ETNO Warns Submarine Cables Are a Risk to EU’s Security

ETNO calls for enhanced governance and public investment to secure EU's submarine cables, highlighting significant security risks.

By Annie Turner, Mobile Europe
February 5, 2024

It wants better governance and public funding to address the issue, including a public organisation to be responsible for monitoring and repairs on the seabed

The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association ETNO) says submarine communication cables are “a significant concern for Europe’s security, resilience, and sovereignty”.

It states this vulnerability is proven by attacks on the Nord Stream undersea gas pipeline in 2022 and undersea cables connecting Estonia and Finland in October 2023.

The European Commission is about to announce its strategy for its telecom sector and internet infrastructure. This includes a Recommendation to strengthen coordination among Member States in the deployment, security, and governance of crucial cable connections.

ETNO thinks there are two strands to securing Europe’s subsea infrastructure.

Resilience through funding

The first requests public funding and preferential treatment to protect European operators’ investment in subsea in a just-published ‘Reflection paper’.

It reads, “We strongly advocate for continued support from the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Digital program to strengthen the EU’s capabilities in submarine cable connectivity.

“The program should be prioritized for refinancing in the next mandate. The goal should be to bolster the competitiveness and relevance of European operators on strategic routes compared to non-EU investors, while adhering to CEF obligations…to avoid diluting private investment from European operators in existing or planned infrastructure.

“The CEF Digital program could also contribute to reinvesting in critical cables at the end of their lifecycle. The implementation of the Global Gateway initiative could also become an efficient lever, should relevant financial tools be developed. Ensuring the robust monitoring and maintenance of submarine cables is essential for their sustained functionality and resilience.”

Public scrutiny, public payment

In particular, according to ETNO operators monitor coastal cables but are struggling to monitor and repair deep-sea cables, which it thinks should receive public funding and be undertaken by public bodies. This would help mitigate “rising costs that operators consistently encounter, such as those associated with securing effective repair and maintenance strategies”.

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