A project from Angola Cables could soon start connecting the BRICS bloc countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

 

A project from Angola Cables could soon start connecting the BRICS bloc countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“Angola Cables’ network, including the cable between Brazil and Angola, would allow an immediate connection of the BRICS. In fact, we are at this moment talking to the South African part to promote the connectivity,” António Nunes (pictured), CEO of the Angolan telecom group, told BNamericas in an exclusive interview.

The project still needs to engage other players and forge operational partnerships.

Currently, Angola Cables’ submarine systems, owned directly or in consortium, are concentrated on the Atlantic. They include Monet, which connects Florida (US) to Fortaleza and Santos (Brazil), and Maldonado (Uruguay), in partnership with Google, Antel and Algar; and the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS), a proprietary project connecting Angolan capital Luanda with Fortaleza along a 6,200km line.

Monet is up and running while SACS has been deployed but is still in tests, with activation scheduled for early August.

Nunes sees Angola Cables as being an “active agent in the feasibility of the BRICS interconnectivity project”. And it is by leveraging on SACS – the only direct LatAm-Africa route – that the company aims to get there.

Angola Cables submarine cables routes. In dark blue, projects owned directly or in consortium by the company. In dotted light blue, the SACS project. Credit: Angola Cables.
From Luanda, SACS links WACS, the West Africa Cable System, a 14,530km route that goes from Yzerfontein in South Africa to London. WACS connects 11 countries with 14 landing points, 12 of which along the western coast of Africa and two (Portugal and England) in Europe.

Angola Cables is just one of the 12 members of the consortium that manages WACS, but it is one of its largest shareholders.

In South Africa, though, SACS-WACS would have to “go on a ride” on the routes of other systems that are not managed by Angola Cables in order to continue its BRICS journey.

One of them is the South Africa Far East (SAFE) system, a 13,500 km fiber cable linking Melkbosstrand, South Africa up to Penang, Malaysia, passing through Kochi in India. SAFE is a consortium of over 30 companies, which does not include Angola Cables but does include state-run Angola Telecom.

India’s Kochi is a landing point for the South East Asia-Middle East-Western (SeaMeWee3) submarine cable system, the longest in the world at 39,000km. It connects Australia, Germany and South Korea, and includes landings points in Shanghai and Shantou, in China.

SeaMeWee3 is led by France Telecom and China Telecom, and managed by Singapore’s Singtel. The consortium comprises over 90 companies, including Telefónica, Telecom Argentina and Brazil’s Embratel.

The only missing bit in the BRICS route, therefore, would be Russia.

There are only two submarine cables coming in or out of Russia on the Pacific, and both link to Japan. Connection would have to be ground-based and via Russian telco Rostelecom, which operates the TEA (Transit Europe-Asia), a terrestrial cable network linking to Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, among other cities and countries.

The first time a BRICS submarine network project was ever mentioned was in 2012. The original plan called for a network spanning over 34,000km, linking BRICS to the US, that would have been ready by 2014. The initiative, however, never left the drawing board.

In 2015, Russia pushed for the interconnection. The initiative was brought up by the Russians at that year’s BRICS summit meeting, but did not make it to the event’s final document.

This time around things could be different and the BRICS network could be even bigger. Nunes says Angola Cables is eyeing Chile and other South American markets, which could link to the BRICS system indirectly.

To that end, Paraguayan president-elect Mario Abdo Benítez met Brazil’s President Michel Temer earlier this month to talk, among other things, about accessing the subsea international cabling systems reaching Brazil via the Atlantic.

 

by Pedro Ozores, BN Americas