Spain, already the main European point of departure to South America more than five centuries ago, now plays a prominent role on the world map for today’s undersea digital connections.
According to Google, 98% of all international Internet traffic now passes through submarine cables. An immense global network at the bottom of the oceans allows us to telecommute, watch the latest movies on platforms like Netflix or play video games with people on the other side of the world.
Until recently, most submarine cable projects skipped Spain and connected the New Jersey coast, where many technology companies have their data centres, to Ireland. The logical next step was to skip Ireland and connect directly to the UK, because “every time the submarine cable hits land, the delay increases,” explained Juan Vaamonde, country manager of Data4. After the UK, the next stop was Amsterdam, “but these lines are becoming increasingly congested”.
The importance of Spain
The same geographical location that centuries ago was so beneficial to trade with South America now makes Spain attractive to technology companies. These secure ‘information highways’ via submarine cables are in line with the growing data centre infrastructure in Spain.
Spain’s geographical position is privileged. “In the north is England, in the south-west access to South America and in the south connection to Africa,” continues Vaamonde. Within a month, the connection with Brazil, which runs through the Canary Islands, is expected to be operational. This will reduce the connection delay with South America by about 50%, with a latency – the response time of the server- of less than 60 milliseconds.
Submarine cable crossroads
The Iberian Peninsula is also crucial for the connection between Europe and North Africa, especially for the connection to the west coast of the continent. Cables run through Valencia to Palermo, which in turn provides access to Asia via the Suez Canal: an important crossroads for cables of this type. Facebook also collaborated on the 2Africa; an international submarine telecommunications cable designed to bypass the coastline of the African continent to connect Europe and countries in Africa and the Middle East. The architecture is quite complex and involves the laying of a 37,000-kilometre cable from the UK, going to the entire African continent, with branches to a few countries, and returning to Europe via a berth in Barcelona.
Within Spain, Bilbao plays a leading role, with a landing point for two of the major submarine cables linking Vizcaya with the United States.