Brazilian submarine cable infrastructure

Over the last few years the Brazilian Federal Government and private companies have made significant investment in telecommunication infrastructure, allowing the country to achieve better redundancy in connection and lower prices for data transmissions. Subsea fiber optic cables have taken a major part in this strategy, and over the next few years a number of new cables are expected to become operational, linking Brazilian networks to continents like Europe and Africa.

Subsea cables intended for telecommunication purposes are no recent trend in Brazil. Telegraph cables were already installed in the country in the 19th century to connect Brazilian state capitals and later to establish communications with Portugal. The 20th century also saw major expansions in the telecommunications infrastructure, primarily focused on telephone lines and satellite transmissions. At the turn of the millennium Brazil was already linked to major internet hubs in the United States through subsea fiber optic cables.

Although most of these cables have been installed for quite a while and are limited in number, they do not necessarily present a bottleneck to telecommunications with other continents. The technology used to transmit signals through fiber optics is upgradeable, which means that service providers can increase their capacity if the amount of data communicated between each end expands over time. The more prevalent issue of the subsea cable infrastructure in Brazil is their redundancy, since the small number of lines present a significant risk of loss of communication due to malfunction and this leads to increased prices for telecom services due to lack of competition.

Moreover, political and diplomatic reasons are involved in the construction of new subsea cables. Since the release of information that the United States’ NSA were spying on the Brazilian government communications, the construction of a cable linking to Europe was given significant attention and investment, being pitched as a safe and reliable highway for data to be transported to global territories. Also, the cultural and geographical proximity with African countries has led to agreements and investment on the future installation of a cable linking the Portuguese-speaking nation of Angola to the Brazilian state capital of Fortaleza.

Currently Installed Cables

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Most of the currently installed subsea cables heralding from Brazil are owned by major telecommunication service providers and were installed at the beginning of the 2000’s. One of the first to be installed, specifically in August 2000, was Americas-II, a 9.000 Km cable that links the Brazilian city of Fortaleza to the state of Florida, in the United States, with nodes in some Latin American countries.

The cable is owned by a consortium that includes national company Embratel and international corporations AT&T, Verizon and Orange. Another cable that connects Brazil to the United States is Globenet, a 23.5 thousand km fiber optic circle that links the Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza to the states of Florida and New York which started operation in 2001.

There are currently two, private-owned, fiber optics rings that circle South American countries.

The first of which has been operational since 2000, is the South America Crossing, which lands at countries like Chile and Peru, then all the way to the Caribbean and back to Brazil and Argentina. Totalling over 20 thousand Km, it is owned by Telecom Italia and Level 3. The second, South America-1, is owned by Telefonica and started operations in 2001. The cable follows a similar route to the South America Crossing, with the exception that it also lands in Florida and totals 25 thousand Km.

Only one operational subsea cable connects Brazil to Europe. Named Atlantis-II, it is owned by a consortium that includes Embratel, Deutsche Telecom, Telecom Italia and Telecom Portugal, and started operations in 2000. The cable connects Argentina to the Brazilian city of Fortaleza and to Portugal, at a length of 8.5 thousand Km.

Future Installation of Subsea Cables

Over the last few years, a number of new subsea cables set to connect Brazil to other global territories were announced, and are currently at various levels of development. EulaLink, a 5.9 thousand km cable that will connect the Brazilian city of Fortaleza to Portugal was recently announced to start operation in 2018, and will be installed by a joint-venture between Brazilian state-owned company Telebras, Spanish company IslaLink and a third unannounced partner.

The Angola Cables consortium also recently established partnerships to initiate the deployment of the South America Cable System, a submarine cable that will link the Angolan capital of Luanda to the Brazilian city of Fortaleza, with a total length of 6.500 Km and plan to start operations in 2017. The consortium will also take part in the installation of Monet, a 10.5 thousand Km cable that will link the Brazilian cities of Santos and Fortaleza to Boca Raton, in the state of Florida. The project is being conducted by technology giant Google along with Brazilian company Algar Telecom and Uruguayan state-owned Antel, with deployment planned for the end of 2016.

Other subsea cables with operations planned to commence in the near future include América Móvil Submarine System-1, a 17.8 thousand km fiber optic network already installed and owned by the Telecom giant of the same name. The subsea cable connects the Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Fortaleza to the United States and Latin American countries, and is expected to be lit over the next few years. Another recently announced cable, known as Seabras-1 and managed by company Seaborn Networks, is set to connect the Brazilian financial capital São Paulo and Fortaleza directly to New York, with operations planned to start in 2016.

Innovation Norway is responsible for promoting the Norwegian industry abroad. Our office in Rio de Janeiro manages Innovation House Rio, our business incubator office, and helps Norwegian companies in their efforts towards the Brazilian market.

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