Lisbon: A Digital Gateway Enabling Growth and Resilience

Subsea cable operators are expanding capacity across emerging and developed markets, and Lisbon is uniquely positioned to support both goals

Carlos Paulino
Keith Shaw
Lisbon: A Digital Gateway Enabling Growth and Resilience

Subsea cables have existed for more than 150 years, but demand continues to grow. TeleGeography predicts that $11 billion in new cable systems will go into service between 2023 and 2025.[1] Where this growth is happening is also important. Operators are adding capacity on established routes, but they’re also investing in new cables to emerging markets.

This two-pronged approach will spur digital growth in new places while also making global digital infrastructure more resilient. As extreme weather, geopolitical conflicts and other threats arise, having more cables across more routes will provide redundancy and ensure the continued growth of our digital economy.

In this new reality, Lisbon is becoming one of the most important subsea cable hubs on the planet. This is largely thanks to its strategic location at the confluence of Europe, Africa, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The Portuguese government has worked to take advantage of this by supporting new digital infrastructure projects and speeding up the licensing process. As a result, Portugal has become one of the few countries in the world with direct subsea cable connectivity to every populated continent.[2]

Lisbon offers cable operators one location that can help meet both of their priorities: opening new routes to emerging markets and providing alternative routes between developed markets. We can see this playing out with new cable systems that have landed in Lisbon recently and others scheduled to do so soon.

Providing the foundation for digital growth in Africa

International internet bandwidth into Africa grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 44% between 2019 and 2023, the fastest growth of any continent by far.[3] This is largely because of the unmatched digital opportunity that exists in Africa today. More than 850 million Africans still lack basic internet connectivity.[4] Two new cable systems that land in Lisbon—Equiano and 2Africa—are designed to help change that.

Equiano and 2Africa are backed by two global tech companies—Google and Meta, respectively. Both companies have business models that depend on bringing in new users to view more content. The markets in Europe and North America have become saturated, but connecting even a small portion of the unconnected population in Africa would open a massive pool of potential new users.

In addition to providing growth opportunities for global companies, these cables will also help stimulate the growth of digital economies in Africa. Increased upstream capacity to the continent will result in more internet users, which will create an incentive for service providers to invest further in Africa’s digital infrastructure.

When complete, 2Africa will circle Africa and be the longest subsea cable system ever built. The leg serving West Africa lands at an Equinix IBX® data center in Lisbon.

Source: Meta

Enabling low-latency connectivity to Latin America

Lisbon also plays a key role in driving digital growth in Latin America. When the EllaLink cable system launched in 2021, it became the first cable to directly link Europe with South America. In the past, traffic moving from Europe to Latin America had to pass through the U.S. first. In addition to introducing potential data sovereignty issues, this led to higher latency due to the indirect route.

By bypassing the U.S., EllaLink was able to cut latency in half. This has big implications for industries with many latency-sensitive use cases, including financial services and gaming. The cable is also noteworthy because it connects Portugal and Brazil, two of the world’s largest Portuguese-speaking countries. It’s now easier than ever for organizations to capitalize on the linguistic and cultural connections between the two.

EllaLink lands at Equinix IBX data centers in both Lisbon and São Paulo. These two metros are also connected by Equinix Fabric®, our virtual networking solution. This means that Equinix customers can easily acquire capacity on EllaLink from our self-service web portal.

Increasing subsea cable resiliency worldwide

As mentioned earlier, today’s subsea cables face a wide range of threats. That’s why cable operators are bringing redundant capacity to established routes, in addition to pursuing emerging markets like Africa and Latin America. Once again, Lisbon plays a key role in making this happen, both in the Mediterranean and transatlantic corridors.

Although Lisbon is more often considered an Atlantic cable hub, operators clearly include it in their redundancy strategy for the Mediterranean corridor. That’s why the Medusa cable system is scheduled to connect Lisbon with Egypt, with branches landing in various European and North African markets along the way. When it launches in 2025, Medusa will be the first new cable system between Lisbon and the Mediterranean in more than 15 years.

Planned route for the Medusa subsea cable system

Source: Medusa

The Medusa company named three drivers for building the cable:[5]

  • Increasing connectivity between Europe and North Africa
  • Increasing connectivity between Mediterranean islands and the mainland
  • Increasing connectivity between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic

The last point above gets to the heart of what makes Lisbon so important. It’s one of the only hubs positioned to serve both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, so it makes sense that new cable systems are coming in from both directions. In addition to Medusa on the Mediterranean side, Lisbon will also be a landing site for the Nuvem cable system on the Atlantic side.

The Nuvem cable—which, like Equiano, will be built by Google[6]—is scheduled to launch in 2026. It will directly connect Portugal with the U.S., landing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This will provide an alternative to the more traditional—and crowded—North Atlantic route. The high capacity that Nuvem offers will both increase reliability and improve performance between the U.S. and Europe.

Supporting digital growth in Lisbon

To support our partners and customers looking to capitalize on Lisbon’s strategic location, we’re announcing Equinix LS2, our new Equinix IBX colocation data center in Lisbon. The additional capacity LS2 provides will not only meet the demand for subsea cable landings in Lisbon, but also improve resilience. The new facility will be separate from LS1, our existing data center in Lisbon. The two facilities will offer redundant power and cooling systems, removing the potential for a single point of failure.

While LS2 and LS1 will be separate, they’ll also be closely connected. This means that any bandwidth from existing cable systems landing at LS1 will be instantly available to customers in LS2. It also means that any new customers deploying in LS2 can immediately take advantage of the dense service provider ecosystem we’ve built in LS1. This ecosystem includes numerous network providers, cloud providers and content and digital media companies that serve Portugal and the rest of southern Europe.

All the new cables named above illustrate how Lisbon helps make our digital world smaller and more connected. With the announcement of LS2, we’re proud to play our part in further cementing Lisbon’s place among the most important cable landing hubs on the planet. The colocation capacity and ecosystem density LS2 provides will help our customers take full advantage of the new cable bandwidth coming to and from Lisbon.

Learn more about Equinix IBX data centers in Lisbon. Or, read our vision paper The future of digital leadership for a closer look at the trends driving distributed, interconnected digital infrastructure growth across the globe.


[1] The State of the Network 2024 Edition, TeleGeography, January 2024.

[2] Portugal: A Hidden Gem of Connectivity, Deloitte, 2022.

[3] The State of the Network 2024 Edition, TeleGeography, January 2024.

[4] Saifaddin Galal, Unconnected population in Africa 2024, by region, Statista, February 26, 2024.

[5] Mediterranean Subsea Infrastructure Operator: Neutral and Independent. Medusa Submarine Cable System.

[6] Brian Quigley, Meet Nuvem, a cable to connect Portugal, Bermuda, and the U.S., Google Cloud blog, September 25, 2023.

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Carlos Paulino Managing Director, Portugal
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Keith Shaw Business Development Senior Manager
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