More subsea cables to Norway!

For most people, it’s not obvious that the digital services we all use and depend on, require connectivity through subsea cables crossing the world oceans.

Almost all intercontinental data traffic is routed via international fiber-based subsea cables. Higher bandwidth requirements and robustness in the underlying national and international broadband infrastructure will continue to shape the ICT industry in Norway and internationally in the coming years. Subsea cable systems are the trade routes of our time. That makes it important for any country to meet the need for capacity and robustness.

As the local markets evolve, content providers and telecom service providers will require additional access to more capacity and diversity. As services we use and data we store increasingly rely on data centers, the better connections we need. The major content providers (e.g. Google, Facebook, Microsoft) and international telecom service providers usually require three, even four, independent routes between their destinations. Good connectivity connectivity is also important in achieving the Government’s ambition that Norway should be one of the world’s most attractive countries for data based business.

Existing subsea cable systems are from time to time affected by outages; damage may be caused by ship anchoring, fishing, seismic activity, and in some cases even sabotage. This means that route diversity will be an important driver for investment in new subsea cable projects, and it is important for national security policies that the authorities continuously consider the need to incentivise further diversity.

In this context, Norway has until recently been relatively disadvantaged. Since the first subsea telegraph cables were laid between us and the UK, Denmark and Germany in the late 1800s, no major changes have been made to international cable routes until recently. Therefore, it’s reassuring that both Bulk and Tampnet each land new cable routes this year; Bulk with the Havfrue project between the US and Norway with branches to Ireland and Denmark, and Tampnet with connection between Egersund and Aberdeen. Several other projects are underway, such as Celtic Norse, NO-UK.com and Skagenfiber – just to name a few.

It’s positive that Government finally got the green light to spend NOK 100 million to support new international cables. It will be important for the National Communications Authority – NKOM –  to set up a good process when the competition for funding is announced. [in Norwegian].

If we envision new cable routes between Europe and Asia across the Arctic Ocean (for example between Norway and Japan), Norway will move from being an end station to a hub in an international network.

Written by: Helge Blyberg, Political Adviser, IKT-Norge and Bjørn Rønning, Adviser, Digital Footprint. Original text can be found here.