Facebook, through its ‘2Africa’ project is building a 37,000-kilometer undersea internet cable, to connect 23 countries in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. With the ‘2Africa’ project, the tech giant wants to bring faster internet connectivity to the African continent.
This project is being done in partnership with major Telecom companies, MTN, Telecom Egypt Co., Orange, Vodafone, and China Mobile. Alcatel Submarine, a subsidiary of Nokia, will be responsible for building the massive cable network which at 37,000 kilometers will be one of the world’s longest, trailing Sea-Me-We 3, which is 39,000 kilometers long and connects 33 countries.
According to Bloomberg, building the cable will cost roughly $1 billion. Facebook claims this cable connection will provide nearly three times the total network capacity of all the subsea cables serving Africa today. “When completed, this new route will deliver much-needed internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability across Africa; supplement a rapidly increasing demand for capacity in the Middle East; and support further growth of 4G, 5G, and broadband access for hundreds of millions of people,” Facebook says.
Seemingly looking to cash in on Africa’s large population, the social media giant has made other forays into Africa’s internet space in the past, but most times with some criticisms as to its true intentions. In 2013, the tech giant launched Internet.org as part of humanitarian efforts to provide internet access as a basic human right in emerging markets around the world.
In 2016, Facebook attempted to launch a satellite that would beam internet signals around Africa but the rocket carrying the equipment blew up on the launch pad. A year later, in partnership with local internet service providers of various countries, it launched the Express Wifi initiative public WiFi service for some emerging markets. This service is reportedly currently active in Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria.Philippines, South Africa, and Tanzania. In 2019, Facebook also had a partnership with MainOne to bring internet service to some states in Nigeria. This announcement further highlights the growing battle for a share of the potential Internet population in Africa and other emerging markets. Last year global search engine giant, Google, announced its 14th undersea Internet cable that would connect Portugal to Capetown, South Africa, with multiple landing points in countries along the coast including Nigeria.
Although it announced that it will discontinue them this year, Google has also installed a number of free public WiFi hotspots in major emerging markets. According to recent reportss, the cost of accessing the Internet in Africa, is still relatively high compared when earning power is considered. In 2016, the United Nations declared as a basic human right, but most all efforts for a massive adoption have largely been ufruitful. Techpoint Africa Newsletter explains that currently, it appears such efforts will be defined by a battle between global tech behemoths, and issues of data privacy aside, the it might have a favourable end result.