Internet users across the Gulf region can look forward to faster speeds with the launch of a land-based cable network.
The telecoms firm du yesterday announced a partnership with Kuwait’s Zain Group, Zajil Telecom and Vodafone Qatar for the launch of the high-speed terrestrial network.
It is designed to improve communication speeds for regional and international carriers.
The four operators yesterday unveiled the Middle East-Europe Terrestrial System (Meets), a 1,400-kilometre fibre optic network linking the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
The system, an optical transport network with an initial capacity of 200 gigabits per second, will turn operational in the first quarter of next year.
Osman Sultan,the chief executive of du, said: “Customers in the Middle East today have ever-increasing high-speed data needs, as it is becoming an integral part of today’s lifestyle. The announcement of Meets with like-minded visionary partners is a step towards realising this need.”
The system involves a 15-year rental agreement for part of an existing fibre network installed by the GCC Interconnection Authority, a regional body that connects the power grids of GCC member states. The operators were not involved in the installation of the fibre cables.
Mahesh Jaishnaker, the vice president of datamena and broadcasting at du, said: “That was the beauty of it, and why it was so cost-effective. If it was a question of laying cable ourselves, the business case would have been tougher.”
The cost of the network was about US$36 million, which would be shared equally between the operators involved, said Mr Jaishnaker.
The new cable network is the first high-speed terrestrial cable between the five countries, which have so far relied on undersea cables, according to a spokesman for the project.
A terrestrial network offers the advantage of lower latency rates, less risk of damage, and quicker repair times than undersea cables.
Khalifa Al Soulah, the chief executive of Zajil Telecom, said: “The Middle East is one of the fastest growing regions in the world, which creates an ever-growing demand for bandwidth.
“Regional telecoms need more bandwidth to meet this demand and sustain the growth, as well as more options. Meets is one such option offered by a strong and stable consortium of telecom partners.”
The Meets cable network will run from Fujairah – where it will link to three undersea cables between the Middle East and Asia – to Kuwait, providing links as well to Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
Use of the network is not confined to the four operators and their subsidiaries; it is available to other operators within the Gulf region and overseas.
The operators ultimately plan to extend the cable network through Iraq and into Turkey, thereby providing a full terrestrial fibre link to Europe, reducing the reliance on undersea cables.
Data traffic between Europe and the Middle East is overwhelmingly routed via undersea cables that land in Egypt.
Cuts to undersea cables in Egypt in recent years have caused severe disruptions to internet speeds across the Middle East.
In March, Egyptian naval forces arrested three divers, whom they accused of attempting to cut undersea cables.
The consortium had held meetings with several parties that own fibre networks in Iraq, said Mr Jaishnaker, declining to provide details of who was involved and when the link to Europe was likely turn operational.
The Meets cable project was launched on the sidelines of Telecoms World Middle East, which is being held in Dubai until tomorrow.