Facebook Is Planning An Undersea Internet Cable That Could Encircle Africa

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
economic transformation African languages tony elumelu Facebook
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, right, takes a selfie with Tony Elumelu, Chairman of United Bank of Africa, at the “Tech for Good” Summit in Paris, May 23, 2018. (Charles Platiau,Pool via AP)

Facebook is building a cable that will be named Simba which means “lion” in Swahili.

The social media platform is partnering with South African mobile operator MTN Group and the U.K.’s Vodafone Group to build a cable that will encircle Africa, according to the WallStreetJournal.

Details have not been announced by Facebook.

The cable is expected to connect to existing access points on the west and east coast of Africa, as well as the Mediterranean, driving down bandwidth costs and making the internet available to more Africans, Forbes reports.

Fewer than 13 percent of Africans use Facebook, and the social media company is hopeful that increasing internet access could translate to more Facebook users, according to TheTelegraph.

Talks for the development of the Simba cable are at an early stage, with MTN and Vodafone reportedly involved in discussions to implement the undersea internet cables on both coasts in partnership with Facebook.

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MTN is Africa’s largest mobile operator with more than 221 million customers in 22 markets across Africa and the Middle East.

London-based Vodafone owns 65 percent of South African mobile operator Vodacom, while the Vodafone brand operates mobile networks in Ghana, Cameroon, Libya, and Egypt.

The exact route that Facebook’s proposed cable will take and the number of landings are not yet decided, according to the WallStreetJournal.

The name Simba originates from Swahili and means “lion.” In Shona, a language used in Zimbabwe, Simba means “power”. Simba was the name of the main character from the popular Disney animated movie, “The Lion King.”

This won’t be the first time Facebook builds undersea internet infrastructure.

In 2017, the social media firm completed the 4,000-mile Marea cable in partnership with Microsoft that connected Spain with Virginia Beach in the U.S., Engadget reported.

Facebook not the only U.S. firm building cables in Africa

U.S. search engine Google is also in the process of building its own undersea internet cable connecting Portugal to South Africa on the west coast of Africa.

A cable named after Nigerian writer and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano is being built and paid for by Google.

The Equiano project is expected to connect Portugal to South Africa by 2021 and should have 20 times more network capacity than the cables already active in the region, according to a Google blog post.

Google has invested in 14 undersea cable projects globally. All its undersea cables are named after important figures from history.

Equiano is Google’s third fully-funded private international cable.