Vodafone joins Gulf consortium to build 1,400km fibre network

30 September 2013 | Kavit Majithia


UK-based Vodafone and three operators in the Gulf are planning to launch a 1,400km fibre network in the region, as part of a consortium to meet rising demand for broadband services.

Vodafone, along with Kuwait’s Zain, UAE-based du and Kuwaiti ISP Zajil, are planning to create a Middle East-Europe Terrestrial System (MEETS) to increase overland connectivity to Europe.

MEETS will activate a fibre-optic network, which will run as part of a 1,400km power grid installed by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Interconnection Authority.

The consortium has an agreement term of 15 years to activate and manage the fibre network, which will run from Kuwait to Fujairah – an eastern emirate of the UAE on the Gulf of Oman – via Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar.

The GCC Interconnection Authority is owned by the six GCC countries, and the move comes in response to high levels of smartphone penetration in the Gulf, with market watchers claiming there is a lack of efficient fixed fibre networks in Kuwait and Bahrain.

With an estimated capacity of 2300Gbps, the network will launch in Q1 2014, at a cost of $35 million.

Zain will provide the landing station in Saudi Arabia, du will deal with the UAE, Vodafone Qatar will provide a landing in its domestic market and Zajil will address Kuwait and Bahrain.

It is still unknown when the network will land in Europe, and there are still several predicted challenges, with the route taking in Turkey and Iraq.