An Interview with Antonio Nunes, CEO of Angola Cables

Editor’s Note: The South Atlantic currently is one of the most dynamic routes for new submarine cables.  Long overlooked by traffic patterns that tended to run north and south, developers are working to build east-west routes between Africa and South America as the economies in both regions expand.  The first developer to jump into the South Atlantic market was Angola Cables, whose new cable, South Atlantic Cable System (SACS), will be entering service soon and will be the first high-capacity cable between Sub Saharan Africa and South America. 

SCW recently had the opportunity to talk with Antonio Nunes, CEO of Angola Cables, about SACS and the company’s other submarine cables, as well as the broader development of South Atlantic traffic. 

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SCW: To begin, could you describe SACS and Angola Cables’ other submarine cable projects? 

Nunes: Angola Cables’ submarine cable network consists of SACS, Monet and the West African Cable System (WACS).  We already have the WACS cable operational.  We are one of the largest shareholders of WACS, which connects West Africa with Europe.  The Monet cable became fully operational in May of this year and links Brazil with Florida.  SACS is progressing according to schedule.  The installation is already done – both submarine and terrestrial.  We are now testing the system and it is scheduled to enter service next month. 

The importance of SACS is three-fold.  First, it will provide, along with WACS and Monet, redundant paths for traffic between four continents -- Africa, Europe and North and South America.  Second, when SACS is operational we will be providing a new route for traffic across the Atlantic.  We will be able to transfer information directly on SACS from Africa to South America and through Monet, onward to North America.  Together with WACS connectivity running directly from our landing station in Luanda, Angola, to Europe, we can provide alternatives to the existing North Atlantic routes, bringing more options for transatlantic traffic between the four continents. 

Thirdly, because SACS provides a direct route between Angola and Brazil, it provides the capability to deliver services that are latency dependent between the Americas and Africa.  The new route will have a very low latency path.  We predict that between Brazil and Angola we will have 63 milliseconds of latency. 

The connectivity is at the data centers.  We have two data centers – one in Angola and one in Brazil (in Forteleza).  The one in Angola is already operational and the one in Brazil is under construction.  The importance of the data centers is that we can aggregate the data in these spots and then use the connectivity from the submarine cables to move the data that we are concentrating in the data centers. 

The important point is that SACS represents a major change in network configuration.  The engineers that are designing and using the networks no longer will be restricted to north-south connections between South America and Africa.  We have a much more efficient system with much lower latency than routing the traffic to the North Atlantic cables.  Now we will be able to provide a high-capacity, low-latency route directly between Africa and South America. 

SCW: Angola is now becoming a hub for submarine cable traffic in West Africa.  How important is that for the country and its economy? 

Nunes: Since Angola is now a point of connectivity, it will become attractive for industries that use transatlantic capacity.  It is important for Angola to explore these opportunities in a better way than we are today, since we have a new form of traffic, a new form of activity, touching Angola.  This represents a big opportunity to bring new business to Angola. 

SCW: SACS uses the latest transmission technologies, does it not? 

Nunes: Yes, SACS can achieve at least 40 Tbps of capacity.  We are using the latest technology of fiber.  That was one of our deep concerns; that we put into the water a future-proof system.  And one of the things that we really cared about was the fiber type that we were using on the cables.  For us this was the big difference for the next generation of systems.  Of course the wavelength that is ready to be used today is 100G, but the fiber itself is ready for more than that. 

SCW: How do you see African Internet traffic growing in the future? 

Nunes: Today, Africa has the youngest population of any continent and it is the second biggest continent in terms of overall population.  There is no doubt that the next generation will use much more data than the one today.  So there is a strong probability that the amount of data used in Africa will grow quickly.  This is one of the reasons that we are investing in this connectivity.  In terms of Africa producing data content, we are still at the beginning.  The market we have today is really the start-up generation of traffic.