Industry experts predict there will be significant growth in demand for fast and reliable connectivity throughout the Caribbean over the coming decade, and yet the region’s interconnectivity landscape is technologically limited and prohibitively expensive, particularly when compared to the U.S. and Europe. In fact, there have been no new pan-regional deployments over the past ten years, and the Caribbean’s primary undersea cable links are close to or have already exceeded their planned technical lifespan of around 20 to 25 years.
Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Stephen Scott, CEO of Deep Blue Cable Limited, to discuss the company’s subsea fibre-optic system that will provide connectivity across the Caribbean islands and to the United States, as well as the challenges associated with bringing an advanced undersea cable network to the region.
Data Center POST, Kathy Xu (DCP-KX) Question: What is the current state of fibre-optic communications between the Americas and the Caribbean?
Deep Blue Cable, Steve Scott (DBC-SS) Answer: While the technology was developed in the 1980s, subsea fibre-optic connectivity did not make its way to the Caribbean until September 1995 with the deployment of the East Caribbean Fibre System (ECFS) cable. For the general population, this cable was game-changing. It brought media and communications to a region that had previously been isolated from the most fundamental late 20th century technological developments, a luxury that previously had primarily been reserved for government and military agencies over legacy copper systems.
DCP-KX Q: What are the challenges of deploying a subsea cable network in the Caribbean?
DBC-SS A: For people living in the Caribbean, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and droughts are common experiences. Hence, the frequency of natural disasters has made establishing reliable and technologically advanced connectivity throughout the Caribbean an expensive and complex process.
Additionally, companies deploying subsea cables throughout the Caribbean must be careful to ensure they do not disrupt marine life and natural underwater structures such as coral reefs. To overcome this, providers must meticulously map out routes that bypass protected areas. Also, to protect their cables, subsea network providers must consider the mapping of tectonic plates and avoid fault lines that could disrupt cable routes.
DCP-KX Q: Tell us about your partnership with TE SubCom to build a new fibre-optic subsea system connecting the Caribbean to the Americas.
DBC-SS A: TE SubCom is setting a new standard in terms of subsea cable design and implementation. Together with Ciena they have supported this project from the very outset and will be responsible for every aspect of the system’s construction. The Deep Blue subsea cable network, which will offer an initial capacity of 6 Tbps per fibre pair and will ensure availability, competitive pricing and capacity resilience. This will play a critical role in serving developing Caribbean countries that are now experiencing a surge in demand for advanced telecom services and currently rely on fibre-optic connectivity that is technologically and economically disadvantaged. The pan-Caribbean system design spans nearly 12,000 km with initial landing points in 12 markets throughout the island regions.
DCP-KX Q: What opportunities exist that are unique to the Caribbean in view of a new fibre-optic subsea system?
DBC-SS A: From a business development standpoint, the region has great potential. Language skills (Spanish, French, Dutch and English) and a well-educated and available workforce means much of this region is very well suited to international call center / help desk services. Improved connectivity presents an exceptional opportunity for foreign companies to invest in local operations.
DCP-KX Q: Mr. Scott has written an article that appeared in Submarine Telecoms Forum, “The History and Future of Subsea Connectivity in the Caribbean,” that explores this subject in greater depth. To read the article, click here.