Dubai: Four telecom operators — du, Zain, Zajil Telecom and Vodafone Qatar — have formed a Middle East-Europe Terrestrial System (MEETS) consortium to lay 1,400 kilometre terrestrial (landline) cable from Fujairah to Kuwait.

The consortium will be investing $36 million (Dh132.228 million) jointly and the project will go live in the first quarter of next year.

“MEETS is an open cable system, which aims to make regional connectivity less expensive and more competitive and, at the same time, offer customers an improved data connectivity experience,” Osman Sultan, CEO of du, told Gulf News on the sidelines of the press conference.

“It is good to have additional capacity as the demand for more and more capacity is needed in the future and it is good to have alternative routes. It will be a cost effective equation for all our customers,” Sultan said.

MEETS will have an initial capacity of 200Gbps and be carried over an optical ground wire associated with a regional high-tension electricity network — reducing the risk of cable cuts.

Mahesh Jaishankar, vice-president Datamena and broadcast commercial at du, said the time to repair a cut in submarine cable is between 14 days to one month while the terrestrial cable cut will take only shorter time to repair.

He said all the cables right now go through Red Sea, Indian Ocean, Egypt and Mediterranean.

“We have witnessed cut in submarine cables in the past and the security of the terrestrial cables will depend on the security situation in the zone. Our zone is quite safe compared to others,” Osman said.

“We are proud to be part of this team that will benefit millions of internet users and telecom customers over a wide geography spanning the Middle East and Europe,” Khalifa I. Al Soulah, managing director and CEO at Zajil Telecom, said.

Henri Kassab, group director of wholesale and roaming at Zain Group, said the intention is to connect to Europe and that will happen in the second phase. Right now the focus will on the Fujairah-Kuwait route and will go live in the first quarter of next year. Kuwait to Europe route will be in the second phase.

A 100G optical transport network (OTN) will be built on top of a 1,400 kilometre terrestrial fibre optic cable to sustain the growing bandwidth demand of the region.

“We will be immediately thinking about the expansion and plans for the second phase. This project will have big value for our region. This is the first full integrated landline cable in the region,” Al Soulah said.

Niraj Singh, Business Services Director, Vodafone Qatar, said that deploying 4G LTE network in the region needs a lot of bandwidth. The UAE is a natural hub for Vodafone operating companies in Asia, Africa and Europe to exchange traffic with each other and partners.

“We are also pleased to be able to enhance Qatar’s global connectivity in this way.. It is truly an exciting project for Vodafone Qatar and the Vodafone Group,” he said.