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Sicily could revive Italy’s role in telecommunications

The Mediterranean is the world’s main telecommunications hub.

Sicily in particular has five submarine communications cable landing stations. Today there are 18 submarine communications cables with landing points in this region that come from the Middle East, Asia, North Africa and North America. The main station is at Mazara del Vallo where 9 cables have landing points, followed by Catania (5), Palermo (2), Pozzallo and Trapani (1). Sicily has always been a geographical meeting point between West and East, but the lack of terrestrial cables to connect the submarine cables with the most important European backbone cabling systems such as Frankfurt, London and Paris has been the main obstacle to Sicily establishing itself and taking full advantage of its potential, together with the absence of free competition.

This situation has clearly favoured the emergence of other international data traffic hubs such as Marseilles, which is the most strategic and best served hub in the Mediterranean. In fact, several data centres in competition with each other have been established in Marseilles. Investment in networks connecting the communications cable stations has been significant and has involved most of the international operators, such as Telecom Egypt, the American company Verizon and the Indian company Tata. The success of Marseilles is linked to a number of factors the most important of which is that Marseilles is a true open system, a technological centre of excellence where telecommunication companies compete freely.

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There are also other countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean that could provide opportunities for the creation of new technological centres of excellence and for the development of new infrastructure projects in the Mediterranean area.  Libya, for example, before the explosion of the Arab spring in February 2011, with the Libyan telecommunications company L.P.T.I.C. was developing an ambitious project to connect sub-Saharan Africa with the Mediterranean area. In this perspective, the new Mediterranean Darnah (now under the control of the so-called Islamic State) cable-landing station was realized, the Tripoli station enlarged and the Tobruk station is being realized. In the south of the Sahara desert the terrestrial backbone cabling system to Niger and Sudan, connecting both the Horn of Africa and West Africa, are being completed. This project could be resumed once the country returns to peace, which we hope will very soon.

But things could change in Italy too.

In Sicily the Open Hub Med project is being established with the objective of creating a neutral technological platform in Carini (Palermo), open to telecommunications operators worldwide, which is fully integrated with all major submarine cables that cross the Mediterranean and the terrestrial cables that, from Palermo, run the entire length of Italy, reaching the main telecommunications hubs in Europe and the world. The initiative is not in competition with Marseilles. In fact, it would like to complement and operate in close synergy with Marseilles, with the goal of offering telecommunications companies diversified routes and improvements in terms of quality and overall competitiveness. The next few years will be decisive for evaluating the attractiveness of this project and the effective competitiveness of the Italian market.

Giovanni Ottati

CEO – VueTel Italia

Sicily, the Italian telecommunication hub

A total of 18 undersea internet cables reaches the shores Sicily; they are distributed over five landing points and originate from Asia, Africa and North America. The island occupies a key role in the global network and, with the appropriate investments, could become one of the most important hubs in the world. The Open Hub Med project, funded also by Vue Tel Italy, has this aim.

East and West meet in Sicily

Geography has made Sicily a bridge between cultures: positioned at the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, it has always represented a natural point of passage between Europe and Africa. New technologies have amplified this role and now the island is an important hub in the global telecommunication network, able to bring East and West together.  A total of 18 undersea cables reaches Sicily, forming part of that network upon which the near totality of data traffic takes place. The main hub is Mazara del Vallo, recipient of a considerable number of cables (nine), followed by Catania (five), Palermo (two), and Pozzallo and Trapani (one). Some of these connections are real digital motorways, travelling through continents for thousands of kilometres.  It is the case of SeaMeWe3, which runs for more than 39,000 km: it starts in Japan, passes through Australia, crosses the Pacific Ocean and the Suez Canal, reaches Mazara and then heads to the United Kingdom. Other strategic cables that pass through Sicily are Columbus III (Italy-USA), SeaMeWe4 and SeaMeWe5 (Malesia-France), and FLAG Europe-Asia (Japan- United Kingdom).

The Open Hub Med project  

Sicily, therefore, has all the prerequisites for being a hub of primary importance, but, to this day, it has not fully used its potential, especially due to the low level of investments.  Now, however, something seems to be moving. This is demonstrated by Open Hub Med, a project in which VueTel Italy is also taking part; it aims at creating a neutral technological centre (in Carini, Palermo), open to all TLC operators in the world, extending and integrating the existing facilities. The initiative will have the immediate effect of diversifying the routes that Companies can use, improving the offer in terms of quality and increasing its competitiveness.

VueTel Italia is one of the companies supporting the project Open Hub Med

Open HUB Med will be located at Italtel in Palermo Carini. Within a short space of time, the structure aims to become second centre for Italian telecommunications after Milan. The Hub will be operational by the end of 2015, with further growth forecast in 2016, through the opening of a second office in Bari. The project aims to ensure Italy is at the centre of submarine telecommunications routes linking Asia and Africa with Northern Europe and the US.

From the early beginning VueTel Italia has expressed a strong interest in the project recognising in it the same vision that has guided the Company since its foundation: building bridges to and from the African continent.

The project aims to revive Italy and in particular the international telecommunications sector by taking advantage of the country’s geographical location to make it a major participant in Mediterranean markets. Sicily plays a pivotal role in the global network of submarine cables by virtue of its strategic location in the heart of the Mediterranean. All these are key success factors in building a digital bridge between Africa and the rest of the world with Open Hub Med.

A press release on the initiative will follow.

Open Hub Med: a truly neutral and open Hub for the Internet Traffic Exchange opens in Sicily, Italy

The project aims to make Italy the main Submarine cable hub for the Mediterranean Basin and will be operational within Q4 2015.

Milan, July 28th 2015 – Interoute, Mandarin, MIX and TelecityGroup Italia, the main promoters of the Open Hub Med (OHM) project, have chosen Italtel’s Carini site as the location where the second Italian Telecommunication Pole, after Milan’s, will be developed. This new TLC business hot spot will be operational within Q4 of 2015 and the project will see a second expansion phase with the opening of a node in Bari, on the east coast of southern Italy, within 2016. This ambitious technological project – merging an open and neutral site with one of the major European Internet Exchange – has already gained the participation of NGI, SUPERNAP Italia and Italtel as technological partner, while KPNQwest Italia, Vuetel Italia and other operators of primary importance have announced their intention to join. The new site will start with 1,000 sqm. data and interconnection center space, which can be easily expanded up to 10,000 sqm. .Given the presence of a large number of operators since the launch phase, the new Sicily hub has the ambition to become the natural collector and interconnection point for the 135,000 km of Submarine cables currently reaching Sicily island. Thanks to the presence of MIX, Milano Internet eXchange, recreating the collocation and interconnection ecosystem of Milan (Via Caldera Hub), Open Hub Med will not be a mere Landing Station facility, but it will have a strategic role such as other internationally recognized landing and interconnection points, like Marseille’s in France. The “tri-pole Palermo-Bari-Milan” will be the new privileged route for the internet traffic coming from Asia, Middle East and Africa regions heading to Northern Europe, re-launching Italy’s role within the Global Telecommunication business.

Open Hub Med will offer optimal interconnection conditions among operators in strategic locations in Southern Italy. These points are natural aggregation areas for Internet backbones in the Mediterranean basin able to guarantee key advantages like minimizing wet capacity cable sections and lower network latencies compared to other European interconnection sites. OHM is based on an open multi-stakeholder governance model, and it will be the only Sicilian hub able to guarantee real Neutrality and Openness to every network provider, mixing a strong global/international attitude and solid roots in the Italian and Sicilian territory.

All the players who have decided to invest in this initiative hold the solid record of having promoted an open telecommunication market in Italy over the last 15 years, and firmly believe that this new joint venture is a great opportunity to enhance Italy’s strategic geographical positioning in the submarine cable global scenario, generating new technological value for Sicily and Italy as a whole. This important initial investment is expected to generate new investments in the countrywide telecommunication infrastructure, technologies and fiber optic adoption with beneficial outcomes for the regional economics as well as boosting the digitalization process of the entire country, which is one of the main points in Mr. Renzi’s, Italian PM, agenda.