The consortium promoting the build of an undersea broadband cable that would link Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (the BRICS countries) to each other and the US says it hopes to begin construction in early 2014.
The BRICS Cable project was launched in April 2012 following a positive reception at the last BRICS summit in Delhi, India in March 2012.
According to Thylan Chetty, an CEO of Imphandze, which is involved in promoting the project, the upcoming BRICS Summit to be held in Durban at the end of March presents a strong opportunity to harness the cooperation between BRICS countries around the project.
Chetty said that the cost of 34,000km fibre-optic cable, with 12.8 terabits per second capacity, is variable and depends on the optimal combination of build and buy of segments, as determined by the capacity requirements of the investors. “Thus, the cost could vary between US $750m and $1.2 billion.”
“We estimate having a contract in force between the consortium and supplier early 2014, followed shortly by physical construction,” Chetty said. “Project completion is estimated to be mid 2015.”
South Africa leg
The chief executive said that discussions held during the kick-off meeting revealed a requirement for at least two landings in South Africa – one in Cape Town and another at Mtunzini.
“Additional landings at Port Elizabeth and East London would be considered based on their commercial viability,” Chetty said.
Funding and operation
He said that in the interests of a more commercially attractive and viable system, the project promoters are investigating a number of possible scenarios that involve different combinations of:
i) green-fields build of critical segments; and
ii) buying (or leasing) of capacity on existing systems.
“For instance, it is possible to lease capacity on existing cable systems east of Singapore to China and onward to Russia, at a cost that is significantly less costly than it would be to construct these segments.”
This scenario, he said, requires that the rest of the BRICS Cable system west of Singapore to the USA would be built as part of the project. The principle of an end-to-end cable system would still be upheld in these scenarios, with the benefit of a lower capital expense for the complete system.
“The same concept can be applied to other segments of the build, while co-build partnerships with other cable systems are also a possibility,” Chetty said.
He said that Imphandze is in contact with a number of carriers to determine the optimal combination of build and buy for an end-to-end BRICS Cable system.