x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

New submarine cables set to propel Middle East's internet connectivity

The UAE's connection to the rest of the online world will receive a boost after a major submarine telecommunications cable was switched on.

The UAE's connection to the rest of the online world will receive a boost after a major submarine telecommunications cable was switched on.

Etisalat said the India-Middle East-western Europe (I-ME-WE) cable, a 13,000km submarine broadband connection that crosses three continents, has been activated this month.

In another major step forward for the Middle East's online community, it was announced by the operator two weeks ago that it is part of a nine-member consortium that will invest US$500 million (Dh1.83 billion) to create a vast regional submarine fibre-optic cable network.

The boost in broadband connectivity comes nine months after the UAE experienced a major online outage after a submarine cable was severed in the Mediterranean Sea. The cable, dubbed the SE-ME-WE-4, took two weeks to repair and left many UAE residents' and businesses' internet connections running at a slow crawl.

Submarine telecoms cables are the backbone of the internet yet are about the width of a standard pen. They transmit most of the data for internet use and telephone calls around the world and have a lifespan of about 20 years.

"The extra capacity and reliability provided by the I-ME-WE cable will be responding to substantial growth in capacity requirements due to a surge in broadband demand witnessed by the region," said Ali Amiri, the executive vice president of Etisalat's carrier and wholesale services division.

Other operators involved in supporting the I-ME-WE cable include Bharti Airtel, France Telecom, Saudi Telecom Company, Telecom Italia and Tata Communications.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Tata's contribution was previously reported to be $200m.

According to TeleGeography, a telecoms research firm, the I-ME-WE cable is one of several connections made in the Middle East over the past year that will boost broadband capacity from 1,990 gigabytes (gb) to 28,230 gb a second.

The I-ME-WE cable is said to have a design capacity of 3.84 terabits a second, or be able to transfer about 836 standard DVD movies a second.

 

dgeorgecosh@thenational.ae