Orange is to build a 1,900km subsea cable connecting French Guiana, Martinique, and Guadeloupe as part of an investment programme that will also see the company expand its fiber and 4G plan.
Stéphane Richard, Orange’s CEO, announced the plan during a trip to French Guiana, the territory on the South American mainland that is legally part of France.
The company has already connected 3,000 homes with fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) in French Guiana’s main city, Cayenne, and will cover 100% of the homes in Cayenne and also Remire-Monjoly.
"Today, French Guiana is one of the regions with the most dynamic demographics in France," said Richard. "It is to accompany the growth of traffic that Orange will invest €35 million (US$38M) to deploy a new submarine cable between Kourou in Guyana, Martinique, and Guadeloupe."
Kourou is the site of Arianespace’s space port from which many communications satellites have been launched.
The new subsea cable, due to be in service by the second half of next year, will also interconnect with the East Caribbean Fiber System (ECFS) to give French Guiana a direct link to the American continent. French Guiana is also connected to the Suriname-Guyana Submarine Cable System (SGSCS).
This additional EFCS connection will make it possible to secure more traffic to and from the US, which represents more than 80% of the volume, said Richard in Cayenne.
The new cable will have two pairs of fibers that will eventually be able to operate at 5Tbit/s. "The group will offer access to this cable to all internet service providers that wish to connect," said Orange.
At the same time Orange says it has increased its plans for 4G coverage of the area to 80% of the population.
Source: Capacity Media
ANALYSIS: This announcement at the Capacity Caribbean Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico came as something of a surprise to the market. French Guiana is an emerging market but the low population density and GDP make it difficult to justify investment in submarine connectivity. Moreover, Dennis O'Brien, the Founder of Digicel, which has a mobile licence in French Guiana, may have included a landing at Cayenne in his planned pan-Caribbean "Deep Blue" submarine cable project.
Orange have indicated that they think they can get their system built for US$20,000 per kilometer. This looks like an optimistic number for a relatively short cable system in a fairly challenging topology and sea bed environment, especially around Cayenne where the sea bed is mainly mud.
Moreover, the decision to interconnect this new system with the 22-year old ECFS is eyebrow-raising. ECFS is an unrepeatered system with fourteen landings, terminating in the North at Tortola, British Virgin Islands, where it interconnects with CBUS and Gemini Bermuda to reach Manasquan, NJ, United States. Orange has a stake in CBUS and Gemini Bermuda, along with C&W Networks, a subsidiary of Liberty Global. ECFS can also interconnect in Tortola with the Telefonica-led PCCS consortium cable for a more direct path to the US. ECFS, CBUS, and Gemini Bermuda are all 2-fiber pair systems.
A more modern solution for onward connectivity would have been to take advantage of one of the branching units that Seaborn is installing on its SeaBras-1 (Florida-Brazil) cable but the impression one gets from the configuration proposed by Orange is that this is a project with a tight budget. One might even come to the conclusion that the French Government, which is keen to see 21st Century communications established in every French territory, has pressurized Orange into taking on this project.
Julian Rawle, Author
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