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Same-Day Analysis

BRICS Submarine Cable Planned to Connect South Africa with Brazil, India, China, US and Russia

Published: 18 April 2012

i3 Africa has announced plans for a new, 34,000-kilometre submarine cable that will interconnect Russia, China, India, South Africa and Brazil (the BRICS economies) to the US.

  • The planned BRICS cable will have landing points in Miami (US), Fortaleza (Brazil), Cape Town (South Africa), Mauritius, Chennai (India), Singapore, Shantou (China) and Vladivostok (Russia).
  • From South Africa across the Indian Ocean, the BRICS cable will run alongside the SAFE submarine cable, which runs from South Africa to Malaysia via India, Réunion and Mauritius.
  • From South Africa across the Atlantic Ocean, the BRICS cable will run alongside three other planned submarine cable systems: eFive Telecoms South Atlantic Express (SAEx), Angola Cables/Telebrás, and WASACE.

The new BRICS cable was unveiled at the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Business Forum in New Delhi (India), and is being promoted by South African companies i3 Africa and Imphandze Investments. The proposed cable is a 34,000-kilometre, 2-fibre-pair, fibre-optic cable system linking the BRICS economies with the US. The cable will have a total design capacity of 12.8 Tbps, with a tentative projected ready-for-service date in the second half of 2014. It will interconnect with the WACS cable on the west coast of Africa, and the EASSY and SEACOM cables on the east coast, thus giving the BRICS countries immediate access to 21 African countries and vice versa.

The BRICS cable has been in the planning and feasibility stages since March 2011, a few months after the admission of South Africa into the BRICS economic bloc. According to a company press release issued by i3 Africa, the BRICS countries are currently connected to each other via telecommunications hubs in Europe and the US, resulting in high costs and the risk of potential interception of critical financial and security information by non-BRICS entities.

Our Take

South Africa joined the BRIC economic bloc in December 2010. In a press release issued on 16 April 2012, i3 Africa said that recent discussions at the BRICS Business Summit concluded that a critical factor of success for the various initiatives relies is an advanced high-speed communication infrastructure. This also has to ensure high capacity and direct connectivity between the BRICS countries to offer ubiquitous and reliable services.

The routing of the proposed BRICS cable from South Africa would come alongside the South Africa Far East (SAFE) cable on the leg to India, which entered service in 2002, and is the fourth planned system to run from Africa to Brazil across the Atlantic Ocean. The three other submarine cable systems planned from South Africa to Brazil are:

  • e-Five Telecoms South Atlantic Express (SAEx): In September 2010, South African company eFive Telecoms announced plans to build a new submarine cable linking South Africa and Nigeria via Angola to Brazil (see Sub-Saharan Africa: 3 September 2010: eFive Telecoms Selects Alcatel-Lucent to Build Submarine Cable from Angola to Brazil). The planned eFive/SAEx cable will consist of two trunks: the first connecting South Africa to Angola and Nigeria, and the second linking Angola to Brazil.
  • WASACE: In November 2011, WASACE cable announced a plan to build a new, transatlantic submarine cable that will connect West Africa with Latin America, North America and Europe (see Sub-Saharan Africa: 28 November 2011: WASACE Plans Submarine Cable Connecting Africa to Europe, Latin America and North America). The WASACE transatlantic cable system will deploy 100G technology with four submarine cable sections, including a transatlantic cable running from Nigeria to Brazil.
  • Angola Cables/Telebrás: On 15 December 2011, Angola Cables and Brazilian operator Telebrás signed an agreement for the deployment of a transatlantic submarine cable between Angola and Brazil (see Angola: 20 December 2011: Angola Cables and Telebrás Sign Agreement for Submarine Cable). The proposed 6,000-kilometre transatlantic telecoms cable will run between Luanda (Angola) and Fortaleza (Brazil), and is due to enter service in 2014. Telebrás said that the new cable would improve performance and reduce the cost of outbound internet traffic from Brazil and South American countries to Asia and Africa by about 80% as internet traffic would no longer have to transit via Europe and the US.
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