Brazil to boost Internet speed through Europe - Telebras CEO

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 18, 2015 4:58 PM

By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil will boost its Internet communications to reduce dependence on U.S. hubs and be able to host global data centers for heavy users like YouTube and Netflix Inc, Jorge Bittar, head of state-run telecoms company Telebras, said in an interview.

At present, all submarine fiber-optic cables connect Brazil to the Internet through the United States.

That is a security risk in a "post-Snowden" world, said Telebras Chief Executive Officer Bittar, referring to the 2013 revelations of former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden, including that the U.S. agency spied on President Dilma Rousseff and other Brazilians.

In a move late next year that will bring the Internet to remote corners of Brazil, European space-transporter Arianespace will launch a geostationary satellite for Brazil from French Guiana, with a throughput of 56 gigabits per second.

By 2017, a submarine cable with more than 30 terabit-per-second capacity will open a high-speed link to Portugal allowing European astronomers to watch the stars through telescopes in Chile.

"The submarine cable will give us greater security and more agile communications with Europe," Bittar said.

The electronic surveillance scandal prompted Brazil to buy the satellite from French aerospace supplier Thales SA instead of a U.S. company.

Brazil has paid half of its $654 million cost and is building antennas to connect the country from poor city suburbs to remote corners of the Amazon.

The purchase was not hit by recent spending cuts because one of Rousseff's priorities is to bring Internet to every Brazilian school, Bittar said.

The satellite will be shared with Brazil's armed forces whose communications currently rely on renting satellite bands from Star One, a unit of Embratel, a company controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim's America Movil.

The 5,875-km (3,650-mile) cable will be laid from Lisbon to Fortaleza in northeast Brazil by a joint venture formed by Telebras and Spain's IslaLink at a cost of $185 million.

European research networks will put up 25 million euros ($28 million) in return for 25 years of access to one-sixth of the cable's capacity, which will give them a very high speed connection to the European Southern Observatory telescopes in Chile's Atacama desert. The joint venture is talking to future heavy users to cover the remainder of the investment.

The cable will allow Brazil to have its first global Internet exchange point in Fortaleza and ample bandwidth to set up data centers needed by heavy Internet users, especially big video operations, Bittar said.

($1 = 0.8853 euros)

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Lisa Shumaker)