Cheaper Faster Internet. Really?

Consortium of ISPs confident it will begin laying undersea cable within months
With the first licensing hurdle passed, the laying of the island’s third undersea cable to the U.S. is just a matter of months away, the consortium responsible for the project said yesterday.

The Telecommunications Ministry last week approved the application of Cable Co. Ltd – the consortium made up of KeyTech, North Rock and Transact – for a Class A Telecommunications Licence in order to lay the cable.

Having a third cable connecting Bermuda to the world means ISPs here won’t have to rely on the two carriers to get their bandwidth.

Once operational, the new 10 gig cable, dubbed ‘Challenger’, will break the connection duopoly of Cable & Wireless and TBI – which will likely lead to higher broadband speeds offered to customers – if not cheaper rates.

“That’s what we anticipate given our entrance into the market,” Aaron Smith, president of Igility Group, of which Transact is a subsidiary, said, referring to whether the new undersea cable will reduce rates and increase speeds.

“The availability of bandwidth as well as a competitive offering means that costs will go down, or services will increase – and one obvious one is bandwidth,” he said.

The consortium still needs the approval of the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S., and the Ministry of Works and Engineering for a foreshore licence before cable laying can commence.

Cable Co. members wouldn’t say when that might happen – as factors like weather, seasonal changes, availability of cable ships, non-disclosure agreements and pending government approval prevent them from doing so.

But the consortium has within 24 months to begin laying the cable once it gets approval from both the Ministry of Works and Engineering and the FCC.

Once under way, laying the physical infrastructure should take between 10 to 12 months, according to Vicki Coelho, general manager of North Rock Communications.

“There’s work to be done in the sea and there’s work to be done where the landing stations are,” she said. “There’s wet work and dry work.”

The cable project will begin in Rhode Island and stretch nearly 800 miles to Bermuda, Ms Coelho said.

The island’s third-ever undersea cable has been a long time coming.

More than a year ago, North Rock and Transact were planning on laying their own undersea cable, while KeyTech was working a similar plan.

Nearly a year ago, the three companies united in their efforts and later formed the consortium.

“We came to a memorandum of understand [to join forces] and within 30 days we agreed to agree,” according to Jamie Thain, chief technology officer at Transact.

“You don’t usually see three competitors agreeing on something like this,” he said. “It’s unique, but you’re going to see more of it [in Bermuda].

“Where competitors can share the cost of large infrastructure projects, you’re going to see more and more of it.

“It’s like three shipping companies sharing the cost of a cargo plane,” Mr. Thain said.

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