Inside Facebook's Multimillion Sub-sea Project Coming to Kenya

  • Image of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California
    File image of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California
  • Kenya is among 23 countries in Africa, Middle East and Europe set to benefit from a massive subsea cable project announced by Facebook on Wednesday, May 13.

    The social media giant, in collaboration with African network operators, is banking on the new subsea cable to deliver faster internet speeds and more reliable connections for the region.

    Dubbed '2Africa', it will be one of the biggest subsea projects in the world, with the length of the cable expected to be around 37,000km.

    For perspective, 37,000km, is almost equivalent to the circumference of the earth, with Facebook promising that the cable will deliver almost three times the current total capacity of subsea cables serving the continent.

    Graphic depicting countries where Facebook's 2Africa subsea cable will land
    Graphic depicting countries where Facebook's 2Africa subsea cable will land

    The cable is also expected up to open up growth and access to 4G, 5G and broadband for individuals and households in various countries.

    Other than Kenya, other African countries in the inter-connected plan are South Africa, Tanzania, Somalia, Senegal, Sudan, Nigeria, Mozambique, Madagascar, Ghana, Gabon, Djibouti, Ivory Coast, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    Countries in the Middle East involved in the project are Saudi Arabia and Oman, with Facebook observing demand for increased capacity.

    Portugal, France and Spain make up the three European nations featured among the 23 nations expected to benefit from the new undersea cable.

    Facebook explained that in countries where the cable lands, service providers will be offered capacity at carrier-neutral data centres and open-access cable landing stations on a fair, equitable basis.

    The company argued that increased connectivity will play a big role in enhancing solutions in areas such as healthcare and education.

    In addition, the company observed that it came at a time when lives had been disrupted across the world by the Covid-19 pandemic, arguing that it could play a key role in supporting economic recovery in various countries.

    "We see 2Africa as an important pillar supporting tremendous internet expansion as part of Africa’s growing digital economy.

    "The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of connectivity as billions of people around the world rely on the internet to work, attend school, and stay connected to those they care about. 2Africa will be not only an important element for advancing connectivity infrastructure across the African continent but also a major investment that comes at a crucial time for economic recovery," a statement from the company reads in part.

    US technology companies have in recent years stepped up their interest in African countries as the last frontier, noting high growth potential.

    The realization of challenges in connectivity, however, has led to a flood of investments from foreign companies looking to create a bigger pool of internet users on the continent.

    Google, for example, recently deployed its Loon project balloons in the country in a move expected to enhance connectivity, particularly in rural areas.

    Facebook also touted the superior quality of new technologies being deployed for the project described as one of the biggest of its kind.

    "Technological advancements have increased the efficiency of this project. This is the first system of its size to make use of an innovative aluminum conductor for submarine cable systems. In addition, we have doubled the maximum eight fiber pairs supported by older technology for significantly more resource-efficient fiber optic cable by implementing Spatial Division Multiplexing (SDM1) technology.

    "SDM1 is the latest innovative technology currently available for submarine cables. With up to 16 fiber pairs, 2Africa will allow for far greater capacity. It will also be the first time Wavelength Selective Switching (WSS)-ROADM is utilised in Africa, allowing for more flexible capacity management," the company noted.

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru during a trip to Kenya in 2016
    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru during a trip to Kenya in 2016