Cuba’s Undersea Fibre Cable Opens To One-Way Traffic

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined
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Researchers say cable is switched on after two years of inactivity, but to incoming traffic only

A submarine fibre-optic cable linking Cuba with Venezuela appears to have been activated, nearly two years after it was completed, according to Monitoring firm Renesys

“In the past week, our global monitoring system has picked up indications that this cable has finally been activated, although in a rather curious way,” said Renesys, who said that although internet traffic was flowing into the country through the cable, but outward data flows still used using satellite services.

Cubans have up until now relied on satellite services for their Internet connections, but these are slow and expensive.

Cuba fibre cable active

The cable was the product of an agreement between state-owned telecommunications from Cuba and Venezuela. The Alternativa Bolivariana para los Pueblos de nuestra América (ALBA-1) was due to be completed in 2009, but delays meant that it was not finished until 2011. However until now, Cuba has continued to use satellite connections, with the new cable unused, despite the long delay (high latency) on the satellite links.

Renesys says that it was alerted to activity on the cable last Monday, when it noticed that Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica had begun service to Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA), the state-owned Cuban telco.

It notes that it first recorded this activity on the same day that Cuba eliminated the need for its citizens to obtain an exit visa before leaving the country and suggested that it could be part of a wider trend towards a more open Cuba.

However it warned that not everyone would benefit from the development.

“While the activation of the ALBA-1 cable may be a good first step to providing ETECSA a better link to the Internet, the lack of widespread public access to Internet service throughout the island will likely continue,” it said.

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