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Facebook, Telcos Unveil A Transformative Submarine Cable for Future Internet Connectivity in Africa

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Facebook, China Mobile International, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC announced that they will partner to build 2Africa, which will be the most comprehensive subsea cable to serve the African continent and Middle East region.

The parties have appointed Alcatel Submarine Networks (“ASN”) to build the cable in a fully funded project which will greatly enhance connectivity across Africa and the Middle East.

At 37,000km long, 2Africa will be one of the world’s largest subsea cable projects and will interconnect Europe (eastward via Egypt), the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia), and 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa.

The system is expected to go live in 2023/4, delivering more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa today, with a design capacity of up to 180Tbps on key parts of the system.

2Africa will deliver much needed internet capacity and reliability across large parts of Africa, supplement the fast-growing capacity demand in the Middle East and underpin the further growth of 4G, 5G and fixed broadband access for hundreds of millions of people.

In countries where the 2Africa cable will land, service providers will obtain capacity in carrier-neutral data centres or open-access cable landing stations on a fair and equitable basis. This will support healthy internet ecosystem development by facilitating greatly improved accessibility for businesses and consumers alike.

The 2Africa cable has been designed to improve resilience and maximise performance, including the option of a seamless optical crossing between East Africa and Europe. The 2Africa parties and Airtel have signed an agreement with Telecom Egypt to provide a completely new crossing linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, the first in over a decade.

This includes new cable landing stations and deployment of next-generation fibre on two new, diverse terrestrial routes parallel to the Suez Canal from Ras Ghareb to Port Said, and a new subsea link that will provide a third path between Ras Ghareb and Suez.

The 2Africa cable will implement a new technology, SDM1 from ASN, allowing deployment of up to 16 fibre pairs instead of the eight fibre pairs supported by older technologies, bringing much greater and more cost-effective capacity.

The cable will incorporate optical switching technology to enable flexible management of bandwidth. Cable burial depth has also been increased by 50% compared to older systems, and cable routing will avoid locations of known subsea disturbance, all helping to ensure the highest levels of availability.

“The launch of 2Africa enables us to offer our customers seamless connection between Africa and Europe, together with our SEA-ME-WE 5 and AAE-1 subsea cable resources to further extend to Asia, which is an important milestone of our global development strategy,” said Jessica Gu, Director & Chief Technology Officer of China Mobile International. “The utmost capacity and faster transmission allows us to satisfy the needs of African nations today and in the future, reflecting our firm commitment to building a global digital life.”

“We’re excited to be collaborating with our 2Africa partners on the most comprehensive subsea cable that will serve the continent,” said Najam Ahmad, Vice President, Network Infrastructure at Facebook. “2Africa is a major element of our ongoing investment in Africa to bring more people online to a faster internet.

“We’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that increased connectivity has on communities, from education to healthcare. We know that economies flourish when there is widely accessible internet for businesses. 2Africa is a key pillar supporting this tremendous internet expansion as part of Africa’s surging digital economy.”

According to Frédéric Schepens, CEO of MTN Group’s wholesale operation, MTN GlobalConnect, “MTN GlobalConnect is delighted to participate in this bold 2Africa subsea cable project.

“This initiative complements MTN GlobalConnect’s terrestrial fibre strategy to connect African countries to each other and to the rest of the world. We are proud to be playing a key role in providing the benefits of a modern connected life – a core MTN belief.”

Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa, said, “As one of the world’s leading multi-service telecommunications operators and present in 18 countries in Africa and the Middle East, it was natural for Orange to be part of the 2Africa project.

“This major investment will complete our existing submarine and pan-African terrestrial infrastructures to provide access to international connectivity in a redundant fashion throughout the west coast of Africa.

“It will enable Orange to securely meet the demand for increased bandwidth necessary for the continued digital development of regions throughout the 2Africa system.”

Mohammed A. Alabbadi, Wholesale VP in stc commented, “stc is delighted to be a Partner in 2Africa. The 2Africa cable will be integrated into stc’s MENA Gateway (MG1) datacentre in Jeddah, enabling customers to access our extensive international content and extend their regional connectivity through stc terrestrial geo-mesh network that extends to all neighboring countries.

“This will undoubtedly play a significant role in enhancing stc’s international network capabilities, whilst also positioning stc as a leading regional digital player in the MENA region. The partnership demonstrates stc’s commitment, in line with Saudi Vision 2030, to deliver meaningful digital transformation and build a digital society for all.”

Adel Hamed, Telecom Egypt’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, commented, “Telecom Egypt’s contribution to 2Africa marks an important milestone in our endeavor to contribute to digital transformation in Africa. Egypt’s relationship with African states has and will always be one of Egypt’s top priorities,

“it extends here to align with Egypt’s strategy to contribute in the current development in Africa. We are honored to be part of such a revolutionary project alongside renowned global and African partners. For years, we have accomplished tangible steps in revamping our international infrastructure and increasing our assets’ geodiversity in order to keep pace with the rising global demand for large bandwidth and global reach. We trust that 2Africa will be a rich addition to our diversified investments in the subsea cable industry.”

“Improving connectivity for Africa is a significant step which lays the groundwork for increased digitalisation across the continent,” said Vinod Kumar, CEO Vodafone Business. “2Africa will give local businesses and consumers a better online experience while more connectivity between Africa, Europe and the Middle East will help to build a wider, more inclusive digital society across the globe. We’re delighted to work with our partners in the project to help deliver this.”

WIOCC CEO, Chris Wood, commented, “For over a decade WIOCC has been the hyperscale capacity provider for Africa, based upon a strategy of ongoing strategic investment in key subsea and terrestrial infrastructure.

“Participation in 2Africa continues this commitment to providing large capacity users with the resilient network they need to support their customers’ ever-growing bandwidth requirements. Our investment both future-proofs our network capabilities and provides additional resilience to maximise uptime for our critical infrastructure.”

Alain Biston, President of Alcatel Submarine Networks said, “We are honored by the trust of our partners and proud to have been selected for this project.

“With this state-of-the-art subsea system, Africa will take a giant leap to the digital age thanks to the best-in-class technologies. Africa is a long story for ASN: we have deployed the majority of submarine cables around the continent. 2Africa will be a great new chapter!”


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Secure Identity Alliance: OSIA Becomes Official ITU Standard

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Secure Identity Alliance (SIA) has announced that its OSIA specification, has been recognized as international standard by the International Telecommunication Union’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T).

Secure Identity Alliance: OSIA Becomes Official ITU Standard

This milestone establishes OSIA as official ITU standard (ITU-T Recommendation) for the global infrastructure of information and communication technologies (ICT).

The specification that is now an ITU-T Recommendation is: ITU-T X.1281 – APIs for interoperability of identity management systems.

ITU-T is the standardization arm of ITU, the United Nations specialized agency for ICT.

The Secure Identity Alliance specifications were approved as official ITU-T Recommendations by ITU members including 193 countries and the world’s front-running ICT companies on 1st March 2024.

The new ITU-T Recommendation is under the responsibility of ITU’s standardization expert group for security, ITU-T Study Group 17.

“We are very proud that the OSIA specification is recognized as an international standard by ITU-T. This milestone demonstrates the maturity of OSIA and its potential to foster interoperability and promote fairness in the identity management systems market,” said Debora Comparin, chair of the OSIA Initiative.

Prof. Heung Youl Youm, chairman of ITU-T Study Group 17, said, “The recognition of the OSIA specification as an official ITU-T Recommendation underscores its critical contribution to the advancement of global ICT infrastructure. We are thrilled about the ongoing collaboration between ITU-T SG17 and the SIA, aimed at developing standards for secure identity management.”

“As Editor of the OSIA standard in the ITU-T Study Group 17 Q10, I am pleased to have contributed to this successful recommendation by the ITU,” said Abbie Barbir, rapporteur for ITU-T’s working group on ‘Identity management and telebiometrics architecture and mechanisms’ (Q10/17).

“The collaboration with the SIA continues on OSIA and other structuring initiatives and standards development.”

Engr Abisoye Coker-Odusote, CEO, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Nigeria and chair of the OSIA Advisory Committee, said, “As the Chair of the OSIA Advisory Committee, comprised exclusively of government representatives, we take great pride in our five years of collaboration guiding the working group in the development of the OSIA specification. OSIA establishes equal marketplace conditions, fosters collaboration, and ensures product compatibility post-mergers and acquisitions.

The OSIA standardized interfaces drive innovation, enabling new local market models and reducing fraud within multiple ID systems.

Additionally, OSIA addresses integrator/vendor lock-in, allowing governments to maintain control over their identity systems and pursue national development agendas seamlessly.”

 

 

 

 


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Zipline Achieves One Millionth Delivery Milestone

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Zipline, the leading force in drone logistics delivery, has reached a monumental achievement with its one-millionth delivery to customers, signifying a significant leap forward in the logistics delivery sector. This historic milestone was marked by the delivery of two bags of IV fluid from a Zipline distribution center in Ghana to a local health facility.

Renowned for its innovative approach to designing, building, and operating autonomous delivery drones, Zipline’s zero-emission technology has garnered acclaim, covering over 70 million commercial miles across four continents.

Backed by investments surpassing several millions of dollars from notable supporters like Sequoia Capital, a16z, and Google Ventures, Zipline has firmly established itself as a disruptive leader in the industry. CEO Keller Rinaudo emphasizes the company’s commitment to key markets such as healthcare, quick commerce, and food delivery, envisioning a future where Zipline achieves 1 million deliveries per day.

“The three areas where the incentive really makes the most sense today are health care, quick commerce, and food,” underscoring Zipline’s commitment to partnering with top brands and institutions to transform the future of logistics using autonomous drones –  Keller Rinaudo Cliffton.

In Africa, Zipline has made a profound impact, forging significant partnerships across the continent. In Ghana alone, which accounts for about 54% of the one-millionth delivery milestone, Zipline’s collaboration with the government and health ministry has been pivotal. Since its inception, Zipline has completed over 540,000 drone delivery flights across Ghana, encompassing the delivery of crucial supplies, including 3,566,500 units of vaccines, 2,825,210 units of medical products, 14,807 units of blood products, and 18,289 units of animal health products. These deliveries have directly impacted the lives of over 17 million Ghanaians across 13 regions, saving 6,014 lives through emergency deliveries, including blood products and snake antivenom since 2019.

Beyond mere statistics, the company has facilitated the delivery of 12.2 million vaccine doses, including 2.8 million Covid-19 vaccines, leading to a 21% increase in vaccination coverage and a 44% reduction in missed opportunities to vaccinate in Ghana. These efforts have potentially saved 727 lives due to increased vaccination coverage. Additionally, Zipline’s infrastructure expansion in Ghana, with six distribution centers strategically located across the country, has enabled swift and efficient on-demand drone delivery services.

Not only this, the technology has facilitated the vaccination of 104,000 cattle against Anthrax in northern Ghana, safeguarding both human and animal lives. Such interventions have also extended to the agricultural sector, where 10.4 million doses of poultry vaccines have been delivered to poultry farmers nationwide, combating diseases such as Newcastle disease, Fowl pox, and Gumboro.

But Zipline’s impact in Africa extends far beyond Ghana’s borders. Operating in Rwanda, Kenya, Côte D’Ivoire, and Nigeria, the company has become a beacon of hope for healthcare accessibility and disease prevention. In Rwanda, Zipline serves as a lifeline, delivering 75% of the country’s blood supply outside of Kigali, drastically reducing maternal mortality rates due to postpartum hemorrhage by 88%. Additionally, the company’s deliveries of agricultural products have elevated farmers’ fertility rates by 10% compared to the national average.

In Kenya, Zipline’s collaborations with the Elton John AIDS Foundation have facilitated the delivery of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment products, empowering individuals to manage their health effectively. Similarly, in Nigeria, Zipline’s expansive coverage encompasses over 500 health facilities in Kaduna, more than 350 in Cross River State, and 200 in Bayelsa. Teaming up with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Zipline focuses on reaching children in remote regions, ensuring equitable access to life-saving immunizations.

Zipline’s adaptive approach and tailored delivery services reflect its commitment to meeting the diverse needs of populations and sectors. The achievement of the one millionth delivery milestone underscores its dedication to enhancing healthcare outcomes and addressing societal needs across Africa. As Zipline continues to innovate and expand its reach, it is poised to shape the future of healthcare delivery on the continent and beyond.

 

 

 


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Telcos Record N27Bn Loss from Damaged Fibre Cables

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Repairs and revenue losses from damaged cables are estimated to have cost Nigeria’s telecom industry almost N27bn ($23m) in 2023, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg.

Telcos Record N27Bn Loss from Damaged Fibre Cables

MTN Nigeria, the biggest wireless operator in Africa’s most-populous nation, and Airtel Africa Plc bore the brunt of the costs, the documents show.

MTN suffered more than 6,000 cuts on its fiber cable last year, the documents show.

On Feb. 28, a cut in its network in three different locations by a road construction firm, an oil serving company, and someone burning rubbish in a manhole meant customers faced more than five hours of data and voice outages.

The operator relocated 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles) of vulnerable fiber cables between 2022 and 2023, at a cost of more than N11bn —enough to build 870 kilometers of new fiber lines in areas without coverage.

Broadband fibre optic cables form the backbone of modern communication infrastructure, enabling the high-speed data transmission that underpins a wide range of personal, business, and societal activities.

On several occasions, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the industry regulator, has acknowledged this challenge and expressed willingness to work on measures to address it.

These measures include stricter regulations to deter vandalism and improved collaboration between telcos and government agencies responsible for construction activities.

According to the NCC, the telecom sector will make up more than a fifth of the country’s gross domestic product by the end of 2027, up from 13.5 per cent in the third quarter of last year.


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