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Equiano – Google's long-term connectivity strategy for Africa

Equiano – Google's long-term connectivity strategy for Africa

A leading tech expert focused on Africa has described Equiano, Google's latest subsea cable project, as an evidence of an aggressive push by the company to entrench long-term value on the continent.

Victor Asemota, Africa Partner at Alta Global Ventures, told ITWeb Africa that Google isn't just interested in selling internet access in Africa, it has a more extensive strategy.

"There is a difference between an organisation with global reach and multi-year plans and one that is just trying to make money."

Fully funded by Google and constructed by Alcatel Submarine Networks, Equiano is the company's third private international cable after Dunant and Curie, and its fourteenth subsea cable investment globally.

Asemota, also the co-founder- and director of IT firm Swifta and board advisor at Flutterwave, said Africa needs more of this infrastructure and Google needs to lower cost of access and expand coverage.

"Google has always had interest in African tech. They are backing it up with more action. They have done a lot for last mile connectivity in places like Ghana and Uganda, it is now time to take it to the next level. It is both in their interest and our interest to bring down cost of access and make it ubiquitous," said Asemota.

In June 2019, Google announced that Equiano will connect Africa with Europe. Starting in Portugal, Western Europe, the cable will run along the West Coast of Africa and land in South Africa.

Google said the cable will have branching units along the way that can be used to extend connectivity to additional African countries and the first branch is expected to land in Nigeria.

The first phase of the project connecting South Africa with Portugal is scheduled to be completed in 2021.

"The Equiano cable is state-of-the-art infrastructure based on space-division multiplexing (SDM) technology, with approximately 20 times more network capacity than the last cable built to serve this region," Google said in a statement.

Equiano will also be the first subsea cable that will incorporate optical switching at the fibre-pair level, rather than the traditional approach of wavelength-level switching.

This enables Google to scale and simplify the allocation of cable capacity, which means it can add and relocate the cable in different locations as required.

Google said it plans to work with licensing partners to bring Equiano's capacity to more countries across Africa.

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