My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How Digicel is funding Deep Blue Cable US$960 million 12,000km Fiber Optic Network in the Caribbean

Saturday, January 20, 2018

How Digicel is funding Deep Blue Cable US$960 million 12,000km Fiber Optic Network in the Caribbean

“Deep Blue Cable has great confidence in TE SubCom and its ability to build a state-of-the-art sub-sea cable system that will provide long overdue advanced connectivity across the Caribbean islands and to the Americas”

CEO of Deep Blue Cable, Stephen Scott, in a press release.

Looks like the fibre-optic cable network monopoly is being broken in the Caribbean. More interestingly, Digicel may be behind this push!!!

Deep Blue Cable, a company formed and located in St Lucia is the latest entrant into the Caribbean with an aim to interconnect all of the Caribbean islands as reported in the article “New Sub-Sea Cable Network To Dock In Jamaica En Route To Miami”, published Friday August 11, 2017 by Steven Jackson, The Jamaica Gleaner

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Deep Blue Cable, a North American-led company formed in St Lucia, aims to break the fibre optic monopoly by the two carriers in the region; Digicel Group and Cable & Wireless Communications. They're partnering with TE SubCom, a subsidiary of TE Connectivity, to build out their fiber optic ring to interconnect some 12 Caribbean countries.

They plan to compete with the two carriers by offering:

1.      Higher capacity
2.      Lower unit costs
3.      Lower latency

Effectively this will dwarf Digicel's Fiber optic Network that powers their Digicel Cable TV network as described in my Geezam blog article entitled “How Digicel Play will spread the Gospel of Fiber Optic this Christmas”. 

Deep Blue Cable started surveying the Caribbean for the most feasible route in August 2017.

They aim to start installation in September 2018, with plans to start selling service by December 2019. The main markets they plan to enter have the following telecoms market opportunity:

1.      Puerto Rico at US$3-billion
2.      Dominican Republic at US$1.9 billion
3.      Haiti at US$700 million
4.      Trinidad at US$650 million
5.      Jamaica at US$600 million
6.      Cayman Islands at US$150 million
7.      Turks & Caicos at US$50 million

So what are the details of this coming fiber optic offering by Deep Blue Cable?

Deep Blue Cable - A CWC Rival built for a 5G future in the Caribbean

Turns out the Deep Blue Cable, TE SubCom partnership has some interesting details. Here are some interesting facts about Deep Blue's Fiber Optic Deployment:

1.      The Fiber optic rein will be around 12,000km
2.      It will be deployed in two phases
3.      Will consist of eight fibre pairs
4.      May cost US$960 million

This estimated price is based on Digicel Group's reported US$16 million to run a 200 km sub-sea fibre cable from Haiti to connect to an existing one running to the Caribbean. Since Deep Blue's cable is nearly 60 times that length at 12,000km, this will at least cost them at least US$960 million, if you do the math.

TE Subcom clearly is doing most of the heavy-lifting as shown in this video:

Digicel Chairman and CEO Denis O'Brien may be footing this massive buildout, with an aim to launch in 2020 as reported in “Digicel Founder Behind New Telecom - Denis O'Brien Main Shareholder In Deep Blue Cable”, published Wednesday August 16, 2017 by Steven Jackson, The Jamaica Gleaner.

By way of comparison to give you an idea of the scale of this project, here are the stats for CWC and Digicel's Fiber Optic Networks:

1.      CWC's sub-sea fibre optic cable network is 48,000 km
2.      CWC's  terrestrial fibre is 38,000 km of terrestrial fibre
3.      FLOW, the cable company acquired by CWC, had 18,000 km of sub-sea fibre optic cable network
4.      FLOW also has 21,000 km terrestrial fibre
5.      Digicel Group  sub-sea fibre optic cable network is 3,000 km, which it either acquired or built

Each fiber optic pair will have an initial capacity of 6 Tb/s, finally maxing out at 20Tbps per fibre pair upon completion. Phase one will see deployment in 12 Caribbean countries. This includes such notable countries as:

1.      Cayman Islands
2.      Curacao
3.      The Dominican Republic
4.      Haiti
5.      Jamaica
6.      Puerto Rico
7.      Trinidad and Tobago
8.      Turks & Caicos Islands
9.      Florida, USA

With a total of 40 landings in certain selected countries, they are making sure they have connectivity on par with their rivals. For instance, they plan to land their fiber optic cables at five locations in Jamaica as follows:

1.      2 landing in proximity to Kingston
2.      2 landing in proximity to Ocho Rios
3.      1 landing in proximity to Montego Bay

Already, they’ve made some adjustment to their projected Phase 1 outlay and plan to include Colombia and Panama as part of that deployment, pushing back their timeline by a few months as noted in the article “Deep Blue Cable To Extend Network”,  published Friday November 3, 201 by Steven Jackson, The Jamaica Gleaner.  

After interconnecting those 12 Caribbean countries, in Phase 2 they then plan to interconnect some 28 Caribbean countries and then North and South American countries. TE SubCom's vice president of sales, Mike Rieger, was quoted as saying that Deep Blue Cable will, quote: “satisfy not only the current spike in demand for connectivity in developing Caribbean countries, but also future requirements driven by projected growth”.

So December 2019 plans to be an interesting year, as by 2020, the Caribbean may go 5G.

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