Facebook has announced the addition of a new leg to its 2Africa submarine web cable, which was first announced in May 2020 with initial plans to cover 22,990 miles (37,000 km) across the ocean floor.
The cable, which connects 23 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, is now expected to travel a total of 45,000km after being completed with the addition of 2Africa Pearls, which will extend the cable to India and Pakistan, according to press release from Facebook.
The 2Africa project, developed in collaboration with a number of global telecommunications companies, is part of Facebook’s larger goal of creating an “open and inclusive Internet ecosystem” and “bringing people to a faster Internet.” The new submarine web cable will bring much-needed capacity and reliability to Africa, where only a quarter of the 1.3 billion people are connected to the Internet. The cable is designed to serve 1.2 billion people in its original form, but the new segment will bring the total number of people served to 3 billion, or about 36 percent of the world’s population.
To make this a reality, engineers have designed the 2Africa cable to allow a 50% increase in burial depth, ensuring maximum redundancy and availability. In addition, the cable will be laid in a way to avoid the most problematic underwater places, and all this is an attempt to alleviate the traditional limitations of underwater cable networks.
Just a week ago, Google has also completed the application its giant underwater internet cable Grace Hopper (6,276 km) Grace Hopper, which stretches the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Britain before heading to Spain. But how do these two giants lay thousands of miles of cables to carry the Internet around the world?
What is needed to lay an underwater web cable?
According to report from Business Insider, companies must first plan the route along which the cable, which can be as thick as a garden hose, will pass, completing a bathymetric and geophysical survey of the planned route, which can take up to a year. They send ships equipped with sonar to map the bottom and look for dangers, including large currents, underwater landslides and unexploded bombs or mines.
There is also the production of optical cable. To conduct electricity, the optical fibers are wrapped in a copper sheath, but Facebook’s 2Africa cable, for example, is made of aluminum, not copper, as it obviously reduces production costs and allows for longer connections. After plotting the route, a specialized laying vessel uses an underwater plow to dig a trench along the seabed in which it lays the cable.