x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

New cable to speed internet connections in Gulf

A new broadband cable, owned by Tata Communications, serving the Gulf promises faster and more reliable connections amid growing internet use in the region.

In recent years, internet services have been disrupted several times because of damage to undersea cables. Reuters
In recent years, internet services have been disrupted several times because of damage to undersea cables. Reuters

A new broadband cable serving the Gulf promises faster and more reliable connections amid growing internet use in the region.

The link - which went live last month - lands in the UAE at Dubai and Fujairah, and is owned by India's Tata Communications.

The cable is connected to Tata's US$800 million (Dh2.93 billion) worldwide internet-cable network, which has also recently been completed.

Tata said yesterday its TGN-Gulf subsea internet cable - which connects India, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE - went live on February 21.

The company has signed partnerships with operators such as Etisalat in the UAE, Nawras in Oman and Qtel in Qatar.

Vinod Kumar, the chief executive of Tata Communications, said the new cable would boost internet speeds in the region.

"There's a demand in the Middle East for higher broadband speeds, and I think our cable will facilitate that," he said. "It will have an effect on internet performance in the region."

In recent years, internet services have been disrupted several times because of damage to undersea cables. Radwan Moussalli, the managing director for Tata Communications in the Middle East and North Africa, said the new cable was unique in that it avoided hazards in the Strait of Hormuz.

"The Strait of Hormuz has shallow waters - and, historically, most of the cable cuts were happening there, so we wanted to avoid that area," he said. "And of course, with what is happening in the Strait of Hormuz today, it turned out to be a smart move to have this bypass."

Iran has threatened to close the strait, the most important oil-transport route in the world, in response to international sanctions aimed at halting its nuclear programme. Such a move would probably impede repairs to the undersea internet cables that pass through the channel.

Mr Moussalli stressed the decision to route the cable terrestrially across the UAE was made well before the recent escalation in tensions between Iran and the West.

Tata Communications has invested more than $240m in infrastructure in the region over the past three years, including on undersea cables, said Mr Moussalli.

The Gulf cable could be extended further to Iraq and Kuwait, Mr Moussalli added.

Tata will compete for telecoms customers with the likes of Gulf Bridge International (GBI), the Middle East's first privately owned regional cable operator. GBI said last month that its $445m undersea cable, which connects India with Europe via the Gulf and Egypt, was ready for use.

Mr Kumar said he expected clients in the Middle East to account for "10 to 15 per cent" of the total capacity on the global network.

bflanagan@thenational.ae.

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