Telecommunications technology has come a long way in the last 150 years, but the one constant throughout has been the humble subsea cable. Today, about 99% of all international communications traffic crosses subsea cables. Demand for digital connectivity from both businesses and consumers remains at an all-time high, and we’ll need more subsea cable systems in more places before we can fulfill that demand.
With this in mind, it’s no wonder TeleGeography is predicting almost $5 billion in new subsea cable investment during 2023 alone. This eye-popping figure is driven both by high demand and by the fact that we’re still working through a backlog of cable projects created by the pandemic.
In spite of how foundational subsea cables systems are to the global digital economy, the truly exciting part happens where the cables land. Interconnected landing sites are the extra piece that turns subsea cable capacity into something that actually benefits businesses and end users. This is why many metros located at the intersection of high concentrations of subsea cable traffic and high concentrations of end users have emerged as leading digital infrastructure hubs.
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Subsea cable demand in the Mediterranean picks up
The coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea provide a particularly powerful example of how subsea cables support digital acceleration. Thanks to their central position between Europe, Africa and the Middle East, cable systems in the Mediterranean enable digital connectivity for hundreds of millions of people, not to mention supporting the digital economies of three different continents.
This fact is backed up by data from the Global Interconnection Index (GXI) 2023, a market study conducted by Equinix, which shows that subsea landing hubs are expected to play a leading role in driving digital growth across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Digital-first businesses are drawn to these markets because they provide an ideal location for them to “land and expand” their data traffic. From these subsea cable hubs, they can receive incoming intercontinental traffic and relay it on via low-latency interconnection to core digital hubs further inland, such as Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris.
Marseille has emerged as the primary cable landing site in the Mediterranean. However, we at Equinix believe that developing alternative subsea cable hubs in other markets will contribute to greater safety and reliability, and ultimately open the benefits of subsea cables to a wider range of businesses and end users.
Equinix is growing digital connectivity hubs throughout the Mediterranean
To provide additional options for landing traffic on and around the Mediterranean coast, we’ve opened Equinix IBX® data centers in markets with untapped potential as subsea cable hubs. This includes metros throughout Italy, France, Portugal and Spain. By establishing ourselves as the connectivity core of the Mediterranean, we hope to democratize access to subsea cable capacity, helping our customers take advantage of it quickly and without having to invest significant CAPEX.
Investing in metros throughout the Mediterranean region also gives our customers greater choice to tap into Platform Equinix® from a variety of locations. This makes it easy for them to deploy distributed, interconnected digital infrastructure, with the flexibility to choose a combination of physical and virtual infrastructure services based on the exact needs of their business. They’ll also have access to our robust digital ecosystems of partners and service providers, and Equinix digital services such as:
- Equinix Fabric®, our software-defined interconnection service
- Network Edge, our portfolio of virtual network functions (VNFs) from top providers
- Equinix Metal®, our Bare Metal as a Service solution
Equinix customers can also start in any of the Mediterranean metros named below and get direct access to subsea cable landing sites on every continent, thus helping them create low-latency connections to anywhere their business needs might take them.
With its strategic position as one of the closest major European metros to both Africa and the Americas, it’s no surprise that Lisbon has emerged a key connectivity hub. In fact, Portugal is the only country with direct subsea cable connectivity to every populated continent.
In 2021, the EllaLink cable became the first direct link between Europe and South America, providing important latency benefits for businesses on both continents. EllaLink lands at Equinix data centers on both sides of the Atlantic—at our LS1 data center in Lisbon and our SP4 data center in São Paulo. Lisbon is also a landing site for both Equiano and 2Africa, two new cable projects that will help close the digital divide in Africa.
One noteworthy example of our Mediterranean strategy is our new data center in Genoa, which opened in 2022. Subsea cables had never landed in Genoa before our GN1 data center opened. Now, the metro is a strategic gateway for the new 2Africa subsea cable system. When complete, 2Africa will be the longest subsea cable system ever built, providing international connectivity to 3 billion people across Africa, Asia and Europe. In April 2022, 2Africa landed at the Equinix GN1 data center—its very first landing site.
We offer direct connectivity from the Genoa landing site to our data center in Milan, enabling our customers to access subsea cable capacity from the economic heart of Italy. According to the GXI, Milan is set to become the second-largest edge metro in EMEA in terms of interconnection bandwidth, driven by its strong manufacturing, energy and utilities, and financial services sectors.
With our Equinix BX1 data center in Bordeaux, we’ve developed a new subsea cable landing hub on the Atlantic coast of Europe. It now serves as the landing site for cables that link Europe with North America, including the Amitié and Dunant cable systems. Thanks to direct, low-latency interconnection between Equinix BX1 and Equinix data centers in Paris, traffic from these transatlantic cables is now easily available to digital ecosystems in both metros.
In September 2022, we announced MD6, our newest data center in Madrid. We’re continuing to invest in Madrid because of its central position within Spain and southern Europe, its robust and diverse economy and its strong presence of network providers. The city also benefits from its proximity to subsea cable landing sites. This includes EllaLink, which extends from Lisbon to land at our MD2 data center.
Equinix is growing digital infrastructure in Barcelona
Another emerging subsea cable hub on the Mediterranean coast is Barcelona. According to the GXI, Barcelona is forecast to grow interconnection bandwidth at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45%, placing it among the fastest-growing digital metros in EMEA. Barcelona’s status as an emerging subsea cable landing hub has been bolstered by recent developments in several projects:
- In October 2022, 2Africa landed in Barcelona.
- Starting in 2023, the new Medloop cable system will connect Barcelona with Marseille, Genoa and Ajaccio.
- In Q1 2024, the EMIC-1 cable will connect Europe, the Middle East and India, with landings in Barcelona, Salalah and Mumbai.
- In Q3 2024, the Medusa cable—which will land at Barcelona and other points throughout Europe and North Africa—will be ready for service.
To continue our momentum in the Mediterranean, we’re building our second data center in Barcelona, Equinix BA2. The new facility will be located directly adjacent to BA1, our existing Barcelona data center. It will provide the additional capacity that businesses in Barcelona need to accelerate their digital transformations and interconnect with ecosystem partners throughout southern Europe. With the addition of the new Barcelona data center to our existing footprint in places like Lisbon, Madrid and Milan, Equinix has further solidified its position as the connectivity core of the Mediterranean.
Barcelona occupies a strategic location at the confluence of subsea cable landings, dense digital ecosystems and an impressive roster of cloud and network providers. The metro also boasts the fourth-largest population in the European Union and a high-growth technology sector populated by both local and international companies. For all these reasons, we expect that Barcelona will only continue to grow more prominent as a digital infrastructure hub. Through this latest investment, we’re preparing to meet surging demand for digital infrastructure services, both in Barcelona itself and throughout the Mediterranean.
Your ecosystem is now your infrastructure
Subsea cable hubs like Barcelona are vital to our digital economy because they provide the ideal conditions to support thriving digital ecosystems. Companies across the globe are embracing the power of ecosystems to help them meet their digital transformation goals, and they’re using direct, private interconnection services to help them do it.
Interconnection allows businesses to exchange data with partners and service providers quickly, reliably and securely. According to the GXI, interconnection bandwidth is forecast to continue growing at over 35% CAGR in each region and major metro over the next five years, a key indicator of how many businesses are relying on interconnection to enable digital acceleration.
For a closer look at how interconnection bandwidth is growing across different regions and industry verticals, read the GXI from Equinix today.
 “2Africa Subsea Cable Makes First Landing in Genoa, Italy”, Meta, April 14, 2022.
 Interconnection bandwidth is a measure, calculated in bits/sec, of the capacity provisioned to privately and directly exchange traffic between two parties, inside carrier-neutral colocation data centers.
 Winston Qiu, “2Africa Cable Lands into Barcelona Cable Landing Station”, Submarine Cable Networks, October 25, 2022.