As the Indian government this week inaugurated work on submarine cables between Chennai and the Andaman Nicobar Islands, reports indicate that Reliance Jio may have ambitious plans of its own in the submarine cable area.
The Indian Minister for Communications, Ravi Shankar Prasad, who inaugurated the work, was quoted as saying that his government will ensure participation of the common people as stakeholders in the digital transformation that is sweeping across the country.
The submarine cables will initially be laid from Chennai to Port Blair, covering a distance of some 1,450 kilometres. Afterwards the cable links will be extended to Rangat, Long Island, Swaraj Island, Hut Bay, Car Nicobar, Kamorta and Campbell Bay in the Union Territory, covering an additional distance of 800 kilometres. The works are expected to be completed by June this year.
Much more ambitious, if they are confirmed, are plans reported in the Indian press for Reliance Jio to deploy two submarine cable systems connecting India with Singapore, the US and Europe.
One system – the India-Asia-Xpress (IAX) – will connect Mumbai and Chennai to Singapore and interconnect with other far east countries towards the west coast of the US. The other system – the India-Europe-Xpress (IEX) – will connect Mumbai to Europe and interconnect to the east coast of the US. Multiple branching links will enable connectivity with other Southeast Asian destinations.
The two cables are expected to be operational in 2023.
Jio has already been involved in the submarine cable business: in 2017, it deployed the AAE-1 submarine system which connected major data centres in three continents with partners such as China Unicom, Etisalat, and Omantel.