Africa: New East African Cable Dare1 Will Be Operational in March 2020 and Ella Link Will Add New West African Connections This Year

24 January 2020

London — This year looks like it will be a very good year for additional fibre links both within the continent and providing new international connections. Major new connections like the PEACE cable (see news story below) are on their way and two smaller projects - DARE1 and Ella Link - are on their way. Russell Southwood looks at what's in prospect.

DARE1 is a 4,747km cable connecting Bosaso (in Somalia's Puntland), the Somali capital Mogadishu and Mombasa in Kenya. The three telcos investing in the cable are monopoly state provider Djibouti Telecom, Somtel and Telkom Kenya. The build is being completed by SubCom. The cable has already landed at La Siesta beach in Djibouti and work has started on the other three landing stations. The operational date for the cable has been set for June 2020

With a transmission capacity of up to 30 Tbps, DARE1 is composed of two pairs of fibers. The infrastructure, in addition to the defined points of presence, will include an optional point of presence in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania.

Djibouti Telecom has been the main mover behind the new cable and is pitching it as a cable that will both reduce current congestion and promote competition. Mohamed Assoweh Bouh, General Manager of Djibouti Telecom said at the announcement: "With high capacity and low latency, the DARE1 system will offer an alternative route to East Africa and the Horn of Africa, reducing congestion between existing systems, promoting competition and providing the capacity for a rapidly expanding region."

Djibouti has successfully turned itself into a hub for cables coming in from Asia and the Middle East. But it has little or no track record of providing low-cost competitive international fibre capacity. Also it has not responded to the recent Ericsson corruption case that identified its (then) CEO and Government officials as taking bribes in 2013. (see Djibouti Telecom corruption scandal revealed: who paid what to whom and how big the bribe was: https://www.balancingact-africa.com/news/issue/telecoms-en/1006)

ElllaLink is a more ambitious cable that will connect Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza (with a spur to Kourou) before crossing the Atlantic to Praia (Cape Verde), Nouadhibou (Mauritania), The Canary Islands and an unspecified landing station in Morocco. It then goes on to Sines, Lisbon and Madrid. Its promoters say that it will be complete in 2020.

Its main shareholder is the Marguerite Fund European equity fund that invests in renewables, energy and transport. It aims to act as a "catalyst for greenfield and brownfield infrastructure investments". Its other partners include Bella (which is building NRENs in Latin America); the Cap Verde telco CV telecom. Emacom, the power utility in the Canary Islands and bankers Natixis (70% owned by French-owned Groupe BPCE with the rest floated on the Paris Stock Exchange).

In January 2020 the Group behind the cable announced that it had closed an agreement with Portuguese telco Rentelececom to use dark fibres in Portugal and Spain for data centre inyterconnection. Rentelcom offers the largest neutral backbone in Portugal with more than 8,100km of fiber optic cables using electricity and gas utility fibre. The protected fiber ring will connect all the major data centers of both capital cities allowing EllaLink to serve PoPs with low latency capacity, open spectrum and managed spectrum services directly towards Fortaleza, São Paulo and Rio in Brazil.

The Brazil-Africa route is currently 'overtraded' as there are already two routes to Fortaleza: SACS (Angola Cables) and SAIL (Camtel). But in time these two cables and EllaLink will begin to pick up global traffic going to the USA and Asia.

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