A $130 million submarine fiber optic cable that will strengthen Puerto Rico’s communications through redundancy and resilience will be deployed along the island’s southern flank, government officials announced.
The first phase of the project will require an investment $30 million to build — which private investment firm Phoenix Fund will pay for — and will keep Puerto Rico connected in case of an emergency affecting the cables entering the island’s northern coast.
“Deploying a fiber optic connection along Puerto Rico’s southern coast is a vital preparedness measure,” said Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. “This project represents a breakthrough, not only for disaster preparedness, but to give Puerto Rico the ability to provide technology following best market practices, helping to continue transforming the island into a center of new business development opportunities.”
The submarine cable’s mooring stations will be on the south coast of the island, he said.
In addition to the redundancy the project offers, the island will count on the most advanced technology available, which will strengthen its position as a strategic place for the landing of submarine cables that link North America and South America.
Sandra Torres, chairwoman of the Telecommunications Bureau, said “this initiative will also allow Puerto Rico to stay one step ahead of the growth of internet applications with a high demand for bandwidth and the subsequent creation of high-paying jobs, projected at 275 direct and 600 indirect.”
All internet connections via existing submarine cables arrive at the north of the island and are vulnerable to seismic events in the so-called Milwaukee Trench in the Atlantic Ocean.
The branch that will provide connectivity originates from parent cable connecting Brazil and the United States and is counts on the latest infrastructure, with advanced technology and best latencies in the market, she said. The fibers that will be assigned to the cable will have an initial capacity of 13,000 Gigabits per second.
Ninety-nine percent of data sent and downloaded daily throughout the world travel through cables located deep in the sea. For this reason, they are described as the arteries of the internet.
A preliminary analysis of the project is for a mooring station in Ponce with future expansions planned to other population and industrial centers such as Mayagüez, Aguadilla, Humacao and Manatí. Branches to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vieques and Culebra are also being evaluated.
In addition, a neutral data center will be built, open to all operators and internet providers.
The government’s economic and disaster recovery plan identifies this risk and recommends the construction of new telecommunications infrastructure, including the undersea cables.
A group of Puerto Rican investors, which currently operate telecommunications infrastructure on the island, is responsible for the project, Rosselló said.
The group’s initiative was proposed last year, after Hurricane María destroyed the telecommunications infrastructure and highlighted risks to other communication systems.
The construction of the new underwater cable is being designed through a partnership with Telxius, a Spanish communications company with global presence in infrastructure and submarine cable systems.