having their data rerouted to other countries during transmission.

Padayachee explained that with the help of Infinera as their long-standing partner and equipment provider for their backhaul network in South Africa, SEACOM has positioned itself as the go-to Pan-African telecommunications provider with direct access to the European market.

“The Equiano subsea cable serves as an alternative route to and from the continent. This means we can accommodate even greater volumes of data traffic and ensure greater uptime availability.

“Clients can rest easy with the assurance that the available capacity will match their future growth plans and deliver high-performance results.”

In addition to impacting connectivity in the countries in which it lands, such as faster internet speeds and an improved user experience, the Equiano subsea cable was also expected to have a major economic impact in these countries.

According to a regional economic impact assessment by Africa Practice, commissioned by Google and published in 2021, the cable will increase South Africa’s GDP by $5.8 billion and create 180 000 indirect jobs by 2025.

Padayachee said internet penetration and the increased availability of digital services have been proven to directly affect economic growth and prosperity.

“With this in mind, it’s imperative that we work quickly and efficiently to offer the service our clients need and the quality of service they expect. SEACOM is very proud to be at the forefront of this development, and we look forward to how it will enable us to expand our operations and product offerings across Africa.”