AMMAN (Reuters) - Reliance Globalcom, the underseas cable unit of Reliance Communications (RLCM.NS), said on Monday it had launched a joint venture with Iraq that substantially expands the country’s broadband and telecommunications links to the outside world.
The activation of Al-Faw Cable Landing Station, in a project with Iraqi Telecommunications and Post Company (ITPC) will connect Iraq to countries in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North America, the Indian firm said in a statement sent to Reuters.
Reliance Globalcom, which owns the world’s largest private undersea cable system spanning 65,000 kilometers, said the station with a design capacity of 680 Gbps with two diverse routes, would initially use 50 Gbps on each route to cater to existing market demand.
The two diverse routes were connected to the Falcon undersea fiber-optic cable network owned by Reliance Globalcom.
“This will help connect Iraq to the rest of the world through our global networks. The Middle East is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world,” said Rory Cole, COO of Reliance Globalcom said in the statement.
Industry executives said the project was the first cable network to land in Iraq, a country of 30 million people, still recovering from the 2003 U.S. invasion that followed years of international sanctions under Saddam Hussein. Under 3 percent of the country’s population is currently connected to the Internet.
Poor infrastructure, high operating costs, conflicts between communications regulators and security problems are seen stunting development there.
Iraq holds a pivotal geographical position in the region and could be an important communications bridge joining the Middle East with Europe and Asia.
“This is an extremely important strategic initiative that will facilitate the connectivity of all countries in the Middle East region to Iraq and also significantly improve the quality and speed as well as the reliability of Iraq’s connectivity to the rest of the world,” Iraq’s Minister of Communications Mohammed Allawi was quoted as saying in the statement.
Reliance Communications, India’s second-largest mobile firm by users, acquired the FLAG undersea cable network for $207 million in 2003, and the business is now part of its Reliance Globalcom unit. It sells capacity on the network to many of the world’s major carriers.
Demand for bandwidth is soaring in the Middle East, driven by the deregulation of regional telecoms markets as well as a desire by governments to diversify from oil and gas into sectors such as finance and media that require fast international connections.
Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Editing by G Crosse