Yesterday in New Delhi, yet another giant international submarine cable project was unveiled. The BRICS cable project would hook up Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa to the US. If you're a map freak like me, you've now got a globe in your head on which you can't figure out just what route we're talking about.
So it will start in Vladivostok in the Russian Far East, connect to China, then to Singapore and on to Chennai. It then turns southwest through Mauritius to Cape Town, makes the turn around the Cape of Good Hope, stops off in Fortaleza, and finally winds up in Miami. If you're counting, that's four oceans and four continents and 34,000km. Economically, this of course sounds just a tad insane. One wonders why they didn't finish the job by going north from Vladivostok under the North Pole to connect to Reykjavík and then maybe Lisbon. Yes, I'm kidding.
What this whole idea demonstrates is that while there has been some hoopla lately about the growth in submarine cable builds lately, it isn't always investors making crazy bets but rather governments with additional motives. In this case, it's South Africa and China, both of which would like to gain more direct access to places where they don't have go go through the usual hubs via so many hops and choke points. For South Africa, the strategic idea is clear enough - all their traffic right now goes around the mulberry bush a few times. As for China, I think it's more about not depending utterly on the west and also building further its relationship with South Africa.
The project is expected to cost more than $1B, be online in 2014 and initially offer capacity of 12.8Tbps. So many grand projects in mind these days...
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