Cable passing through Israel to carry up to 60 percent of world’s web traffic
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Cable passing through Israel to carry up to 60 percent of world’s web traffic

New $200 million project will have 40 times more capacity than existing cables under the Mediterranean Sea

Map of the cable's route
Map of the cable's route

When it comes to the politics of the Middle East, it often seems like the world’s internet users view almost everything through the prism of Israel-Palestine.

Now, with news that a new internet cable passing through Israel will carry much of the world’s online traffic, what seems true metaphorically could be true literally.

The Cypriot company laying it, Quantum Cable, has said that the $200 million project is due for completion in 2020, with chairman Nasos Ktorides boasting that the cable will have 40 times more capacity than existing cables under the Mediterranean Sea.

He said the plan was to link the 4,785-mile cable via Greece, Italy and France to Bilbao in Spain, from where an equally powerful internet cable now connects Spain with the US state of Virginia.

So, how much data will be flowing through Israel? The company says 160 terabytes per second (Tbps), enough to handle 80 million high-definition video calls between Asia and Europe simultaneously.

While Quantum says this represents up to 60 percent of the world’s online traffic, it seems a little less in reality. The McKinsey Global Institute recently estimated the world’s cross-border data flow at 543 terabyte per second.

One terabyte holds approximately 86 million Word documents, so 543 terabytes is roughly equivalent to 13 million copies of the complete works of Shakespeare. For a big chunk of that to flow through Israel is still staggering.

A few years ago, American intelligence services whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) had tapped into sub-sea fibre optic cables around the world, and were ‘listening in’ to the world’s internet traffic.

It was a reminder of the significance of the fibre-optic highways latticed across the world sending data thousands of miles in milliseconds, a far cry from the first trans-Atlantic telegram in 1868, which took 17 hours.

Israel’s involvement in the “massive data highway” follows a trilateral declaration of co-operation in Thessaloniki in June last year, when Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shook hands.

The trio agreed “to support the deployment of new cable interconnections among the three countries,” adding: “Such infrastructure is a critical link between Europe, Middle East and Asia and will enhance the capacity of internet connections.”

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