Africa has now got another major internet connection to Europe through a $700 million (£430 million) France Telecom Orange-led consortium.

The ACE (Africa Coast to Europe) consortium submarine cable is now able to serve the first 13 countries on Africa's western coast after landing at the small country of Sao Tom & Principe.

The ACE cable, said the consortium, will contribute to the development of multinational companies present in Africa by improving connectivity between their local subsidiaries and their global networks.

This will allow them to develop added-value services in areas such as unified communications, IT and customer relations, said ACE.

The first phase has seen nearly 12,000 km of optical fibre running along the west coast of Africa. The cable will eventually extend as far as South Africa for the second phase, taking in another seven countries.

Two landlocked countries, Mali and Niger, will also be connected through extensions to the existing terrestrial network. And Nigeria will also be connected to the cable in 2013.

Seven of the countries in the first phase - The Gambia, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Sao Tom & Principe and Sierra Leone - will benefit for the first time from a direct connection to a submarine cable, enabling them to enjoy optimal access to the international broadband network.

The France Telecom Orange group has put in $250 million (£153 million) to finance the project and its African telecoms consortium partners have put in the rest.

Through links to other submarine cables, ACE also provides an additional western route for traffic, including an alternative and secure route for communications to countries already connected to the main international cable linking Portugal and Malaysia, for instance.

ACE relies on the industry standard wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) technology, which allows cable capacity to be increased without additional submarine work.

At the end of last year Tata Communications quadrupled the bandwidth of its London to New York subsea cable network to enable 40 gigabits per second services for carriers and enterprises.