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Colt wins 25-year deal for UK-France tunnel fibre link

Keri Gilder with Eurostar.jpg

Colt is to build a new dark fibre link between the UK and France through the Channel Tunnel, in a contract to run for 25 years.

It will pay a minimum of €185 million over the contract period to Getlink, the new name for Eurotunnel, the company that owns and operates the fixed link from England to France.

Keri Gilder (pictured), CEO of Colt, said: “Colt is thrilled to have entered this strategic agreement with Getlink. There is a growing demand for bandwidth between the UK and mainland Europe, which will only increase in the coming years.”

The carrier will add the 50.4km-long tunnel, of which 37.9km is under water, to its Colt IQ Network, a 100Gbps optimised, high bandwidth and low latency network that connects over 900 data centres and over 29,000 on-net buildings globally. In May Colt said it was upgrading Colt IQ to 400Gbps. 

Gilder said: “By running our IQ Network through the Channel Tunnel, Colt customers will benefit from reliable, low-latency, high-bandwidth connectivity with the option of full diversity across the entire tunnel span.”

That diversity is available because the tunnel has three bores – two carrying passenger trains, freight trains and rail vehicles that transport trucks and cars between Folkestone in England and Calais in France, and one connected service tunnel.

The tunnel opened for business in 1994 but contracts for dark fibre date back to 1998 and they will progressively expire between now and 2025.

The operator of the original fibre was Global Crossing, which was bought by Level 3, which in turn was bought by CenturyLink, now Lumen. Capacity has asked Lumen and its representatives whether or not it bid to continue to operate fibre through the tunnel.

“Colt will take over their operation,” said Colt this morning.

This will enable what Colt calls a “significant increase in bandwidth between the UK and mainland Europe [that] will help meet the high growth in data traffic expected by 2025”. This will make “the Channel Tunnel a vital link not only for passengers and goods but also for data”, said Colt and Getlink.

Yann Leriche, CEO of Getlink, said: “The strategic location and the reliability offered by the tunnel make our infrastructure very attractive for high-tech developments such as fibre optics. We are happy to once again leverage the Channel Tunnel asset to create the most value for our shareholders.”

Gilder said: “The future potential of the tunnel connectivity is significant, and it’s an exciting time for the wider telco industry as we continue to leverage the power of relationships to drive digital transformation and move towards the digital future.”

Despite the existence of fibre through the tunnel, subsea companies have continued to look at England-France links. Crosslake Fibre said in July its CrossChannel Fibre System, due to go live this year, will be the first new subsea cable to be built across the English Channel in nearly 20 years.