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Nigerian telecommunications company, MainOne has launched an Internet submarine cable in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. The subsea cable, which is owned by 2Africa Consortium, led by Meta and managed by MainOne, is part of a greater plan to expand the network across West Africa and beyond, connecting more people and businesses to the global internet. The submarine cable is said to have a capacity of up to 180 terabytes per second, which is equivalent to transmitting 4,500 hours of high-definition video every second. It will accelerate 4G, 5G, and fixed broadband accessibility and supercharge digital transformation across critical sectors in the region. This means that the cable can provide faster and more reliable internet access to millions of users in the region, enabling them to enjoy better online services and connecting Akwa Ibom with Europe, Asia, and other African regions through the Atlantic Ocean. The landing of the cable promises an era of unprecedented economic and technological growth.

This is the first time such a cable is landing outside Lagos, the commercial and financial hub of Nigeria. Lagos has been the main gateway for internet traffic in and out of the country, hosting several submarine cables that link Nigeria to the rest of the world. However, this also means that Lagos is prone to congestion and bottlenecks, affecting the speed and reliability of internet services in other parts of the country. Global internet consumption is dramatically increasing due to a greater reliance on remote work and online communication. Cisco Global Cloud Index predicts a global internet traffic growth of 16% CAGR  reaching an annualized run rate of 966 Exabytes by 2026. As of April 2022, there were seven international submarine cables in Nigeria, which are submarine cables owned by Natcom Development and Investment Limited, trading as ntel, with a capacity of 800 gigabits; MainOne cable, with a capacity of 10 terabits, and Glo-1 or Globacom-1 cable, owned by Globacom Limited, with a capacity of 2.5 terabits. 

Akwa Ibom’s position in the South-South region makes it well-situated to serve the South-South, South-East, and North-Central regions, promoting more even distribution of improved connectivity and reducing the digital divide. Akwa Ibom is also a strategic location for MainOne, as it is close to its data center in Calabar, which hosts several local and international clients, such as Google, Facebook, and MTN. In its statement, MainOne said the feat marks a “significant milestone in enhancing broadband connectivity and driving economic development in the South-South, South-East and North-Central regions of Nigeria.” At 45,000 kilometers long, the cable will interconnect Europe, Asia, and Africa, providing access to more than 40% of the world’s population. The cable is also part of the 2Africa consortium, a project that aims to build the most comprehensive subsea cable system around Africa, connecting 23 countries and four continents. 

The new cable landing point in Akwa Ibom also provides an alternative route for internet traffic, reducing reliance on Lagos and improving overall network resilience in Nigeria. This means that in case of any disruptions or outages in Lagos, the internet services in the rest of the country will not be affected, ensuring continuity and stability. The cable also enhances the security and redundancy of the network, as it can reroute traffic through different paths in case of any faults or attacks.

Yet, this is not just about improved internet accessibility. It presents a host of opportunities. The mission of the cable is to drive economic development in the South-South, South-East, and North-Central regions of Nigeria. These regions have untapped economic potential that could be boosted by improved internet connectivity. Akwa Ibom, where the cable is been launched, is an emerging technology and innovation hub, with a planned Science Park, emphasis on IT and related subjects in the educational curriculum, and several tech and innovation hubs employing thousands of young people. According to the Ibom Innovation Network, Akwa Ibom has 13 tech and innovation hubs that have trained over 15,000 people and employed over 4,000 people in the tech space. The state hosted last year’s Tech Week which showcased its achievements, potentials, and opportunities in the tech sector. The cable can create a more fertile ground for startups and entrepreneurs by providing the necessary infrastructure for innovation and digital ventures. This includes fostering e-commerce, attracting tech companies and investments, and improving efficiency in various sectors. 

The cable can also support the development of local content and applications, such as e-government, e-health, e-learning, and e-agriculture, which can address some of the social and environmental challenges in the region. Moreover, Akwa Ibom also has the longest shoreline in the country. Data shows Akwa Ibom has a coastline stretching approximately 129 kilometers, from Oron to Ikot Abasi the longest among Nigerian states bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The state also has the largest reserves of crude oil and gas, the largest oil and gas free zone in West Africa by landmass, measuring 50,215 hectares across six local council areas, and an independent power plant with a generation capacity of 189 MW and a license to expand to 685 MW. These are all conducive to attracting foreign and local investors in the digital economy. The cable can also foster more collaboration and integration among the regions, as well as with other parts of the world, creating more opportunities for trade, investment, and cultural exchange.

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