Third undersea cable pointless, says C&W

| 31/08/2020 | 79 Comments
Cayman News Service
Maya-1 undersea cable

(CNS): Cable & Wireless, part of the consortium of members that use and operate the existing undersea telecommunications cables that keep the Cayman Islands connected to the rest of the world, has said that plans by government to sink a third undersea cable are unnecessary. Even if there was a five-fold increase in communication traffic over the next 10 years, there would be enough capacity in the current sub-sea network, officials from the islands’ oldest communications company has said.

Government is currently engage in an open tender seeking information on the idea of a third undersea information and communications technology (ICT) cable directly linking Cayman with the United States.

Joey Hew, the minister responsible for e-government, said at the recent Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum that government needed to land a modern submarine cable, which would be the foundation that could make the Cayman Islands a data and information hub, placing the country “at the cutting edge of modern business communications”.

He said the tender, which is now under consideration, was designed to kick-start the consultation on the cable and to collect information on how best to approach it.

But Paul Kirwan, Director, Consortium Cable Management for Cable & Wireless Networks, which has overseen the operations and management of both of the existing sub-sea cables since their inception, implied the move would be pointless.

“Even if Caymanian consumption were to increase five-fold in the next 10 years, there would not be a capacity concern for the current subsea network,” he said in a press release. “Should the need ever arise to repair a cable, the average time to do so is 15 to 25 days, however, most ISP routing systems are designed and scaled to automatically allow for traffic to be re-routed to the secondary cable route to facilitate repair without any noticeable impact or congestion,” he added.

In 2013 Cayman lost over a third of its international circuits following a “shunt fault” on the Maya-1 Cable and service was interrupted for about two days. In 2018 another cut in service occurred when the cable operators said it had scheduled the break in connectivity.

Government believes these incidents and the growing need for more efficient connection justifies new infrastructure and a back-up for the country’s international connection. However despite more than two decades of operation, the Maya-1 Cable is currently only at 41% of its total operating design capability and the Cayman Jamaica Fiber Cable at just 5%.

Kirwan said the continued investment in the Maya-1 Cable has transformed the ICT landscape of the Cayman islands and positioned us as the major solutions provider over the last two decades.

“The Maya-1 Cable is owned and operated by a consortium of independent operators and Cable & Wireless competes with the other consortium members when selling bandwidth on the cable. Over the years, we have seen a continuous decline in pricing per Mbps decline for bandwidth, without a parallel reduction in operating costs.”

The cables have seen Cayman’s grow from speeds of 9.6Kb per second to fibre optic cable systems with system operating bandwidths of 100Gb per second, and with client speeds of 10Gbp/s provided to every ISP.

Cable & Wireless said the Maya-1 Cable works in conjunction with the Cayman Jamaica Fiber System (CJFS) Subsea Cable and both employ best in class technology and both have been continuously upgraded over the years. An upgrade currently underway on the Maya-1 system will introduce 100Gbp/s client access on the system in October this year.

Kirwan said a third cable with a direct link to the United States would bring an additional path and capacity to the marketplace but it would not “provide material improvement in latency to the USA and beyond”.

The route will most likely be similar in distance and capability to the Maya-1 today. “A direct cable to Miami could create a small benefit of a few milliseconds for customers accessing websites and cloud servers in Miami, but it is unlikely to be noticeable to the end customer,” he added.

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Category: Business, ICT

Comments (79)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh, but it’s not pointless.
    It reminds me of what Michael Misick said to the Commission of Inquiry into possible corruption in T&C. When asked how a $100,000 payment he claimed was a political donation made to him by a construction company could really be a political contribution if he used the money for himself, he replied: You’re obviously not a Caribbean politician.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Very outdated thinking on the part of Cable and Wireless. The truth is that even 5 years from now bandwidth demand could easily be 5 fold what it is today.

    • MG says:

      I expect that demand could easily be met today with more reasonable pricing? What’s the average down land speed in Cayman 5-10Mbs? If it were 50-100Mbs, I’d bet demand would be a multiple of what it is now…

    • Anonymous says:

      The entire MAYA-1 cable from Florida to Colombia cost only $150,000,000. Fiber Is cheap. You spend that much on one little airport and on a high school. If there was any demand for more cable, ATT, Verizon, BT, Sprint (the major owners of the MAYA cable) or some other cable owner, would build it. Your cost problem is local. Digicel and the others don’t have their own cable. Ask them why this is so. I think they will tell you it’s because Cayman has too few people and is far from everywhere else. Some people call that a blessing and think it would be better to wait for satellite internet.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If there is so called capacity on the Maya 1 as C&W states, where is the bottleneck then? Is their pricing too high for local ISPs to purchase increased bandwidth?

    Or are the local ISPs willfully not purchasing adequate capacity to serve their client base?

    What other bottlenecks exist that the public are not aware of?

    For Cayman to host data centers as mentioned in other posts, a more reliable power system is needed. Also, the costs of cooling these buildings would be astronomical also deterring the attractiveness for data centers. Solve the power grid/cooling system and then be ready to tackle the need to import 60-75 computer engineers to operate each until the local education system can develop a steady stream of qualified graduates.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Our government loves to kick the can and expecting someone else to pick it up. Why not do what’s necessary for our island now and for the upcoming years so we don’t have to worry about it and also waste more money?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Soon to be consigned to history by starlink…

    • Hubert says:

      But the better option is VIASAT not Starlink. VIASAT offers so much more in terms of speed and amounts of data.

      • Anonymous says:

        I disagree. Starlink uses low earth orbit satellites with an expected ping of 25ms compared to 600ms for viasat. OK if all you do is stream but no good for gaming or certain financial services or video conferencing, etc… that kind of satellite latency is just horrible to use.

  6. Anonymous says:

    What BS from a competitor. If Cayman were to host a few large data centers because of its tax neutrality, the new cable would be maxed out quickly. Cayman is an ideal place to host such centers due to its favorable laws.

    • Hubert says:

      You must be joking 5:37. Do you know how many network engineers and people with the appropriate IT skills would have to be brought here to run a few large data centers? We simply do not have the skills on Island to do these sort of jobs due to our outdated education system related to IT skills.

      • Anonymous says:

        You must be a paid troll from Cable and Wireless. Remote data centers are in use all over the world, with a relatively small number of on-location staff and remote monitoring. Google even used to sell a datacenter packaged in a container that could be shipped and setup almost instantly. In any case, it is no more difficult being a data center technician than a lawyer or a web developer, and there are plenty of those here.

        • Big Bobo In West Bay says:

          6:38, You obviously don’t know very much about LARGE data centers. The largest data center in the world is in China at 6.3 million square feet which is equivalent to the size of The Pentagon or 110 football fields while the largest data center in the USA is in Las Vegas and is equivalent in size to 60 football fields. Do you know how much expertise is required to run such a facility?

          Could be great for CIG work permit revenue though.

          Let’s just focus on moving THE DUMP which we have talked about here for 20 years and then maybe we can talk about LARGE data centers here. 😆 😆 😆

    • Miami Dave says:

      Do you know what is required in terms of people skills to run large data centers?

      We could never do that here.

      • HDB3 says:

        Thank Goodness you and your Negative Attitude is in Miami. Please stay there with that negativity.

        If we had followed your thoughts in the 70’s the Financial and Tourism…….

        • Bobo Bodden says:

          HDB3, Miami Dave is just living in the real world and understands the art of the possible. You have been on island too long. Need to see what is going on off island after COVID 19 allows you to travel again.

          • Anonymous says:

            And how exactly did you determine my travel habits or experiences?

            • Anonymous says:

              2:07, Simple, certain he / she determined it by your very limited knowledge related to the modern IT world outside of the Cayman Islands.

      • Anonymous says:

        Suggests to me it has the potential to create new jobs and skills on island.

        • Anonymous says:

          New jobs for expats only. Not for Caymanians as they do not have the skill set for this sector.

  7. MG says:

    Enforcing regulated access to the local loop of cable and wireless would be a good start to lower costs.

    The decision by CIG a few years back (see link below) is inexplicable and runs counter to the experience that has happened when LLU has been tried and other geographies.

  8. Mangrove Warrior says:

    Frank schilling bought up large plots of mangroves in the CMW area and says he wants to dredge a canal straight through the center to of this area to bring in such a cable. The last pristine natural area to be sacrificed to solve another non existing problem. Schilling indicates to have a lot of confidence in his government relations that he will get his way. The writing is on the wall here, Caymans nature is for sale to the highest bidder and Caymanians selling.

    • Anonymous says:

      Where is Ezzard Miller on this issue of protecting these valuable mangroves? Or is it because Frank bought land from North Siders that he has nothing to say?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Dial up America Movil and ask about their AMX-1 subsea cable which runs parallel to the MAYA-1 and already passes both east and west of Cayman. It appears to be about 10 times bigger. Surely you could hook up. Now where do I send my bill?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Here’s an idea. How about the government fix the damn dump first? Maybe they should resolve this first and show us they have the health of residents as a top priority. I don’t need faster internet if I have a tumour caused by the toxic landfill

  11. Nathan Wesley says:

    It is not pointless, submarine cable systems come with a 25 year warranty. The Maya 1 EOS is up in 2025 and the Jamaican Cayman Fiber is up in 2022. You can keep upgrading the equipment in the cables stations for more capacity but where the problems are going to come in is the repeaters. When they start having problems you are going to have to call in a submarine cable ship to retrieve and repair. There are only a few of these in the world that do this type of work. Most likely it will take a day or two for the cable ship to arrive in cayman, a day to drag the bottom to retrieve the repeater and a day or so to repair it. You are most likely looking at a week for repair once a repeater goes out or a fiber break. Cayman has two subsea fibers for redundancy but both are at EOS. It is very possible to start having problems on both systems with the age it has on it. I operated three submarine cable systems in Hawaii and have been trained in Alcatel-Lucent submarine networks. If it wasn’t for the age of the two already in place I would agree with C&W. Take my advice and be proactive in investing in a new submarine network.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Coming as it does from the monopoly company which has abused its position for decades , stifled competition with all its might and ripped off the public….

  13. Anonymous says:

    So then what is the solution? I’m tired of paying premium prices for subpar service.

  14. Anonymous says:


  15. Anonymous says:

    This is not happening. It’s just a talking point. It’s more pleasant to jaw about something that doesn’t exist but might be cool to have, than to answer difficult questions about the unreasonably expensive reality that you actually are confronted with.

  16. Anonymous says:

    It is time that government hold a share in all essential infrastructure, but also ensure stock is floated locally so that local people can invest.This can be achieved through a joint venture and listed as a public company. Government however should not be allowed to sell off their shares like they did with the Cayman Islands Public Service Company before the creation of CUC and certain people In particular benefitted.

    It is sad that Cable & Wireless were allowed to transfer their profits from here to their operations in other countries to build up those countries infrastructure and Caymanians, who labored and built up the company, we’re not given an opportunity to become part of what they built as well as local people. At least CUC staff and local people were given that opportunity.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Company with monopoly says status quo shouldn’t be changed.

  18. CaymanThinkForYourself says:

    I know some of the local C&W engineers who worked on these systems from inception. Reliable sources confirmed Paul Kirwan only came on the C&W USA team in about 2014 to manage the Caribbean with NO prior knowledge/experience in Undersea systems.

    What the govt is doing is very good. “Can’t have ALL your cables in one building” (C&W) and expect world class reliability.

    The FLOW building in GT is a huge single point of failure. Those who know the systems assure that most distribution for both systems are done from that building.

    Another Huge concern is the age of the undersea cables and other systems from the1990’s. Seems like Cayman deserve better.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Don’t C&W own the main fiber coming into cayman and lease to the other providers? No conflict here, of course they don’t want competition

  20. Anonymous says:

    This third cable along with an updated port will catapult us finally into the 21st century!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Starlink is poised relegate fiber internet to the bench as a backup. But as with all foreign competitors our regulators will most likely ban the service unless it is sold through a local monopoly for a vastly inflated premium.

  22. 1 says:

    Bring in multiple cables so that we have multiple redundancies and ample capacity, zone for and provide incentives for offshore server farms and use the cold water that surrounds these islands to provide cooling for multiple Google sized server farms. If that were done multiple new 21st C industries would become possible without paving over everything or having skyscrapers on 7-mile beach.

  23. Now or Never says:

    A few very fortunate people are going to get paid, they special party supporters, the usual crew that have their noses in the trough getting millions in concessions, a few cabinet members and key consultants. Must be an election around the corner.

    Follow the money…

  24. Noname says:

    The real issue is not the undersea infrastructure but the quality of the on island infrastructure , open your eyes ! Cuc’s strangle hold on pole access is what IS making implementation of fiber networks such an unprofitable entreprise ! But since our luminaries at .gov and OfReg don’t want to endanger CUC’s bottom line the only way forward seems to be Starlink from this point forward ! Low Earth Orbit will provide more reliable service at the endpoint and lower latency than the present loop .

  25. Anonymous says:

    Well, if C&W say we don’t need it …

    Seriously though (a) reliability – it may be that with one cable through the Yucatan channel and one through the Mona passage from Jamaica to the US, and then Maya1 continuing south to South America, we have all of the realistic redundancy we can achieve. At least if the cables can keep adding bandwith through software improvements. (Sending the 3rd cable to Jamaica, via the sister islands, just like the current arrangement, but following a different route and to a different Jam point, might make more sense as Jamaica has cables to both Miami but also Puerto Rico which is a hub for further external cables. Its all about how many routes can your data travel if one route or terminus, e.g., Miami, goes down.)

    (b) Speed – the advertised speeds are fast enough for today and the immediate future.

    All this does is highlight that our local speed & reliability issues are on-islands issues. The local providers, including Cable & Wireless under the current name, are not giving reasonable service on the local end.

  26. Telecoms Distress Signal says:

    Ah. Yes let’s rely on C&W’s expert knowledge. This is a company that can’t even buy the brackets needed to hold up its wires.

    Very sad. Used to be a great company. Sent Caymanians to the UK for technical and vocational training before that was even a thing.

    Now a shadow of its former self.

  27. Fed up says:

    10 Gbps per client in Cayman….on my ass! They control the speed on every modems and it is very slow!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Genius Joey knows best I’m sure.

    • Anonymous says:

      I always found Joey to be a decent character. He seems like he is at least trying to make changes.

      • Anonymous says:

        He is the PPM’s younger version of Muckeeva Bush with the same character and qualifications

        • Anonymous says:

          But…. but…. but…. Why would anyone want to be an ass?

        • Anonymous says:

          Why do people say stuff like this? This is not my experience or assessment of Joey, at all. I really would like to know where this disparagement of him comes from.

          • Big Bobo says:

            12:42, Ask Joey why he has done absolutely nothing about THE DUMP in his constituency? Nothing said for 4 years but just wait till next year. All sorts of big talk again. Frankly, I am fed up with lack of action on this issue for 20 years.

            That is the reason for disparagement from someone with the title of Minister of Infrastructure.

        • Anonymous says:

          At least Joey can read and write

  29. Anonymous says:

    If this was needed, someone would be pounding on your door to build it without government money. Please keep the government out of this. It is a scam and a boondoggle.

  30. Michael G says:

    If there is no capacity issue why is broadband so expensive in the Cayman Islands?

    I am currently relocating from Gibraltar where I get 300 Mbps unlimited fiber connection (tv and phone inclusive) for the the equivalent of $39KYD (£35) per month.

    Whereas in the Cayman’s, Flow (C&W) charges $200KYD per month for only 200Mbps (tv only, phone $20KYD extra)

    So if there is no capacity issue why does it cost five times as much for an inferior service?

    • Noname says:

      Pole access fees ! Rented from Mama CUC explain a LARGE part of the bill . Cost of power is also a BIG factor into the present prices .

    • Anonymous says:

      Why would you pay for 200 mbps? It doesn’t make your internet go any faster. It just increases your bandwidth.

      What could you possibly do with more than 100mbps? A 4K stream is like 15mbps. You could run like 6 of those at a time.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you like your cheap internet then stay put where you are!

    • Anonymous says:

      Seriously? How long have you been here?

    • Anonymous says:

      Just so you know, FLOW currently charges $200 KYD per month for 200Mbps plus ALL of its TV channels. You call this “tv only” but I call it “the best package with the most channels”. I used to pay $150 per month for 50Mbps and another $90 for the TV channels. Two promotions later, my speed has quadrupled and I pay less. Their prices have actually come down, and provided you know how to maximise speeds (using 5Ghz network when possible), the speeds advertised are actually delivered. Gibraltar and Cayman really do not have much in common and cannot be compared for most purposes. Gibraltar is the southern tip of Spain; we are three islands in the Caribbean Sea. We do not benefit from continental infrastructure or economies of scale. Yes, it sounds like FLOW could double everyone’s speeds for free (as they’ve done on numerous occasions since internet came to Cayman) but that would hasten the point when they have to invest in more infrastructure by using more capacity and increasing consumer speed expectations.

      Why does it cost so much? Many reasons. Shareholders to satisfy, monopoly/small market inefficiencies that suppress margins, customer loyalty, business costs, the fact we are grateful to have the infrastructure and speeds we have, the fact that people are willing to pay because the internet makes this little group of islands so much more entertaining…many factors. This just isn’t continental Europe, sorry!

      • Michael G says:

        Until the regulators in Europe and North America forced the legacy incumbent operators to provide new entrants access to the local loop and backhaul infrastructure the costs were also very high.

        Once they forced access at prices that were preset the cost fell dramatically as the same time as speeds increased.

        I would imagine that C&W has long since recouped their infrastructure investment in the Cayman Islands and is now just milking it for every dollar they can.

        As a company with shareholders that is their prerogative. However the CIG, who claim to be trying to support an ICT type economy, should be looking at ways to do this through regulation.

        • Anonymous says:

          The telecom sector was liberalised almost two decades ago but high barriers to entry, high operating costs, and a small, fixed, affluent consumer base continue to dictate prices to consumers. We haven’t heard anything in a while about what FLOW charges its competitors to use its infrastructure. Essentially it isn’t really clear if we are being ‘milked’ or if these companies are having genuine difficulty ‘milking’ us. Competitors to FLOW don’t seem to last long and I haven’t heard it’s because they’re being charged punishingly anti-competitive rates to use FLOW’s infrastructure.

          As long as consumers can pay and providers can provide the service, both sides seem to be happy. I am just giving you the everyman’s perspective here. Some get really worked up about short outages and small price differences, others don’t. I don’t. The difference between Gibraltar and here certainly is not small, but my point was it’s just one of many differences that reflects how this place works. 20 years ago, maybe even 15 years ago we had speeds in kbps or low Mbps. We did not get fibre until around 2014. All of a sudden I was able to buy 100 Mbps for $200/month. I just said ‘take my money’, gladly. I guess it’s different if you grew up here. I’m truly grateful for the infrastructure we have, but I do understand fresh arrivals from continents thinking we don’t compare favourably and it must be a racket. It may be, I don’t know. Just keep the lights blinking and give me my quick downloads.

    • Anonymous says:

      Predatory Pricing. Back when C&W was the only telephone in any town in the Caribbean on certain islands you had free local calls (Barbados) on others (Cayman) you paid per call. Prices aren’t set by availability but by what they think the market can bare. (And welcome to Cayman. Our local realtors will sell you a 2 bedroom apartment based not on how many are available for rent/sale, but what they think they can charge for it.)

  31. Anonymous says:

    Someone must be getting a kickback for brokering this…..

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