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Exclusive: AFR-IX selects ASN as Medusa vendor supplier

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AFR-IX has selected Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) as the vendor supplier for its recently announced Medusa Submarine Cable System.

Speaking exclusively to Capacity, Norman Albi, CEO of AFR-IX confirmed the announcement saying: "We carried out an Request for Quote (RfQ) in February of last year, for the four global providers, NEC, Huawei Marine Networks (HMN), SubCom and ASN."

"We received a response from three of them and then by summertime we had entered into the best and final offer process. Following which we went through an extensive selection process that was based on both technical and commercial considerations."

This in turn resulted both companies entering into exclusive negotiations at the end of 2021, with the contract being signed earlier this week, awarding ASN the contract to supply and install the 8,700km system.

Announced earlier this year, the new cable will connect Lisbon and Sines, Portugal to Port Said, Egypt with additional landings in Barcelona, Torreguadiaro, Zahara and Alacant in Spain; Tétouan and Nador in Morocco; Algiers, Bizerte in Tunisia, Algiers and Collo in Algeria; Marseille in France; Mazara del Vallo in Italy; Yeroskipou in Cyprus; and Tympaki in Greece, all for approximate cost of €326 million.

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The cable is to be built in two segments, the West Med branch (Portugal, Spain, France Italy and Greece) and the East Med branch (Tunisia, Greece and Egypt). Speaking on the landing arrangements of the cable, Albi explained:

"One the European Union side (the West Med brand), Medusa is the landing party. We may collaborate with some landing parties in a few locations so that we can use the existing infrastructure, but Medusa is the landing party for this branch."

He says that the company has already incorporated Medusa Portugal, Medusa Spain, Medusa France and says that Medusa Italy is "almost incorporated" adding that they are also in the process of incorporating Medusa Greece.

One of the biggest USPs of the system is its open access cable configuration, meaning that not only can anyone acquire capacity on the cable but it "can be connected to any type of technology or brand” and will offer a suite of services including full and half fibre pairs.

Speaking to Albi, however, he notes that these open access rules "do not apply in Northern Africa because we have to follow each one of the country's regulations which are not open access" but he ensures us that all of the required permitting is in hand and moving at pace.

Boasting ASN's newly qualified 24- fibre pair roughly 480Tbps (20Tbs per fibre pair) technology, as well DAS (Distributed Acoustic Sensing) technology, which provides early warning of potentially damaging activities, crucial in across the Mediterranean which is subject to the effects of climate change, as members of the Joint Task Force (JTF) and its it work in SMART cables. 

The decision to build Medusa came in response to three urgent connection needs identified by AFR-IX. The first was the need to provide North Africa with South Europe connectivity, the need for Mediterranean to Atlantic connectivity and lastly connectivity between the Mediterranean islands to mainland, such as Sicily and Crete.

"Medusa was born with the objective of improving the connectivity in the Mediterranean Sea and will make it possible, for example, to reduce the latency between North Africa and Southern Europe and between European union Mediterranean cities," said Albi.

"This capacity is key in a context where the pandemic has highlighted the need to strengthen networks to support an increasingly digital economy."

For a full deep dive with Albi on the Medusa project and more on why the open approach to infrastructure is the way to go, keep an eye out for the next issue of the Subsea Connect newsletter for the full interview.

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