Google's new Equiano subsea cable to connect Africa and Europe

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Google is building its third subsea cable to connect Africa and Europe. (Google)

Google has announced a new private subsea cable, Equiano, that will shuttle high-speed data between Africa and Europe.

The Equiano cable is named for Olaudah Equiano an African writer and abolitionist, who was sold into slavery prior to buying his own freedom.

The Equiano cable will start in Western Europe and run along the West Coast of Africa, between Portugal and South Africa, with branches along the way that can be used to extend connectivity to additional African countries. The first branch is slated to land in Nigeria.

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The first phase of the project, connecting South Africa with Portugal, is slated to be finished in 2021.

Equiano is Google's third private cable, following on the heels of Dunant (between Europe and the U.S.) and Curie, which runs between the U.S. and Chile. Marie Curie was a Nobel Prize winning scientist while Henry Dunant was a Swiss businessman that founded the Red Cross, and was the winner of the first Nobel Prize.

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The Equiano cable, which will be laid by Alcatel Submarine Networks, will tap into space-division multiplexing (SDM) technology, which will enable about 20 times more network capacity than the last cable built to serve the region. Google is also adding SDM to the transatlantic Dunant cable, according to a Google blog.

Traditional subsea cables are powered from the shore and need a dedicated set of pump lasers to amplify the optical signal for each fiber pair as data travels the length of the cable, according to Google.

"SDM increases cable capacity in a cost-effective manner with additional fiber pairs (twelve, rather than six or eight in traditional subsea cables) and power-optimized repeater designs," according to the blog. "These advancements were created in partnership with SubCom, a global partner for undersea data transport, which will engineer, manufacture and install the Dunant system utilizing their SDM technology and equipment."

Google said that Equiano would be the first subsea cable to incorporate optical switching at the fiber-pair level, rather than the traditional approach of wavelength-level switching. Using optical switch simplifies the allocation of cable capacity, giving Google the flexibility to add and reallocate it in different locations as needed.

Over the last three years, Google has invested $47 billion to improve its global infrastructure. Google has a total of 14 investments in international cables, including joint ventures.

"We’re excited to bring Equiano online, and look forward to working with licensed partners to bring Equiano’s capacity to even more countries across the African continent," Google said in a press release.

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