At the Submarine Networks EMEA 2019 event in London, Chris Kelly caught up with Artur Mendes, CCO at Angola Cables CCO, to find out what effect the newly launched SACS cable will have on the economies of Africa and Latin America

What is causing the increased demand for subsea connectivity between Africa and South America?

The demand for connectivity between Africa and South America is fostered by both the significant advancement in internet access and growing economic trade between the two continents. Between 2011 and 2017 internet penetration in Latin America grew from 36% to 55%, while between 2000 and 2018 the number of African internet users grew from 4.5 million to 453 million. The large internet user populations have served as a strong pull factor for cable operators, making a South Atlantic Cable System a viable business project.

There are also more internet firms acting across both continents, empowered by the greater demand for online services. This has further driven the demand for subsea connectivity in these regions.

Between 2005 and 2012, trade between Latin America and Africa grew by 75%. Such growth in economic ties between these two regions also plays a role in encouraging new connectivity infrastructure projects between the two continents, and this will only continue to accelerate as the trade in internet services grows.


How will the new system affect people’s day-to-day lives?

The South Atlantic Cable System (SACS), which is the first subsea link between South America and Africa, will provide faster connection speeds between the two continents. It will also provide the benefit of significantly easier access to online services at lower latencies from either location. In real terms, apps and Cloud services will become more responsive, data flows for financial services will be faster, and VOIP connections will be improved, to name just a few advantages.  

It will also become significantly cheaper to move data between the two continents, this means that businesses on either side of the Atlantic will have a considerably easier time trading with each other. Angolans will have faster access to Brazilian services and content., Brazilian and LATAM content providers will have a completely new market to explore and the two regions will be able to deliver and share better, more integrated content quickly and easily.


What was the biggest challenge for Angola Cables in building the SACS cable? 

The biggest challenge for Angola Cables in building SACS is the business viability of the system. Furthermore, due to the fact that SACS is the first cable crossing the Atlantic, there was no historical data regarding the physical, topographical and geological conditions of the sea route. Obtaining the relevant permits in the landing countries and adhering to specific deadlines also proved particularly demanding. 


What were the benefits of working with a company like NEC?

NEC is a large, but a very well organised company. In the submarine cable world, it is one of the most reliable entities to work with. NEC equipment is robust and state-of-the-art technology. Our relationship with NEC has allowed us to learn and benefit from their offerings, experience and expertise in the market. 

Throughout the project time, we have had a healthy working environment and developed an optimal working relationship based on mutual respect. We are very happy to be worked with them.  


What predictions do you have for the subsea sector over the course of the next 12-18 months?

Over the next 12-18 months, we expect to see a continuation of the current industry trend to lower latency response times, improved services, larger cable systems being built and the upgrading of older cables. 

Upgrading cables has proved a cost-effective way to maintain older cables and meet rising demand. At the same time, however, the rapid growth in demand has necessitated new cable routes and, as such, we can expect to see continued investment in transatlantic projects in the next year or so. 

We also foresee cable companies working on effectively managing their current cables to reduce latency times as much as possible. This is especially the case in Africa, as content demands increase. We predict an increased number of cables being launched and planned in the near future.