The European Union (EU) announced on November 24 that the European Commission signed an agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) for a €40 million EU grant to support high-speed fibre-optic connection under the Mediterranean as part of the “MEDUSA” project supported by the EU's Economic and Investment plan for the Southern Neighbourhood. And The EIB is expected to provide the debt finance for the infrastructure with a contribution of up to €100 million in loans.
The MEDUSA project consists of installing a state-of-the-art, high capacity optical-fiber submarine cable that connects five Mediterranean EU countries (Cyprus, France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain) with four countries from the EU's Southern Neighbourhood (Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia). The MEDUSA cable will be 7,100 km long in total and will include around twelve landing points in nine EU and Southern Neighbourhood countries.
The MEDUSA cable system will be owned by AFR-IX telecom, an infrastructure and telecommunications operator founded in 2013 with European capital. and supplied by Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN). It is expected to be operational between the end of 2024 and the beginning of 2025, with the activation of the first phase connecting Lisbon, Barcelona and Marseille. It will feature up to 24 fiber pairs with a capacity of 20 Tbps per fiber pair for a total system capacity up to 480Tbps, and a design life of 25 years.
AFR-IX telecom's infrastructure investments include the Barcelona Cable Landing Station, an open digital port which started operations in October 2022 and aims at providing open access cable landing service to subsea cable operators for a neutral, safe and secure landing in Barcelona.
The total estimated cost of the MEDUSA project amounts to € 342 million.
The €40 million EU grant will secure direct high-speed connectivity in particular between the research and education communities and users in the North African countries and the EU via the landing station in Barcelona. The EU grant contribution has been approved in September 2022.
The EIB is expected to provide the debt finance for the infrastructure with a contribution of up to €100 million in loans. The operation is still subject to the final approval of the EIB Governing Bodies.
The EU grant concerns the interconnection of the Barcelona Cable Landing Station representing the entry point to the EU research and education network with four North African countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt).
This funding will also provide an alternative route for data traffic on the targeted EU routes and allow EU telecom operators to become essential partners in supporting socio-economic growth in the region. “MEDUSA” contributes to the EU's Global Gateway and EIB Global. It is one of the flagship projects under the EU's new Agenda for the Mediterranean adopted last year to boost digital connectivity in the EU's Southern Neighbourhood.