Equinix and Vodafone today announced a plan to build a new data center in Genoa, Italy, called GN1, which will be a hub for subsea cables, including the 2Africa system. Indeed, Genoa is well-positioned geographically to be a key location on the global subsea cable map. Vodafone, which is the 2Africa subsea cable consortium’s lead for European landings, will land the cable system in Genoa and use Equinix’s GN1 facility as a strategic interconnection point, which will connect onwards to Milan. In turn, the 2Africa subsea cable will create stronger connectivity throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

2Africa Subsea Cable – Overview

The 2Africa subsea cable will be ready for service in 2023 and will cost ~$1bn to build. Specifically, the consortium funding the project includes China Mobile, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone, and WIOCC.

Equinix 2Africa Subsea Cable Genoa Milan Map

Overall, 2Africa spans 23k miles (37k kilometers) from Western Europe, entirely around Africa, up through the Middle East, and into Southern Europe. In aggregate, 2Africa will be one of the largest subsea cables in the world, connecting 23 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Additionally, 2Africa has a design capacity of 180 terabits per second, across 16 fiber pairs. Indeed, this capacity represents more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa presently.

Rationale for the 2Africa Subsea Cable

The 2Africa subsea cable is critical to improving connectivity between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Importantly, this system will deliver significant capacity and reliability of internet connectivity between Africa and the rest of the world. In turn, the 2Africa subsea cable will underpin the further growth of 4G, 5G, and fixed broadband access for hundreds of millions of people. Indeed, the system is particularly relevant for services that require large amounts of data transfer, like cloud computing and video.

Africa is experiencing a critical period of digital infrastructure need. Over the coming years, digital technologies will improve African people’s quality of life and driving economic development in the region. Indeed, the number of mobile internet users in Africa will continue to grow rapidly. This is primarily due to increasing smartphone and fixed broadband penetration. Specifically, Africa requires digital infrastructure to support new services such as mobile payments, instant messaging, and video streaming.

Additionally, the 2Africa subsea cable will facilitate growth of increasingly digital economies across Europe by strengthening connectivity between European countries. Specifically, by linking Spain and Portugal directly to Genoa and Milan (through Equinix), the 2Africa system will avert fiber bottlenecks that normally occur between France and Spain. Therefore, the 2Africa subsea cable enhances the resiliency of intra-European networks.

Equinix – Genoa and Milan Data Centers in Italy

Italy is quickly becoming a strategic interconnection point for the Southern Europe region and beyond. To facilitate this transformation Equinix is building data center infrastructure in the country, with notable facilities in Genoa (GN1) and Milan (ML5), which connect with the 2Africa subsea cable.

Genoa Data Center – Strategic Interconnection Point

Equinix’s new data center in Genoa, called GN1, targets having Phase I complete by Q4 2021. Specifically, GN1 Phase I will deliver ~1.1 megawatts / 150 cabinets of power capacity and provide colocation space of 6.0k sqft (560 sqm). Overall, Equinix anticipates that GN1 Phase I will cost $21m to complete. To-date Equinix has spent $2.0m to purchase land for GN1 and has invested a further $1.1m to develop the site.

Milan Data Center – Italy’s Data Center Hub

GN1 will have a direct fiber connection to ML5, Equinix’s flagship data center in Milan, which will open Phase I during Q1 2021. Indeed, ML5 Phase I will deliver ~3.5 megawatts / 500 cabinets of power capacity and provide colocation space of 15.0k sqft (1.4k sqm).

Equinix Milan Data Centers Italy

Additionally, Equinix plans to open ML5 Phase II in Q4 2021. This phase will expand the campus with a further ~7.0 megawatts / 1,025 cabinets of power capacity. Overall, Equinix is investing a total of $80m into ML5 Phase I and Phase II.

Genoa and Milan – Data Center Ecosystem

By connecting Equinix’s facility in Genoa with Milan, this will allow Equinix customers to increase the number of partners they connect with and expand their reach into new markets. The combination of 2Africa’s landing in the new Genoa site and the direct connection to Milan means GN1 will offer a new, complementary, and diverse connectivity option for the Southern Europe region.

Importantly, GN1 will be Genoa’s first carrier-neutral data center. Therefore, Equinix’s GN1 customers can access secure, resilient colocation and interconnection services. Furthermore, customers of GN1 can extend their reach, via direct fiber, to leverage Equinix’s ecosystem and colocation facilities in Milan.

Combining Data Centers and Subsea Cables

Equinix is linking major subsea cable systems, such as 2Africa, to cloud and content ecosystems through its data centers. In turn, this allows Equinix’s customers to access a variety of scalable cloud services almost anywhere globally. Indeed, because Equinix is carrier-neutral, subsea cable system operators can offer excess network capacity to customers of Equinix. Importantly, this dynamic allows customers to quickly and efficiently reach the markets being served by new subsea cable architectures.

Mary Zhang covers Data Centers for Dgtl Infra, including Equinix (NASDAQ: EQIX), Digital Realty (NYSE: DLR), CyrusOne, CoreSite Realty, QTS Realty, Switch Inc, Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM), Cyxtera (NASDAQ: CYXT), and many more. Within Data Centers, Mary focuses on the sub-sectors of hyperscale, enterprise / colocation, cloud service providers, and edge computing. Mary has over 5 years of experience in research and writing for Data Centers.


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