A new consortium of telecoms operators from Europe, Africa, Middle East and India will build a new 15,000-km cable linking the India subcontinent to as west as the UK. The new system, called Europe India Gateway (EIG) will add a further 3.84Tbps of potential capacity between the path of the cable, currently served predominantly by Reliance’s Flag and SEA-ME-WE 4 systems.
The EIG system is scheduled for service by the second quarter of 2010 and will land in thirteen countries: the UK, Portugal, Gibraltar, Morocco, Monaco, France, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Oman, United Arab Emirates and India. Alcatel Lucent and Tyco have been contracted to construct the US$700 million system.
EIG comes mere months after a major upgrade to the SEA-ME-WE 4 system and the announcement by Tata Communications of a similar system connecting India to Europe. Tata's IMEWE (India Middle East Western Europe) system has a RFS date of 2009 and is also designed with a maximum capacity of 3.84Tbps.
The addition of EIG and IMEWE will increase the potential capacity along the route by more than 10 fold to close to 10Tbps, from less than 1Tbps today. EIG and IMEWE will bring to five the total number of systems serving the route. These include three consortium systems, SEA-ME-WE 3 and 4 and EIG, and two private systems, FLAG and IMEWE.
NEW PLAYERS ON THIS ROUTE: The EIG consortium brings a slew of new international and African operators to this route. Surprisingly, there were few overlaps between EIG members and members of the consortium that built SEA-ME-WE 4, which consisted of 16 operators (Alergie Telecom, Bharti, Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board, CAT, ETISALAT, FT, MCI (now Verizon), Pakistan Telecom, SingTel, Sri Lanka Telecom, Saudi Telecom, Telecom Egypt, Tele- com Italia, Telekom Malaysia, Tunisie Telecom, and VSNL (now Tata Communications).
The new EIG system will now bring AT&T, BT and Cable &Wireless to this route.
At the same time, EIG also includes a number of members from Africa, including Telkom SA, and PT Comunicacoes from South African, Djibouti Telecom, and the MTN Group, which makes it one of the first major cable system connecting the continent to international markets.
EIG members who also have a stake in SEA-ME-WE 4 are Bharti, Saudi Telecom, Telecom Egypt and Verizon Business.
Other members of the EIG consortium are Gibtelecom from Gibraltar, Morocco’s IAM, Libyan Post, Telecom and Information Technology Company, and Omantel.
“In addition to complementing existing high bandwidth cable systems in the region, the EIG cable system will provide much needed diversity for broadband traffic currently relying largely on traditional routes from Europe to India,” the consortium members said. “This is important considering the threat of earthquakes in this region.”
Earlier this year, as many as five cable cuts in the Middle East region severed the majority of cable capacity in the region and caused havoc for Internet and business traffic in surrounding countries, including India.
WESTBOUND ROUTE TO US: According to Ihab Tarazi, Verizon Business vice president of global network planning, the new system would enable Verizon Business to provide services with reduced latency, reduced provisioning time and increased reliability.
“The EIG will give Verizon Business customers a second, diverse landing in France,” he said. “As with SEA-ME-WE-4, Verizon Business will operate a landing station in Marseilles that will connect directly with the company’s recently expanded ultra-long-haul network in Europe.”
Moreover, the addition of cable diversity between Europe and Asia, the EIG system will also offer the Asian region a diverse path to reach the US, which remains the most popular destination in terms of Internet content. The majority of Asian traffic, including those from India, today is now carried over the Pacific to the US due to latency issues of going through Europe and the Atlantic.
However, the situation is quite different for traffic out of the Middle East and Africa, which are geographically closer to Europe, making a Europe-trans-Atlantic-US route a viable option in terms of performance. Africa and the Middle East are the fastest growing regions for Internet usage, surging 903 per cent and 923 per cent respectively for the period 2000-2008, according to the Internet World Stats.
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