x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Undersea cable to speed up broadband

A $455 million undersea internet cable is set to give a boost to the region's sluggish internet connections.

ABU DHABI // Stand by for faster, cheaper broadband: a US$455 million undersea cable from India to Italy via the Gulf and Egypt has been completed, and will go live in weeks.

The cable comes ashore in Fujairah and can be used by du, and regional operators including the Saudi Telecom Company and Vodafone Qatar.

It is being tested and the first internet traffic will be carried in "the coming few weeks", said Gulf Bridge International, one of the companies behind it.

"Once the operators have more capacity, they can offer better speed for the end user," said Mohamed Elagazy, a senior vice president at GBI. "They can drop the prices, and they can offer more capacity, which will definitely affect the speed for the end user."

The cable took three years to build and its capacity of 5.18 terabits is "enough to carry all traffic in the Gulf to the rest of the world and vice versa", said Mr Elagazy.

The Middle East has relatively poor internet provision. The average speed is just 1.63 megabits per second (Mbps), well below the global average of 2.1Mbps, according to a report published in July by internet specialist Akamai Technologies.

In Lebanon, the average speed is just 0.3Mbps. The UAE has the region's fastest broadband connectivity, with an average of 3.92Mbps.

In another move to boost internet speeds, the UAE's telecoms regulator announced plans last month to build an internet exchange.

This would reduce the need for traffic to pass through hubs in locations such as Frankfurt, London and Amsterdam, and so improve connections.