Massive growth in African bandwidth

A recently published report shows the stratospheric growth in African bandwidth over the last five years and the extent of the build-out of fibre networks. 44% of Africa’s population is now within reach of fibre networks.

Back in 2009 we reported that international bandwidth from Sub-Saharan Africa hadincreased from 11.3 Gbps in 2006 to 17.5 Gbps in 2007 to 26.1 Gbps. Overall international African bandwidth (including North Africa) was 96.3 Gbps in 2008. All this seemed very impressive at the time but is absolutely dwarfed by growth over the last five years.

Africa’s international Internet bandwidth has increased twenty-fold in the last five years, and passed the 2 Tbps mark by December 2013. By December 2013, Africa’s total international Internet bandwidth reached 2.034 Tbps, a 38% increase compared to 2012.

This total of 2.034 Tbps was split between Sub-Saharan Africa, which increased by 39% to reach 1.138 Tbps, and North Africa which increased by 36% to reach 896 Gbps.

Africa’s international Internet bandwidth doubled in the eighteen months to December 2013, previously reaching the 1 Tbps mark in mid 2012 (Africa’s International Bandwidth Approaches 1 Tbps Mark), 500 Gbps in December 2010 (see Africa’s International Bandwidth Reaches 500 Gbps Mark), and 100 Gbps during 2008.

All of Africa’s international bandwidth is supplied by submarine cables, terrestrial networks connected to submarine cables, or satellite. Of the total bandwidth supplied to Sub-Saharan Africa by December 2013, 94% (1.070 Tbps) was supplied directly by submarine cable.

There is plenty of room for future growth: this figure of 1.070 Tbps is still less than 5% of the total design capacity of at least 28.841 Tbps available on the 18 submarine cables serving the region in December 2013. This total design capacity has increased from 13.061 Tbps on 13 operational cables in 2011, and 2.831 Tbps on 7 operational cables in 2008.

A further 5.6% (64 Gbps) was supplied by terrestrial cross-border networks connected to submarine cables. The completion of new cross-border links, and the expansion of capacity on others, has seen the volume of intra-regional traffic backhauled to submarine cable landing points increase by 59% in the last year to reach 64 Gbps by December 2013.

This compares to 40.2 Gbps in 2012, 29.6 Gbps in 2011, 19 Gbps in 2010, 10 Gbps in 2009, 4.2 Gbps in 2008, 703 Mbps in 2007, 362 Mbps in 2006 and 37.5 Mbps in 2005.

These terrestrial backhaul networks are delivering much greater bandwidth to those countries which do not have their own submarine cable landing point.

Landlocked Zimbabwe for example increased to 9.060 Gbps in 2013, and is connected to submarine cables for its supply of international bandwidth through South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia. Ethiopia reached 8.686 Gbps in 2013, and is connected to submarine cables through Sudan, Djibouti and Kenya.

Rwanda reached 4.997 Gbps, backhauled through Uganda and Kenya, and Tanzania. And Botswana reached 3 Gbps, backhauled through South Africa and Namibia.

Africa’s total inventory of terrestrial transmission networks has more than doubled in the last five years. The sixth edition of the Africa Telecom Transmission Map shows that by June 2014, the total inventory of terrestrial transmission networks across Africa had increased to 958,901 route kilometres, compared to 465,659-km in 2009.

By June 2014 the amount of operational fibre optic network had increased to 564,091-km, compared to 278,056-km in 2009. In addition, there was in June 2014 a further 92,402-km of fibre optic network under construction, 86,045-km planned, and 70,573-km proposed.

The landing of new submarine cables and expansion of terrestrial transmission networks is bringing additional countries, regions, cities and towns within reach of fibre networks for the first time.

Since 2010, network expansion has brought more than 150 million more people within access to high capacity national and international backbone networks.

In June 2014, 44% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa (410 million) was within a 25-km range of an operational fibre optic network node. This compared to 41.8% (371 million) in 2013, 40.0% (345 million) in 2012, 36.3% (313 million) in 2011, and 30.8% (259 million) in 2010.

Once the fibre network which is currently under construction enters service, the fibre reach of Sub-Saharan Africa will increase to 46.3% (431 million), and once the network which is planned or proposed enters service it will increase to 52.3% (487 million).

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Massive growth in African bandwidth