China to build $500m SEA-ME-WE-6 rival cable

China to build $500m SEA-ME-WE-6 rival cable

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China's top three telcos are reportedly planning on building a new $500 million subsea cable to rival the previously announced SEA-ME-WE-6 subsea cable system.

In an exclusive with Reuters, the new Europe-Middle East-Asia (EMA) cable is to be built by China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom and follows on from the news earlier this year that saw China Mobile, China Telecom withdraw from the SEA-ME-WE-6 subsea cable project.

Sources indicate that the withdrawal came after US company SubCom confirmed it had a contract in force for the cable last year taking it away from HMN Tehcnologies. The SEA-ME-WE-6 consortium includes the likes of Bharti Airtel, Orange, Singtel and Telecom Egypt.

According to four sources with direct knowledge of the EMA cable project, the three companies are mapping out what is set to be the world’s most advanced and far-reaching subsea cable network and aims to create a Chinese system that rivals the US-backed project.

The proposed cable would reportedly connect Hong Kong to Hainan, before connecting onwards to Singapore, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France.

HMN Technologies is said to be manufacturing and laying the cable, and due to the cost, would receive subsidies from the Chinese state to build the cable.

The news is the latest in the years long battle between China and the US in the telecoms and infrastructure space. It first started with the Department of Commerce’s ban of ZTE back in 2017-18, May 2019 saw Huawei, on the grounds of security, added to the Department of Commerce’s entity list.

Since then members of the US House of Representatives said it would take steps to subsidising rural operators to replace Huawei and ZTE equipment in their networks. Most recently, President Joe Biden reinforced this stance with a ban on investing in any of 59 Chinese companies from 2 August 2021 onwards.

In June 2020, Team Telecom – the telecoms security group set up in Washington in April by an executive order from President Donald Trump – recommended that the last leg of the PLCN not be allowed to go into operation due to the cable’s connections to Hong Kong and Huawei.

By June 2022, China Telecom Americas has lost its licence to provide regulated telecoms services in the US.

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