Earthquakes and Red Tape Challenge Carriers

11 Apr 2011

New data from TeleGeography shows that demand for international bandwidth grew seven-fold between 2006 and 2010. To keep up with this flood of traffic, international network operators have invested in network upgrades, and constructed 49 new undersea cables, at a combined cost of USD6.5 billion.

As international connectivity plays an increasingly important role in the global economy, protecting the international transmission infrastructure becomes ever more critical. Recent events in Japan and Egypt highlight how telecoms operators are meeting the challenges of geological and geopolitical risks to international communications networks.

The massive earthquake off the coast of Japan damaged several undersea cables, some of which are still awaiting repair. Despite these outages, communications between Japan and the rest of the world were largely unaffected, due to the large array of undersea cables linked to Japan. ‘The earthquake temporarily knocked out approximately 30% of Japan’s international capacity,’ according to TeleGeography Research Director Alan Mauldin. ‘The deployment of multiple new trans-Pacific cables and intra-Asian cables over the past three years proved instrumental in preventing this disaster from also disrupting communications.’

Carriers face a different challenge in Egypt. Egypt serves a pivotal role in international connectivity, because all undersea cables between Europe and Asia transit the country. Carriers have been seeking to introduce five undersea cable systems connected to and across Egypt to meet burgeoning capacity requirements in the Middle East, East Africa, and India, but have been delayed for over a year by regulatory problems in Egypt. This has left carriers scrambling to identify alternative routes.

A variety of new projects have emerged that seek to provide terrestrial connectivity directly to Middle Eastern countries. In 2010 a consortium of carriers launched the Jeddah-Amman-Damascus-Istanbul (JADI) network, which links Saudi Arabia and Turkey via Jordan and Syria. Another group has plans for the Regional Cable Network (RCN), which will link the UAE to Turkey via Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. The recently-unveiled Europe Persia Express Gateway (EPEG) project hopes to connect Germany to Oman via Russia and Iran by 2012 through a mix of terrestrial and undersea segments. While the planned undersea cables in Egypt will ultimately be completed, the development of new terrestrial options will further enhance the reliability of the global network.

TeleGeography’s Global Bandwidth Research Service provides the most detailed analysis of the long-haul network and submarine cable industry available—including supply, demand, costs, and pricing analysis and profiles of 295 network operators and 229 submarine cables.

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TeleGeography's Global Bandwidth Research Service