Barcelona Cable Landing Station ready for first submarine fiber optic cables

AFR-IX invests €10 million in infrastructure hoping to reach full capacity by 2027

One of the Barcelona Cable Landing Station rooms in Sant Adrià de Besòs
One of the Barcelona Cable Landing Station rooms in Sant Adrià de Besòs / Courtesy of the Catalan labor ministry

Maria Leon | Sant Adrià de Besòs

October 13, 2022 01:56 PM

February 20, 2023 07:55 PM

The first international submarine cable landing infrastructure in Catalonia, the Barcelona Cable Landing Station (CLS), is ready to receive its first fiber optic cables, as announced on Thursday.

Located by Sant Adrià de Besòs beach, immediately north of Barcelona, the installation costs €10 million and is led by African telecommunications company AFR-IX.

The CLS can host up to eight different submarine fiber optic cables connecting Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean shore, and the United States of America.

"The underwater cables reaching Catalan shores will not only reach Catalonia but will connect Catalonia with the world and even with the United States of America," David Ferrer, Catalan digital policies secretary, said during the press conference.

Under water cables will not only reach Catalonia, says Catalan digital policies secretary

By the end of the year, the landing station will start operating its first two submarine cables, ahead of a third one expected to reach shore in the summer of 2024.

Those responsible for the functioning of the station hope to reach full capacity by 2027.

While AFR-IX will manage Barcelona CLS as an independent operator, they will rent the infrastructure to phone and internet providers. 

This is the second Spanish cable landing station, as there is already one located in the northern city of Bilbao, a site in the Bay of Biscay.

The goal is to be an alternative submarine cable landing station to the one in the French city of Marseille, the main point connecting Africa and Asia and currently receiving up to 15 different connections.

The idea behind the project is to be "an open port" to telcos, as Norman Albi, AFR-IX's CEO, said during a press conference on Thursday in Sant Adrià de Besòs. In this case, they have placed a straight line to make it easier for companies to reach the shore in an ordered way.

"In Marseille, connecting a subsea cable is very complicated as everyone crosses with each other, Albi said.

The Barcelona CLS has been installed in the 'Tres Xemeneies' heritage factory, which will become a content creation hub in the upcoming years.

First subsea cables reaching shore

The installation is still finishing up its last details ahead of receiving the first two subsea fiber optic cables by the end of the year. 

One of the most awaited connections is the one promoted by AFR-IX, the owner of the station, named 'Medusa Submarine Cable System'. 

This cable connects Lisbon with Port Said in Egypt stopping at several Mediterranean cities, such as Barcelona, Marseille (France), Algiers (Algeria), Nador (Morocco), and Bizerte (Tunisia), to mention a few.

The 'Medusa' cable system will cross Gibraltar by land before continuing its route to the Portuguese capital.

One other subsea cable that could reach the shore via Barcelona CLS, however, this is not confirmed yet, is 2Africa.

Once completed, this will be the second-longest fiber optic cable in the world expected to connect with Catalonia in 2023. However, the docking point has not been yet announced despite the project already reaching Italian shores.

The 37,000-kilometer-long submarine cable, funded by Facebook and major telecom operators such as China Mobile, MTN, Vodafone, Telecom Egypt, and Orange, will connect Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Political will

The project has the support of local and regional administrations as the Catalan government considers it "a strategic infrastructure for Catalonia's digital sector," David Ferrer, digital policies secretary said during the press conference.

The idea of having the CLS was born nine years ago in the department's offices and the until recently digital policies minister and vice president Jordi Puigneró, who was sacked from his post, pushed the project forward making it very easy for AFR-IX to get installed in Sant Adrià de Besòs.

Around 98% of the world's internet traffic is thanks to subsea cables.