Yesterday marked the first time in recent Internet history that a new submarine cable carried live traffic across the South Atlantic, directly connecting South America to Sub-Saharan Africa. The South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) built by Angola Cables achieved this feat around midday on 18 September 2018.
Our Internet monitoring tools noticed a change in latency between our measurement servers in various Brazilian cities and Luanda, Angola, decreasing from over 300ms to close to 100ms. Below these are measurements to Angolan telecoms TVCABO (AS36907) and Movicel (AS37081) as the SACS cable came online yesterday.
A race to be first
In the past decade there have been multiple submarine cable proposals to fill this gap in international connectivity, such as South Atlantic Express (SAEx) and South Atlantic Inter Link (SAIL) cables.
In recent weeks, the SAIL cable, financed and built by China, announced that they had completed construction of their cable and it was the first cable connecting Brazil to Africa (Cameroon). However, since we haven’t seen any changes in international connectivity for Cameroon, we don’t believe this cable is carrying any traffic yet.
What’s the significance?
In addition to directly connecting Brazil to Portuguese-speaking Angola, the cable offers South America its first new submarine cable link to the outside world in 18 years that doesn’t go through the United States. The upcoming EllaLink cable that will connect Brazil directly to Europe (Portugal) has an RFS date in the year 2020.
The SACS cable will enable South America to more directly reach the growing Internet economies of Africa, as well as offer an alternative path to Europe after cross-connecting to other submarine cables hugging Africa’s western coast. Eventually the SACS cable, by traversing the African continent itself, will enable more direct connectivity between South America and Asia bypassing Europe and the United States altogether.
In addition, the SACS cable connects to Google’s MONET cable at Fortaleza, Brazil enabling the African Internet a more direct path to the United States without first passing through Europe.
It is hard to overstate the potential for this new cable to profoundly alter how traffic is routed (or not) between the northern and southern hemispheres of the Internet. The South Atlantic was the last major unserviced transoceanic Internet route and the activation of SACS is a tremendous milestone for the growth and resilience of the global Internet.
I recently gave a talk with Angola Cables at LACNIC 2018 about the activation of the SACS cable. Watch the video here: