Facebook is delving deeper into telecom infrastructure as it continues to develop ways to make broadband more affordable. Its latest effort is an ambitious plan to develop underwater data cable that would encircle the African continent.
Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon Are Quietly Buying Undersea Cables https://t.co/fuRBhcBWTd
— Slashdot (@slashdot) April 7, 2019
The new project, codenamed Simba, is expected to drive down broadband cost and score new users on its social platforms.
According to a report on Wall Street Journal, the undersea cable could link up with existing access points on the beaches of African countries on the Western, Northern and Eastern part of the continent. The move could cost the company as much as $1 billion, one telecom industry player claims.
Importantly the move is the latest effort by the social media company to improve internet access for much of the continent. A few years ago, the company introduced Free Basics, a free portal with access to select group of websites. But Free Basics isn’t a very popular system and the portal has been banned in several countries.
Also, before 2019, Facebook joined Google in designing flying objects which would help provide internet access to different locations. While Google, under Project Loon developed balloons for this purpose, Facebook had been designing drones under its Aquila Program. After enduring several difficulties, Facebook killed the program in June 2018.
The company’s current pivot to undersea data cables isn’t the first time it would pursue such. The social media company has led and financed a few of such projects linking markets in North Africa, Europe and East Asia, says the Wall Street Journal. Its usual practice is to share the investment burden with other interested players.
On the one hand it reduces the cost for these players. On the other hand, it helps Facebook get the industry players who will actually use the system. As a result it appears to be a win-win, and Facebook hopes the move will help reduce bandwidth cost.
Yet the project could be a hard sell in Africa. Regardless of how financially buoyant Facebook is, telecoms operating in Africa have lost large portions of their revenues due to Facebook and other free internet services.
As a result many of these companies have been forced to up their ante and develop data infrastructures for themselves. This decision is well informed, as a few companies have begun to see huge increments in their data revenues.
Getting these companies to partner with Facebook to build an infrastructure that would be more beneficial to Facebook won’t be an easy hurdle.
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