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The European Commission has recently issued recommendations, aiming to bolster the security and resilience of submarine data cables across the continent. While emphasizing the importance of private finance in expanding capacity, the commission suggests that governments could provide assistance where necessary.

This initiative comes following the release of a white paper analyzing Europe's digital infrastructure needs. The recommendations encourage member states to undertake various tasks, including regular stress testing and the sharing of information regarding submarine cable infrastructure.

Highlighting the increasing reliance of European economies and societies on the internet and international connectivity, the commission underscored the significance of submarine cable infrastructure. It noted that the majority of international data traffic is carried through these cables, making their security and resilience crucial.

Ensuring Robust Submarine Cable Infrastructure

The vulnerability of submarine infrastructure to sabotage and tampering was also acknowledged, with the recent conflict between Russia and Ukraine serving as a stark reminder of potential security threats. Suspicious activities, such as monitoring by Russian vessels off the Irish coast, have raised concerns about the integrity of these cables.

Although the United Kingdom is not part of the EU, incidents such as the damage to a subsea cable connecting Shetland and the Faroe Islands underscores the importance of addressing security risks in submarine infrastructure.

At a fundamental level, the recommendations outline actions that EU member states should take to enhance security and support the deployment, or significant upgrade, of submarine cable infrastructure. This includes conducting risk assessments on cybersecurity and physical security, as well as enforcing obligations on suppliers and operators to ensure security measures are in place.

To expedite the development of submarine cable infrastructure, the commission calls for the fast-tracking of relevant applications for construction, operation, maintenance, or repair work. Additionally, it suggests granting submarine cable infrastructures the status of the highest possible national significance.

In terms of capacity expansion, the commission aims to compile a draft list of strategic projects known as Cable Projects of European Interest (CPEIs). These projects may be eligible for support through EU programs and supplemented with national funds to address strategic gaps and establish new connections.

The concept of CPEIs underscores a collaborative effort between governments and the private sector. As outlined in the European Commission proposal, member states are encouraged to appoint a group of experts tasked with assessing the strategic significance of these projects to Europe and determining measures for their enhancement and protection.

Europe's Subsea Cable Ventures

The landscape of subsea cable construction is currently experiencing a surge in activity, particularly in Europe. Given that the continent serves as a crucial hub for many of the world's busiest routes, new ownership models, emerging hubs, open cable initiatives, and security considerations are shaping an intriguing period for European submarine cable developments. Some of Europe’s subsea cable ventures include:

Medusa Submarine Cable

The Medusa subsea cable is a significant pan-Mediterranean project, connecting Port Said in Egypt to Lisbon in Portugal. With landing points in every North African country, as well as Italy, France, Greece, Spain, and Cyprus, Medusa spans 8,760 km. Initially planned to terminate in Portugal, developers recently agreed to extend the cable to Libya, further enhancing its regional connectivity. Offering 24 fiber pairs with speeds of up to 20 Tbps per pair, Medusa is slated for completion either in 2025 or 2026.

SEA-ME-WE 6 Submarine Cable

The SEA-ME-WE (South-East Asia – Middle East – Western Europe) cable series has a rich history of revolutionizing communications between East Asia and Europe. The latest iteration, SEA-ME-WE 6, continues this legacy. With 10 fiber pairs capable of transmitting 12.6 Tbps each, this cable stretches from Tuas in Singapore to Marseilles in France. Notably, it includes a terrestrial segment between Ras Ghareb and Port Said in Egypt. Scheduled for completion in 2025, SEA-ME-WE 6 is a collaborative effort involving 15 carriers and Microsoft.

Baltic Sea Submarine Cable

Stretching across the Baltic Sea, this cable system connects Estonia to Finland. With its two fiber pairs, the Baltic Sea Submarine Cable provides reliable and high-speed connectivity between the two countries, facilitating data exchange and communication. It plays a crucial role in bolstering digital infrastructure and fostering economic ties within the Baltic region. It also links power grids in Sweden and Germany.

BlueMed Submarine Cable

The innovative BlueMed cable is a private domain and shares fiber pairs and a wet segment with the Blue cable system. It consists of four fiber pairs with an initial design capacity of more than 25 Tbps per fiber pair and connects Italy with France, Greece, and several countries bordering the Mediterranean.

CrossChannel Fibre Submarine Cable

CrossChannel Fibre directly connects Equinix LD4 in Slough, to Interxion PAR3 and Equinix PA7 in Paris, with extensions to various points-of-presence in both cities. Equipped with multiple fiber pairs, this submarine cable system enhances connectivity between the two neighboring countries, facilitating seamless data exchange and communication.

As Europe solidifies its position as a vital hub for global data transmission, these projects not only enhance regional connectivity but also contribute to the resilience and reliability of international communication networks. With innovative ownership models, collaborative efforts, and a keen focus on security, these submarine cable developments exemplify the dynamic nature of the telecommunications industry.