Launch of 2Africa Subsea Cable Makes Digital Tanzania Dream Closer Than Ever

Tanzania now has three active subsea cables serving it, with others being the Eastern African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and SEACOM.

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania Thursday launched the 45,000-kilometre 2Africa subsea cable that interconnects Europe, eastward via Egypt, Asia via Saudi Arabia, and Africa, making the country have three active subsea cables serving it, with others being the Eastern African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and SEACOM.

Speaking during the launching of the cable, President Samia Suluhu Hassan said that the new cable will provide opportunities and options to mobile network providers in the East African nation.

“Undoubtedly, the entry of this cable will provide an opportunity for mobile networks and other service providers to have more options on which cable to use,” said Samia at the launching event. “This will eventually increase the quality of internet services and even reduce costs because now there is more competition.”

2Africa cable is made possible with the partnership of several companies, including Meta, China Mobile, MTN, Orange, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone, Bayobab, STC, and WIOCC. The landing station in Tanzania is operated by Airtel, which also operates stations in Kenya, DRC, and the Congo.

The launch of the 2Africa subsea cable comes at an opportune moment, as Tanzania recently reduced fees charged to mobile companies when laying out cables for internet distribution across the country.

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Known as the Right to Way, the fee is charged to companies when they use the road reserve to install their infrastructures. The fee was charged at US$1,000 per kilometre as an initial fee, and then US$1,000 per kilometre was charged annually.

Authorities reduced the annual fee to US$100 and the initial fee to US$200, a decision President Samia is proud of.

“Another step we have undertaken is reducing the cost of laying out cables in the road reserve from US$1,000 to US$100,” Samia explained. “We have removed US$900 so the cable installation can happen quickly.”

Observers in the telecoms industry, including the World Bank, have warned in the past that high prices for rights-of-way deter investments in the sector.

Data from the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) shows that Tanzania has 34 million internet users, whereas 99.7 per cent are mobile wireless subscribers.

TCRA’s data put the percentage of the population covered with 3G mobile network signal at 62 per cent and those with 4G at 50 per cent.

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However, access to rural areas is still a challenge. This situation forced the government in May this year to launch a project to construct 758 towers in 713 wards in rural areas, to reach over 8.5 million people.

During the launching of the cable Thursday, Airtel Tanzania launched its 5G network, joining its competitors Vodacom and Tigo, who have already launched their 5G networks earlier.

Airtel Africa CEO Segun Ogunsanya expressed interest in opening more opportunities in Tanzania, explaining that on the back of 2Africa, Airtel is working with major Cloud players such as Amazon to bring cloud infrastructures to Tanzania.

“Should we be provided with the right data centre infrastructure support, we commit to building a high-capacity data centre that will complement the 2Africa submarine cable we are launching today,” he emphasised.

These consecutive steps – government commitment and the political will to engage meaningfully with the private sector – put Tanzania’s digital dream closer to fruition.

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