By Cibelle Bouças
Accessing Facebook to post a comment or watching a video on YouTube might seem straightforward enough for Brazilian internet users, but there is actually a long way to go before they can do this with ease. Whenever a user accesses a website hosted in another country or makes an international telephone call, data travels through telecom operators’ networks and long underwater cables until it reaches data centres, which house sites such as Facebook and YouTube.
In recent years the increase in this type of international data traffic has spurred on investment that has sought to expand the operational capacity of underwater cables. Now the American company Seaborn Networks has taken another step towards its goal of laying a new underwater cable that will link Brazil to the USA. Named Seabras-1, the new fibre optic cable will connect New York to São Paulo, and will pass through Fortaleza.
At 10,700 kilometres long, the underwater cable will require investment to the tune of about US$400 million, and is scheduled to become operational in 2015. Seabras-1 will have a final capacity of 40 terabytes per second (TBps), which will, for instance, allow the streaming of data for the simultaneous transmission of 620,000 high-definition channels.
Last week France’s export credit agency, Coface, promised to guarantee a line of credit for Seabras-1. Larry Schwartz, Chief Executive of Seaborn Networks, did not report the value of the sum offered by Coface, but stated that the funds will help to accelerate the underwater cable installation. “Few companies in the world are committed to installing and operating underwater cables, and raising funds is a challenging part of the process,” he said.
According to Schwartz, the guarantee issued by Coface is due to Seaborn Networks’ relationship with the French telecoms equipment manufacturer Alcatel-Lucent. The French company will provide technology for the installation of the Seabras-1 underwater cable.
Schwartz said that the decision to install a new cable linking the USA to Brazil was made on the basis of a number of factors, such as the development of the National Broadband Plan, which aims to provide 70% of Brazilian homes with internet access by 2015, and an increase in the number of Smartphone and tablet users within the country. The provision of fourth generation (4G) mobile telephone networks and Brazil’s growing demand for the telecoms infrastructure to be extended have also been cited as reasons in favour of investment.
“Traffic is not only growing between Brazil and the USA. Many operators from Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile need to extend their capacity for international traffic, and Seabras-1 will also serve those markets,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz said that Seaborn is already negotiating the allocation of the underwater cable’s data traffic capacity with operators in Brazil and the USA, but did not mention names due to confidentiality agreements in place with the companies.
Brazil is currently served by four underwater cables. One of them is Globenet, which previously belonged to Oi and was sold in July to BTG Pactual Infraestrutura II Fundo de Investimento e Participações. It stretches for 22,000 kilometres, connecting Brazil to the USA. The USA and Brazil are also linked by Sam-1, belonging to Telefônica (25,000 kilometres); SAC, belonging to Global Crossing, which is classed as level 3 (22,200 kilometres); and Americas II, which belongs to a consortium of businesses that include Embratel (9,000 kilometres). A fifth cable, Atlantis II, also belongs to a group of businesses, and connects Brazil with Europe and Africa.
In March América Móvil, the parent company in Brazil of Claro, Embratel and Net, announced a R$1 billion investment for launching the AMX-1 underwater cable which will connect Brazil and the countries of Central America with the USA. Telebras is also carrying out a study with Angola Cable ahead of laying a 6,000km underwater cable that will link Fortaleza with Luanda.