A consortium of Middle East operators has unveiled plans for a new terrestrial network that would link several Gulf states to Turkey and Europe. UAE operator du, Vodafone Qatar, and Kuwaiti operators Zajil and Zain Group, announced their plans for the Middle East-Europe Terrestrial System (MEETS) in Dubai on 30 September. The first phase, scheduled to launch in Q1 2014, is a terrestrial link between the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait. It is comprised of a fibre pair running alongside the Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority’s regional power grid. The second phase of MEETS would extend connectivity from Kuwait to Turkey via Iraq.
The new network will help meet rapidly growing demand for international capacity in the region. According to data from TeleGeography’s Global Bandwidth Research Service, the aggregate international bandwidth requirements of the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait grew at a compound annual rate of 69% between 2008 and 2012.
‘MEETS will be a welcome addition to the growing number of terrestrial routes in the Middle East,’ said TeleGeography analyst Paul Brodsky. ‘These routes not only offer geographic diversity but avoid the submarine cable bottleneck in Egypt.’
Several other overland routes between the Middle East and Europe already exist. The Europe-Persia Express Gateway (EPEG) was launched in January 2013, and links Germany to Oman via Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. In February, submarine cable operator Gulf Bridge International (GBI) introduced GBI-North, a terrestrial fibre network linking the company’s Iraqi landing station to Turkey. Also in early 2013, Turk Telekom International and Palestine Telecom launched a hybrid route dubbed Paltel. Their alternative to the Europe-Asia route via Egypt spliced together subsea capacity on the MedNautilus system with terrestrial capacity on Palestine Telecom’s network, extending to the Jordanian border. Two other systems, Jeddah Amman Damascus Istanbul (JADI) and the Regional Cable Network (RCN), have been built but remain inactive due to the instability in Syria.