Tender for undersea telecom cables to be launched this month

  • Lusa
  • 8 November 2022

The government announced that the tender for the construction of undersea cables, which ensure communications between mainland Portugal and the islands will be launched in November.

Portugal’s infrastructure minister, Pedro Nuno Santos, has announced that the tender for the construction of undersea cables, which ensure communications between mainland Portugal, the Azores and Madeira, will be launched in November.

Pedro Nuno Santos was speaking at the second round of answers at a joint hearing of the Budget and Finance Committee and the Economy, Public Works, Planning and Housing Committee, on Monday, which lasted six hours, as part of the committee stage negotiations on the government’s 2023 draft state budget.

“The tender will be launched during the month of November, the budget is assured and clarified,” said the ruler, in response to socialist MP Francisco Serra, adding that it is “the commitment we have from IP -Infraestructuras de Portugal,” the country’s infrastructure manager.

Pedro Nuno Santos stressed that the current cable “has a deadline” and even if it does not stop working “on x date”, the “risk begins to increase and the cost of maintenance starts to explode”, explaining that “IP was finalising the specifications”.

The minister of infrastructures guaranteed that “the financing is assured”: “It will be financed in part with revenues from the 5G auction, in part with community funds and with a part of IP’s own debt”.

“The business model will be very interesting for IP Telecom, which is also very interesting for the autonomous regions,” he said.

Pedro Nuno Santos stressed that “the aim of IP Telecom is not exactly to make money with the cable, but to guarantee that we have not only the connection, but a cable able to carry out other functions in terms of research and defence.

The Portuguese Cabinet approved on September 8 the decree-law that gives Infraestruturas de Portugal (IP) the powers to promote, under concession, activities related to the undersea electronic communications cable system, after having amended IP’s statutes so that it could be given that power.

In the note, the ministry explained that the aim was to “continue with the process of replacing the submarine cable system, seeking to boost its use by adding new functionalities and services”.

In its 2021 Annual Report and Accounts, IP states that “following the important mandate given by the Portuguese Government to IP Telecom, the technical structuring and the business plan for the execution of the new Mainland – Azores – Madeira Undersea Cable Ring project were developed and delivered to the supervising authority in the first semester of 2021”.

Earlier this year, Lusa news agency reported – based on the response to a request from PS/Azores MPs in the national parliament – that the government had said it had “gathered the necessary elements to start the contractual procedure” for the replacement of underwater communications cables between the mainland and the autonomous regions.

In that request, to which Lusa had access, the ministry of infrastructures and housing considered “indispensable” for “territorial cohesion” the “replacement of the current communications system with a new publicly-owned undersea cable system”.

“The necessary elements to start the contractual procedure are therefore in place. However, and due to the political situation resulting from the dissolution of Parliament, the next government should start the procedure as soon as it sees fit,” the government said at the time.

In the document, which came after a question by PS/Azores MPs in Parliament, the ministry then led by Pedro Nuno Santos recalled that the public telecommunications operator, IP Telecom, was tasked with “developing the project” to replace the current cables in September 2020.

“Meanwhile, the entity has already produced the economic and financial study, the contracting model for construction and operation and the respective project development plan,” the request reads.

In September 2020, it was announced that the investment in replacing the undersea electronic communication cables between mainland Portugal, the Azores and Madeira was to be €118.9 million.