Act Boosts Hopes for Subsea Cable Industry

Bermuda is working to be the first landing hub for submarine cables in the Atlantic with the Submarine Communication Cables Act 2020.By Scott Neil, The Royal Gazette
February 18, 2020

Bermuda has put itself into the frame to be the first landing hub for submarine communication cables in the Atlantic.

New cable systems are being planned, and the Submarine Communication Cables Act 2020, which was approved by MPs on Friday, is seen as strengthening the island’s hand as it looks to attract transatlantic cables and operators.

At the same time, Bermuda is seeking to follow best practice with a protected landing zone for the cables, which carry internet and telecommunications thousands of miles beneath the ocean. It is doing this through consultation and advice from international geophysical survey company EGS Survey Ltd.

There are three landing hubs in the Pacific, but none in the Atlantic. Bermuda is aiming to be the first, and potential benefits and opportunities range from attracting submarine operators’ head offices, to captive insurance for those companies, and additional revenue from fees and permits.

Companies heavily involved in building submarine cables include global tech giants. They could potentially demonstrate economic substance on the island as a result of their involvement with cables that land here.

Cable systems that currently land in Bermuda are GlobeNet, Challenger and Gemini. There are many more that transit around the island, and by becoming a landing hub the aim is to attract some of those other cables, and new ones, to use Bermuda as a staging post.

Why would a cable operator want to do that?

“There are many cables that transverse the North Atlantic. The US-Europe market is well serviced by various fast, low-latency networks,” said Fiona Beck, a director of the Bermuda Business Development Agency.

“However, with technology changes, cables are looking to transverse from Latin America to Europe, and South Africa to the US. The hub concept picks up traffic linking Africa and Latin America with the US and Europe.”

Ms Beck has an extensive background in the industry. She is a former chief executive officer of Southern Cross Cable Network and is a past president of the industry body Sub Optic.

She is board chairman of South Atlantic Express International, a submarine cable system being planned to connect South Africa with the US.

Ms Beck said companies are looking for a hub to manage traffic capacity and where that traffic can be conveniently split for different destinations, such as the US, Europe, Latin America and South Africa.

It would also provide a way to manage data sovereignty by providing a route to avoid sending data through certain locations.

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