GBI completes terrestrial route to Europe

04 March 2013 |

GBI has completed what it claims is the first ever terrestrial link between the Gulf and Europe, via Iraq and Turkey.

The network expansion is said to significantly reduce latency rates between the two regions, as well as offer the market a valuable alternative to existing subsea cable routes.

The GBI North Route runs from the company’s cable landing station at Al Faw in the south of Iraq, crossing Iraq and Turkey to Istanbul, before going onwards to Frankfurt in Germany.

GBI’s CEO Ahmed Mekky said the route represents “a major milestone” for both regional and international communications.

“This investment is in line with our vision to connect the world to the Gulf and strongly underpins the continued ICT development across a region home to one sixth of the world’s population. In addition, Iraq is now emerging as a modern communications hub, with significant implications for the nation’s economy and long-term development,” he added.

There has been growing demand for alternative routes for international traffic between Asia and Europe to reduce reliance on subsea cables routes through the Red Sea.

According to industry estimates, approximately 95% of international voice and data traffic between Europe and Asia passes through this fibre-optic corridor, creating a bottleneck for inter-regional subsea routes.

Michael Ruddy, director of international research at Terabit Consulting, said that the concern with the Red Sea route stems from the concentration of 10 or so cables in a very narrow corridor, which leaves them open to damage from anchors, fishing, trawling, sabotage and natural disasters.

“Carriers are also uncomfortable having so much of their capacity vulnerable to the political will of a single country,” he added. “This brings up issues of regulation and regulatory fees, eavesdropping and other traffic management/interception issues.”

Several other terrestrial Middle Eastern cable projects are being deployed, which also aim to offer alternatives to the subsea route via the Red Sea.

These include the Regional Cable Network (RCN), the Jeddah-Amman-Damascus-Istanbul (JADI) network and the Europe Persia Express Gateway (EPEG) project. Many of these, however, face delays due to ongoing political instability in the region.