The submarine cables connecting Mainland Portugal, the Azores and Madeira and connecting the two autonomous regions are expected to reach the end of their useful life in 2024/2025 (Columbus III in 2024 and Atlantis-2 in 2025). Therefore, it is of the utmost urgency that decisions are taken to ensure new interconnections enter into operation before these dates. This circumstance has prompted ANACOM to alert the Portuguese Government, the regional governments of the Azores and Madeira and operators as to the need to find a solution to this problem. To promote debate on this matter and to identify the best options for consideration, ANACOM organised a Workshop on "The future of the Mainland-Azores-Madeira interconnection by submarine cable"https://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=1454658, which brought together a wide range of stakeholders. It was held in Lisbon on 20 June 2018.
ANACOM considers that replacement of the submarine interconnection cables should be a priority for Portugal and for the European Union, representing a critical investment to ensure national cohesion and the economic development of Portugal and the European area, for which good telecommunications infrastructure is required, serving the autonomous regions and enabling transmission of voice and large volumes of data at high speed.
The Workshop's participants unanimously agreed that there was a strategic interest in the construction of a new ring linking the Azores, Madeira and Mainland Portugal, to ensure redundancy in the interconnections linking these territories.
Given the scale of the investment which this project entails and the implications of the model to be adopted in terms of financing and management, it was considered imperative that the Portuguese State define a strategy, involving central government and the two regional governments, with recourse to European funds. The need for all interested parties to consider a possible co-investment solution was also stressed and these were invited to express their interest and availability.
ANACOM took note of the fact that all participants made a positive contribution to this debate, with a high level of convergence in terms of the ideas discussed and the availability of all entities to take part in the solution. As a strategic issue for the country, ANACOM considers that a decision should be adopted as soon as possible.
Since there are entities with studies already completed, such as GLOBALEDA or EMACOM, and considering the need to implement solutions which have a high level of priority, in line with solutions related to other types of infrastructure deemed essential to the country's development, it is necessary to find an integrated solution which guarantees national cohesion and which also gives priority to the central role of the Azores and Madeira in taking advantage of all the potential benefits - in particular in relation to the sea, space and scientific development, which are directly associated with Portugal's extensive Exclusive Economic Zone. In this context, and in addition to the indispensable support they provide to communications, ANACOM also draws attention to the role which underwater cables play in detecting seismic activity and warnings.
ANACOM has been highlighting this issue and will continue to promote it, since it is necessary to ensure the cohesion of the national territory and to promote Portugal’s position in the European and Atlantic area, enhancing competition in the sector through a wide range of services with high levels of quality and security and at affordable prices. And, with no existing alternative, submarine cables are instrumental in meeting this challenge.
ANACOM has taken note of the interest of all entities and will continue to promote dialogue that will help find solutions, including those benefiting from co-investment and co-financing, and to contribute to the identification of new opportunities for the use of submarine cables.
Together with the Secretary of State for Infrastructure and representatives of the regional governments of the Azores and Madeira, the workshop saw participation from MEO, NOS, NOWO and Vodafone, DSTelecom, Fibroglobal, REN Telecom, Tata Communications, ALCATEL, Huawei, EMACOM, GLOBALEDA, ACIST, FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (Foundation for Science and Technology) and FPC - Fundação Portuguesa das Comunicações (Portuguese Communications Foundation).
Opening of proceedings: Secretary of State for Infrastructure, Guilherme W. d’Oliveira Martins
Conclusions and closure of proceedings: ANACOM Chairman, João Cadete de Matos