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5 European Subsea Cables and How They Will Break the Digital Divide

Today, there are more than 420 subsea telecommunication cables in the world carrying roughly 99% of total internet traffic. It is estimated that more than US$10 trillion dollars of daily financial transactions, four times the annual GDP of France, pass through these “seabed highways”.

Undersea cables are vital to the global economy and communications between people, businesses and governments. 

Their deployment is costly but the benefits transcend the CAPEX to do so. Some recent data from RTI International which investigated the impact of Meta’s subsea cables in different economies, shows that capital deployments in Europe by the Facebook parent company, especially with the Marea cable system, have delivered about $18 billion each year to Europe’s economy since 2019.

The firm estimates that as Meta deploys two new cables, the company will be making a contribution of about $65 billion annually to the continent’s economy by 2027. On a country specific level, for example, in Ireland, the cables are estimated to contribute $2.78 billion to the Irish economy each year, beginning in 2025.

With undersea infrastructure critical to all our daily lives, JSA Europe looks at five projects which will boast economies up but also help fight back the digital divide by bringing better and more robust services to and from Europe. 

 

Grace Hopper

First up, from Google, by Google, the Grace Hopper Cable System is a new route connecting the US to the UK and the US to Spain. 

The system was brought online at the end of September 2022 after Google notified the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that the Grace Hopper cable system linking New York (US) and Bude (UK) was put into service.

The main trunk has a total length of 6,354km and will consist of 16 fibre pairs, while the Spain Branch connecting to Bilbao stretches 837km also featuring 16 fibre pairs.

Some of the telcos taking part in the Grace Hopper cable include Lumen Technologies, SubCom, and Telxius.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, data flows are the lifeblood of the U.S.- Europe trade and investment partnership, with more data flowing between the two continents than anywhere else in the world. 

Data flows are essential to small and large businesses and support global financial systems, medical research, cybersecurity efforts, and burgeoning global demands for high quality content.

 

2Africa

Probably one of the most exciting subsea projects currently being deployed at the bottom off the Atlantic and India Oceans as well as the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, this 45,000Km system is being headed by Meta and in partnership with several industry heavyweights including China Mobile, MTN, Orange, Saudi Telecom, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone, Equinix, Alcatel Submarine Networks and WIOCC.

Announced in May 2020, 2Africa was planned to directly bring seamless international connectivity to 1.2 billion people. This was increased in 3 billion people roughly 1.5 years later as a new segment – the 2Africa PEARLS branch – extending to the Arabian Gulf, Pakistan and into India was added.

Expected to come into service in 2024, the cable will land in more than 30 countries, comprising several European nations including the UK, Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy.

Kevin Salvadori, Vice President, Network at Meta, said: “The past years have highlighted the importance of connectivity as billions of people around the world rely on the internet to work, attend school, and stay connected to people they care about. 

“We continue to invest in subsea cables in Africa, Europe and beyond as communities and businesses flourish when there is widely-accessible internet. Facebook is continuing to build innovative solutions such as these critical fibre optic superhighways so that everyone can benefit from the economic, educational, and social advantages of a digitally connected world.”

 

Medusa

Medusa Submarine Cable System is a submarine fibre optic system connecting the East and West Mediterranean with the Atlantic Sea, creating a new corridor from Asia to the Atlantic and enabling the regional development of the information Society and its actors.

Medusa SCS is projected to be ready for the service in 2024 connecting Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Morocco and Algeria and in 2025 connecting to Tunisia, Greece and Egypt.

The cable is owned by Infrastructure and Telecom Operator AFR-IX telecom. AFR-IX telecom is a private European capital company.

AFR-IX telecom is a licensed telecommunication operator in Portugal, USA, and in multiple African countries as South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, DRC, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Niger and Cameroon.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is also interested to partially finance Medusa Submarine Cable System. The project is currently under appraisal.

 

SeaMeWe-6

The Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe (SEA-ME-WE 6) system is a 19,200km subsea cable connecting South East Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe at 12 locations from Singapore to France.

The development is owned by Airtel (Bharti), Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL), China Unicom, Dhiraagu, Djibouti Telecom, Microsoft, Mobily, Orange, PCCW, Singtel, Sri Lanka Telecom, Telecom Egypt, Telekom Malaysia, Telin, and TransWorld.

Expected to be turned on in the second quarter of 2025, the SMW6 cable system consists of 10 fibre pairs, with 12.6Tbps per fibre pair and 126Tbps system capacity, using the latest SDM technology, cost approximately $500million.

The SEA-ME-WE 6 subsea cable will increase internet capacity, speeds, redundancy, and reliability, while lowering latency, between Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe. In turn, the system will help meet rising data demands and offer one of the lowest latencies available on this high traffic density route between Asia and Europe.

SubCom has been selected for the supply and installation of the cable. SubCom will deploy SL17-SDM cable. The network will leverage SubCom’s 18-kV power source technology.

 

Leif Erikson

Over in Norway, Nordic fibre player Bulk Fiber Networks and submarine cable planning, engineering, and implementation firm WFN Strategies have begun a system supplier tendering for the prospective Leif Erikson cable project.

The Leif Erikson Cable System will consist of a 4,200 km direct link between southern Norway and Atlantic-Canada connecting into Goose Bay, including plans to extend the system terrestrially back to Montreal.

The Leif Erikson system will be the first trans-Atlantic cable powered with 100% renewable energy, the companies claimed.

The system tendering process will identify and solicit system suppliers for the cable manufacture and installation of the Leif Erikson submarine cable project.

Intended for solicitation in Q3 2022, the tender process is expected to conclude negotiations and finalise the contract award in Q4 2022.

Bulk Infrastructure owns and operates more than 10,000 km of international and intra-Nordic high-capacity subsea and terrestrial fibre networks, including four live subsea fibre systems in addition to the Leif Erikson system now kicking off detailed planning.

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