Google claims new cable will triple South Africa’s Internet speeds

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At its first-ever Google for Africa event, the search giant claimed that its new Equiano undersea cable would increase Internet speeds in South Africa almost three-fold.

The subsea cable, named Equiano, will run through South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria, and St Helena to connect the continent with Europe.

“This will lead to a 21% reduction in Internet prices and increase internet speed in Nigeria and almost triple in South Africa,” said Nitin Gajria, Managing Director for Google in Africa.

This is a curious claim from Google, as the Internet speeds experienced by end-users depends on more than the undersea cables connecting us to the rest of the world.

It is especially curious considering the glut of subsea cables that land in South Africa. On the West coast, we have cables such as WACS, SAT3, and SACS. On the East coast, we have SEACOM, EASSy, and SAFE.

None of these cable systems are close to running at their maximum capacity. Equiano is therefore not expected to have much of an effect on Internet speeds in South Africa but could further improve the resiliency of our international connectivity.

In addition to its Equiano undersea cable, Google also announced a plan to invest $1 billion (R15 billion) over five years to support digital transformation in Africa.

“We’ve made huge strides together over the past decade — but there’s more work to do to make the internet accessible, affordable and useful for every African,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet.

“Today I’m excited to reaffirm our commitment to the continent through an investment of $1B over five years to support Africa’s digital transformation to cover a range of initiatives from improved connectivity to investment in startups.”

As the affordability of smartphones also impedes internet access, Android has developed a device locking technology as part of its platform that will enable partners to offer financed devices.

Google has collaborated with Kenya’s largest carrier Safaricom to support the launch of the first “Device Financing” plan in Kenya and will expand the project with partners such as MTN and Vodacom.

The tech company announced the implementation of Plus Codes — a free and open-source addressing system — in Africa.

The government of The Gambia has adopted Google Plus Codes to provide addresses for residents and businesses across the capital Banjul and are expanding to the rest of the country.

Plus codes will expand to South Africa, Kenya and other countries in partnership with governments and non-governmental organisations.

Sundar Pichai
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Alphabet and Google

Google also revealed its plans to invest in entrepreneurship and technology through a Black Founders Fund, which will see the company investing in Black-led startups in Africa by providing cash awards and hands-on support.

The company will invest $50M in startups and provide them with access to Google’s employees, network, and technologies to help them build products for their communities through its newly launched Africa Investment fund.

The announcement will expand Google’s support for Africa’s digital transformation and entrepreneurship.

“I am happy to note that Google has been active in supporting Small to Medium Enterprises, dedicating even more resources to this sector, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, South African Minister of Small Business Development.

“In the last 12 months, Google has helped close to 500,000 African businesses get online and reach new customers.”

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