Fri | Aug 18, 2017

New sub-sea cable network to dock in Jamaica en route to Miami

Published:Friday | August 11, 2017 | 8:00 AMSteven Jackson

Deep Blue Cable, a North American-led company formed in St Lucia, plans to develop and operate a fibre-optic cable network which will initially land in 12 countries, including Jamaica.

Deep Blue Cable will start surveying the Caribbean for the most feasible route later this month. Then, the operators aim to start installation in September 2018. It plans to start selling services in December 2019, according to details on its website.

It aims to break the fibre optic stranglehold held predominantly by the two leading telecoms in the region, Digicel Group and Cable & Wireless Communications.

Deep Blue will partner with TE SubCom to build the fibre-optic ring. TE SubCom, is a subsidiary of TE Connectivity, a US$12 billion global technology company listed on the New York Stock Exchange with 75,000 workers spanning 150 countries.

The cost of developing the cable network is unknown, as Deep Blue executives did not respond to Financial Gleaner queries up to press time.

The development cost could, however, be around US$100 million, based on previous build-out budgets. For instance, in 2012, Digicel Group reportedly spent US$16 million to run a 200-kilometre sub-sea fibre cable from Haiti to connect to an existing one running to the Caribbean. Deep Blue Cable plans on making its cable network six times that length.

Neither Digicel nor CWC responded to requests for comment on the Deep Blue development. In the past, rival players in the market have known to buy capacity on each other's cable when they are close to capacity.

The second phase of Deep Blue's development will grow the number of countries within its loop to 28 across the Caribbean and Americas. Additionally, it plans to land the cable in select countries more than once, taking the number of landings to 40. For instance, it plans to land in Jamaica in five areas two in proximity to Kingston, two in proximity to Ocho Rios, and one landing in Montego Bay.

The main markets it wants to penetrate include Puerto Rico, which it calls a US$3-billion telecoms market opportunity, Dominican Republic at US$1.9 billion, Haiti at US$700 million, Trinidad at US$650 million, Jamaica at US$600 million, Cayman Islands at US$150 million and Turks & Caicos at US$50 million.

The cable will initially span roughly 12,000km in the 12 markets, including the Cayman Islands, CuraÁao, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks & Caicos Islands and Florida, USA. The technology deployed will include cable that has eight fibre pairs with an initial capacity of 6 terabytes per second. Tbps, and ultimate capacity of some 20Tbps per fibre pair.

The Deep Blue network will compete by offering consumers higher capacity, lower unit costs and lower latency, the company said.

"Deep Blue Cable has great confidence in TE SubCom and its ability to build a state-of-the-art sub-sea cable system that will provide long overdue advanced connectivity across the Caribbean islands and to the Americas," said Stephen Scott, CEO of Deep Blue Cable in a press release.

TE SubCom's vice president of sales, Mike Rieger, was quoted as saying the region has not seen any significant fibre-optic deployment in recent years and that the Deep Blue submarine cable " will satisfy not only the current spike in demand for connectivity in developing Caribbean countries, but also future requirements driven by projected growth."

CWC's sub-sea fibre optic cable network spans more than 48,000 km with an additional 38,000 km of terrestrial fibre, according to its website. Of that amount it would have acquired roughly 18,000 km sub-sea cable and 21,000 km terrestrial fibre when it bought Flow. Digicel Group holds over 3,000 km of sub-sea cable in the region, which it either acquired or built, according to its website and reports.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com