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South Africa’s internet space is getting hotter

TELECOMS sector analysts in South Africa anticipate a surge in the country's digital capacity, thanks to the impending activation of the 2Africa subsea cable, coupled with a fierce race among telecom giants to deploy high-speed, low-earth orbit satellite services.

A surge in internet connectivity and speeds will amplify opportunities within South Africa’s already flourishing digital economy, executives in the sector believe.

Africa-focused news platform Innovation Village reported the 2Africa subsea cable project is expected to be operational in the Rainbow Nation in 2024.

“We expect 2Africa West and 2Africa East to be live by the end of the year,” David Eurin, the CEO of Liquid Dataport, a subsidiary of Cassava Technologies involved in implementing the project, told Innovation Village.

The subsea cable, which landed in Gqebera in the Eastern Cape and Amanzimtoti in KwaZulu-Natal last year and in Yzerfontein and Duynefontein in the Western Cape in 2022, is one of the most ambitious underwater cable projects globally.


The Meta-backed project is a 45,000 km-long cable initiative that aims to connect Africa, Europe and Asia terrestrially via Egypt. In Africa alone, 16 countries are lined up for the project that promises massive internet speeds of up to 180 Tbps.

The cable has also landed in several other locations in Africa including Mozambique’s coastal city of Nacala as well as Porto, Tanzania, and in Egypt and Angola. However, the service has not been operationalized in any of these locations.

According to Eurin, once the service goes live, it “is set to significantly support the expansion of 4G, 5G, and fixed broadband access for hundreds of millions of individuals across Africa.”

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“The project’s ripple effect is expected to stimulate job creation in numerous sectors in South Africa, including software development, internet connectivity, and data centres,” he states in the report by Innovation Village.

A 2020 study by the Research Triangle Institute previously reported by bird found that the 2Africa subsea cable could potentially lead to the generation of between US$26 billion and US$37 billion or stimulate between 0.42 and 0.58% of Africa’s GDP within the first three years of its commissioning.

Apart from the 2Africa initiative, there has been increased attention on the deployment of low-earth orbit satellite connectivity in South Africa and elsewhere as the relatively new but disruptive internet technology catches on.

OneWeb LEO Satellite Service, one of the largest global competitors to Elon Musk’s Starlink, has already launched its first operational LEO service in Africa, in the Rainbow Nation.

The initiative, jointly implemented by French satellite operator Eutelsat Group and Q-KON, a South African satellite enterprise, launched the flagship project on January 31.

According to My Broadband, the new service can provide speeds of 50 Mbps, with low latency.

More low-earth orbit satellite rollouts are to be anticipated this year across Africa, considering the many initiatives in the pipeline spearheaded by telecommunications companies.

In September 2023, South African mobile communications company Vodacom unveiled a partnership with Amazon in which the telco giant intends to leverage Amazon’s low-Earth orbit satellite constellation to extend its 4G and 5G offerings on the continent.


More recently, the MTN Group has revealed its planned and ongoing initiatives involving LEO satellite trials across the continent in a move to complement its conventional terrestrial networks.

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According to a press statement from MTN in December 2023, the communication giant revealed it had active partnerships with LEO satellite service providers, including OneWeb, Starlink, Lynk Global and AST Space Mobile, in a bid to accelerate internet connectivity in rural Africa.

“We are partnering for LEO satellite connectivity to connect the unconnected, extend mobile connectivity to more rural and remote areas and improve resilience.,” the statement read.

South Africa is fast becoming a hub for Africa’s digital economy with international tech companies including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Huawei, developing data and technological centres in the country.

Google has become the latest to unveil an African cloud region, hosted in Johannesburg. A statement from Google explained that the facility, officially launched on January 31, is now connected to the Google network of 40 cloud regions spread across the world.

Amazon unveiled its Cape Town Web Services Skills Centres in August 2023. Other high-tech data and cloud centres in South Africa include Microsoft Azure’s cloud centre and the Oracle data centre, among others.

These initiatives promise to uplift Africa’s internet economy, which is estimated to reach $180 billion by 2025, accounting for 5.2% of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP). By 2050, the projected potential contribution could reach US$712 billion, or 8.5% of the continent’s GDP, according to the International Finance Corporation.

Graphics: Hope Mukami

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