Pacific regional network operator and Indian giant Bharti Airtel are teaming up for a new $120M high speed network directly connecting Chennai to Los Angeles. The network will leverage Bharti’s i2i cable between Chennai and Singapore, and then Pacnet’s EAC-C2C and EAC Pacific cable systems for the Singapore-Japan and Japan-Los Angeles legs. Unclear from the PR and the coverage I have seen thus far is just how much they are actually building here, since these cables are already in place. They will be adding capacity between Chennai and Singapore, but does that mean new equipment or new fiber? The price tag would suggest the former, since i2i cost several times that to build originally.
This seems to replace the earlier West Asia Crossing announcement by Pacnet. In December of 2009, Pacnet announced their intention to build WAC between, yes, Chennai and Singapore with service to start in 2012. They seem to have stopped talking about that cable, and if they were building it they wouldn’t need this deal with Bharti Airtel, right? Pacnet also recently pulled out of the Pacific Fibre cable project between New Zealand and Los Angeles. Sounds like those private equity purse strings have tightened of late – it has after all been a few years, which is the sort of investment timeline such investors seem to prefer.
Actually, I wonder if Pacnet might be on the market soon. Well, when you’re owned by private equity you never really stop being on the market, but I mean in earnest this time. Interest in the Pacific bandwidth markets is certainly still high, and there are many potential strategic buyers out there.