Fiber optic cable finally connects Saba and Statia

POSTED: 12/16/13 4:31 PM

St. Maarten – The Saba Statia Cable System (SSCS) landed n Friday morning at the TelEm manhole on the Great Bay beach in St. Maarten but keen observers noted that the cable was spliced: one part goes to TelEm daughter Smitcoms, the other part to the building of competitor UTS. According to technicians, the cable will become operational by Match or April of next year.

When UTS won the bid from RCN – the National Office for Caribbean Netherlands – to land the fiber optic cable in its manhole in 2011, then Minister of Economic affairs Franklin Meyers balked: the cable had to land in the TelEm manhole or it could not land at all.

This did not only result in heated debate, but also in court cases. The fiber optic cable connects Saba and Statia with St. Kitts and St. Barths, and now there is finally also a politically correct connection in St. Maarten.

Ted Richardson, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication, witnessed the landing on the beach. “St. Maarten now has a second fiber optic telecommunications cable system,” Richardson said. “It created additional capacity and redundancy for the country along with the SMPR (St. Maarten – Puerto Rico – ed.) cable. In term, voice and data costs will ultimately decrease for consumers.”

According to a press release from the department of communications DCOMM, “the minister was insistent from day one that all service providers on St. Maarten would have access to the cable.”

Only in mid-November did Smitcoms managing director Eldert Louisa sign a Memorandum of Understanding with RCN’s Sybren van Dam about the cable. According to the press statement, “Minister Richardson and members of his cabinet were instrumental to facilitating the process of bringing the two parties together.”

UTS manager Glen Carty said that  the delay caused by the conflict between RCN and former Telecom Minister Franklin Meyers “unfortunately has made the project more expensive.”

Both TelEm and UTS are now able to sell bandwidth to Saba and Statia and to fall back on the new cable in case of interruptions on the SMPT-cable. Technically it does not make any difference in which manhole the cable lands. The manholes of TelEm and UTS are just one hundred meters apart. It seems however that landing the cable in the TelEm manhole – in spite of the fact that UTS won the bid for the project – was inspired by political motives.

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