Airtel increases data capacity to Europe, Africa via cable deal

Telecom Egypt’s cables

Bharti Airtel said it has signed an agreement to purchase capacity on four submarine cable systems between India and Europe from Telecom Egypt.

“Airtel will get IRUs (Indefeasible Right of Use) on Middle East North Africa Submarine Cable (MENA Cable) and TE North Cable Systems.  In addition, Airtel will also take large capacities on a long-term basis on two new state-of-the-art Cable Systems (SMW5 & AAE1),” it said.

The capacity on MENA will be from Egypt to India, with access to Saudi Arabia and Oman. On the same cable, Airtel will also get capacity from Egypt to Italy.

On TE North, it will get a fiber pair from Egypt to France.

In addition, it will also get capacities on SMW5 and AAE1 cable systems, the Indian company added.

The capacities are helpful for growing Airtel’s internet business as well as its corporate connectivity business in both India as well as Africa — two of its largest markets.

“With this, Airtel will be able to further diversify its global network to serve the massive growth in demand for data services, particularly in emerging markets across South Asia, Africa and Middle East, while also benefiting from the favorable economics of Telecom Egypt’s existing wide cable systems network,” it said.

Ajay Chitkara, Director and CEO of Airtel Business said the new cable will provide a high quality and diversified new route to Western Europe.

“With the explosion of data usage in emerging markets, including India and Africa, this asset will provide us a scalable and diverse high capacity highway to serve our customers. In particular, it will provide impetus to India’s emergence as a major regional internet hub serving customers across SAARC region, with seamless global connectivity,” he said.

Telecom Egypt’s network was built over the years through consortiums as well as private international submarine cable systems.

It had signed the agreement with OTMT to acquire MENA Cable with the aim of capitalizing on the growing traffic from India and Saudi Arabia to Europe and to obtain a new gateway to Europe through Italy.

“We are pleased to be able to sign the MoU with Airtel as well as to be able to bundle MENA’s assets with existing assets of the TE network,” said Ahmed El Beheiry, Chief Executive Officer of Telecom Egypt.

“We aim to come back to the market with more details on the MoU and its financial impact once the deal is closed.”

Thanks to Egypt’s distinctive geographic location at the junction of Asia, Africa and Europe, Telecom Egypt has connections to more than 11 cable systems from the East and 13 from the West.

Among the cables which it has stakes in are ALETAR, SEA-ME-WE-3, SEA-ME-WE-4, SEA-ME-WE-5, IMEWE, EIG, and AAE-1.​

Airtel owns i2i submarine cable system connecting Chennai to Singapore, and has stakes in SMW4 from Chennai and Mumbai to Singapore and Europe.

It is also a stakeholder in new cable system investments like Asia America Gateway (AAG), India Middle East & Western Europe (IMEWE), Unity, EIG (Europe India Gateway) and East Africa Submarine System (EASSy).

It also has terrestrial connectivity to neighboring countries including Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh and China.