Large Players Pull Out All The Stops To Keep Africa Connected

Posted on March 21, 2024

With only three of the ten undersea cables that connect South Africa to the world still in operation, it is quite remarkable that the region remains as well connected as it is.  This is the view of Workonline Communications, one of the leading providers of wholesale IP transit services in Africa, commenting on recent disruptions to internet connectivity across the continent due to multiple undersea cable faults.

“The cable breaks on both sides of the continent have highlighted the issue of the lack of capacity to support Africa’s burgeoning internet requirements,” says Edward Lawrence of the Workonline Group. “There are 574 active and planned submarine cables across the globe, yet South Africa only has 10 that connect it to the rest of the world, and seven of these are currently out of action.”

In February 2024, three vital cables—AAE-1, EIG, and SEACOM—connecting the east coast of Africa to Europe were disrupted, allegedly due to vandalism by the Houthis. Then, on March 14, 2024, four out of the five west coast cables—SAT3, WACS, ACE, and MainOne—were affected, reportedly by an undersea rock fall near Ivory Coast. These incidents have significantly impacted internet connectivity, not only in South Africa but across the entire continent.

The capacity constraints are further complicated by the time it takes to not only repair submarine cables, but also to lay new infrastructure. Lawrence explains that it can take 18 months or longer to plan for new cables, and a further two years or more to actually build and commission them.

“We’re fortunate that due to our investment in Africa and abroad we are able to be more nimble than most and can increase our undersea capacity at speed. We’ve designed our network to be as resilient as possible, acquiring capacity on the most stable routes we can find. Incremental capacity, or augments as they are referred to, require us to acquire hundreds of Gbps of capacity at a time, so we rely on our deep relationships which we’ve developed across the industry.”

Through strategic partnerships and investments in mega Points of Presence (PoPs) across Africa, Workonline remains at the forefront of delivering high-quality IP transit services to meet the evolving needs of ISPs and CDNs in Africa.

“We understand the critical importance of internet connectivity in today’s digital age,” added Lawrence. “As such, we are committed to proactively managing network disruptions and minimizing downtime to provide our customers with the continuity they need to thrive in a competitive landscape.”

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