Currently, the islands, which are a self-governing British Overseas Territory, have only two legacy cables connecting them to the outside world, the Cayman-Jamaica Fiber System (CJFS), which has been operational since 1997, and Maya-1, which entered service in 2000 (see map, TeleGeography).
Cayman’s Infrastructure Minister Jay Ebanks (pictured) said the islands’ government wanted to transform their international connectivity. “This initiative forms a key pillar of our strategy to ensure the Cayman Islands benefits from world-class connectivity to support the transformation of our economy and society into a thriving digital future.”
The government contracted professional services firm Grant Thornton to conduct the study, through New Jersey-based Pioneer Consulting. This “will be used to guide government decision-making regarding the progress of a major investment project in submarine cable infrastructure”.
Will McWilliams, head of utilities at Grant Thornton, said the firm “would bring both our own global experience on large infrastructure projects and the specialist submarine cable expertise of Pioneer Consulting to the our team”.
The Cayman Islands have a population of 70,000, only two-thirds of that of Tonga, whose communications were cut off earlier this year when the only cable was severed by a volcano. This event led to calls to build a second cable to Tonga to increase resilience.
According to the Cayman News Service, the government is paying Grant Thornton 250,000 Cayman dollars ($305,000) for the project.
The 25-year-old CJFS, owned by Cable & Wireless Networks, itself now owned by Liberty Latin America, has two landing stations in the Cayman Islands and terminates in Bull Bay, Jamaica.
Maya-1, just three years younger, stretches from Florida to Colombia, with landing stations in Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and Panama. It is owned by multiple carriers, including América Móvil, AT&T, Orange, Sparkle, and Verizon.
A keen observer of the Caribbean submarine cable industry commented Ability that some operators claim that a new cable will only be necessary if there is five times the traffic in 10 years.
“That equates to 17% year-over-year growth,” said the person, who did not wish to be named. Yet, “Internet traffic in advanced economies is growing by 20-40% per year. So this growth scenario is actually very likely.
Additionally, this person said, “Caimans has less traffic per user than comparable economies due to high prices.”