Denis O’Brien to compete with Carlos Slim on undersea cable

Irishman’s Deep Blue Cable to extend $450m fibre-optic rollout to Panama and Colombia

Denis O’Brien: planning to expand the rollout of his Deep Blue Cable company to Panama and Colombia. Photograph: David Sleator

Denis O’Brien: planning to expand the rollout of his Deep Blue Cable company to Panama and Colombia. Photograph: David Sleator

 

Denis O’Brien is on course to enter into direct competition with his old rival, the Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim, in the wholesale telecoms market.

Deep Blue Cable, a company owned by Mr O’Brien that is investing more than $350 million laying an undersea fibre-optic cable in the Caribbean, is to extend its planned network to Panama and Colombia.

The original plan was for Mr O’Brien’s cable to thread a large number of island nations in the region over the next 2½ years with fibre capable of delivering high-speed broadband.

The initial phase will make landfall in markets such as the Cayman Islands, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago.

The company has also been weighing a second phase of its rollout, which could include bringing services to Cuba, a telecoms market Mr O’Brien has coveted for many years.

Completion date

This week, Deep Blue confirmed it would extend the phase-one rollout to include Panama and Colombia, pushing back the completion date for the project until near the middle of 2020.

Mr O’Brien had previously mooted an extension of the project, which he said would push up the investment to $450 million.

The extension into Colombia, especially, will put Mr O’Brien’s project into direct competition with Mr Slim’s America Movil company, which for years was a major rival of Mr O’Brien’s Digicel business.

In recent years it has invested $500 million in the America Movil Submarine Cable System-1 (AMX-1). Mr Slim’s cable connects Colombia with countries including his home nation of Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil and Puerto Rico. Like Mr O’Brien’s Deep Blue project, it also makes landfall in Florida.

Deep Blue Cable also said this week that, following the destruction wrought in the Caribbean region by Hurricane Irma, it might redesign parts of its network to make it less susceptible to weather events.