Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti are likely to gain added international bandwidth starting in the second half of 2016 as the SEA-ME-WE 5 submarine cable approaches completion and landings to these countries are established.

The 20,000 kilometre submarine cable connecting Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Western Europe will land in 17 countries, six of which are in the Middle East.

SEA-ME-WE 5 will feature 100 gigabits-per-second wavelengths and has a design capacity of up to 24 terabits-per-second.

An additional bandwidth could mean faster internet access for end-users and potentially lower per unit data cost, UAE media cited Omar Jassim bin Kalban, chief executive at Dubai-based submarine cable and installation company E-marine, as saying.

Submarine cables transmit up to 99 per cent of international internet traffic, with satellites responsible for the remaining 1 per cent.

Bin Kalban said he expects four international submarine cable to land in the UAE throughout 2016 and that the country’s bandwidth capacity will increase four-fold over the next 10 years.

Multiple cable landing and diverse routing of internet traffic allow countries to avoid 100 per cent failure in terms of internet connectivity.

While undersea cables are seen as more reliable than satellite, weather disturbances such as earthquakes, accidents and deliberate acts of vandalism could still severely disrupt services.

The consortium building the SEA-ME-WE 5 consists of 15 telecoms operators including:

  • Orange (France)
  • Djibouti Telecom
  • China Mobile International
  • China telecom Global
  • China United Network Communications
  • Etisalat (UAE)
  • Myanmar Posts and Telecom
  • Saudi Telecom Company (KSA)
  • SingTel (Singapore)
  • Sri Lanka Telecom
  • TOT (Thailand)
  • PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia International,
  • Telecom Italia Sparkle
  • Telekom Malaysia Berhad
  • Yemen International Telecommunications (TeleYemen)

The consortium awarded the SEA-ME-WE 5’s contract to link between Sri-Lanka and France to Alcatel-Lucent in 2014. Nokia acquired Alcatel-Lucent in 2015. Funding for the project, estimated to cost several hundred million dollars, was provided by the French Development Agency (AFD), Islamic Development Bank and Djibouti’s BCINR Bred.