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