New telecoms link switched on

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The JEC and Newtel this week formally switched on a new fibre optic link between Guernsey, Jersey and France, although it has been lying on the sea bed for four years.

he cable introduces the islands’ first alternative physical connection to the outside world and marks an important step towards a competitive telecoms industry.

Telecommunications is the lifeblood of the islands’ economy and competition is the key to reliable, resilient and competitively priced communications,’ said Newtel’s chairman, Peter Funk.

‘After five years of planning, we have completed the task of connecting the first independent undersea fibre cable link to London, mainland Europe and the rest of the world.

Our link will offer business and residential consumers choice, reliability and lower costs for telephone calls, internet access and data services.

Competition has now truly arrived.

The submarine fibre optic cable was laid alongside a larger power cable – which forms the Channel Islands Electricity Grid and now supplies the Island with 98 per cent of its electricity – in 1999.

Cross- border negotiation and the slow pace of legislation in Jersey have caused delays but the fibre optic link has now been tried and tested and is ready to carry traffic.

It will not only break Jersey Telecom’s monopoly (who are in partnership with British Telecom) on physical links to Jersey and Guernsey but will also have ten times the capacity.

ollowing an agreement signed between Newtel and France Telecom, the fibre connects with the French operator’s network, which in turn connects it with Paris and thence to the rest of the world.

The JEC also signed an agreement with the Conseil General de la Manche – a local government council in Normandy – to supply electricity in exchange for help in physically connecting the cable to French pylons.

lthough the cable is jointly owned by Jersey and Guernsey Electricity, the JEC signed an agreement with Newtel (in which it has a 40 per cent stake) in 1998 which gave the telecoms provider a share of its capacity on commercial terms.

GE’s interest in the fibre optic part was later transferred to Guernsey Telecom which in turn was sold to Cable & Wireless last year – but although C&W have a similar level of fibre access to Newtel, their portion of the cable remains dormant.

ewtel, however, is determined to make full use of the new link now it is up and running.

This opens up a world of opportunity for us,’ said Mr Funk.

‘We can now provide faster, better, broader and cheaper services for residential and business customers.

We have recently launched a new broadband service which uses the cable so the Island is already starting to reap the benefits.

But the new cable is just the first step on a long journey towards a better deal for all.

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