Draft BEREC Report on the general authorization and related frameworks for international submarine connectivity

Document number: BoR (23) 214

Document date: 07-12-2023

Date of registration: 12-12-2023

Document type:
Author: BEREC

Traditionally, submarine cable systems have been mostly owned and operated by electronic communications networks and services (ECNS) providers, which manage their investments to ensure the international capacity needed to support their retail national businesses and to sell capacity to third parties at wholesale and/or retail level, including to content and application providers.

In the last decade, however, content and application providers became major submarine cable owners. In addition to buying capacity from ECNS providers, content and application providers are increasingly investing in their own submarine cable systems, focusing not on the traditional city-to-city connections, but instead on connecting their own data centres.

The growth of investments in international submarine cable systems has been accompanied by important technological advancements, which enabled the emergence of open submarine cables and open landing stations, allowing the choice of submarine cable, of landing terminal equipment and of backhaul connection from multiple providers and the independent operation of each fibre pair through its exclusive landing terminal equipment, which can be located at the landing station or in a data centre or a point of presence inland.

As a result of these recent trends, the ownership structures of submarine cable systems have undergone a profound transformation, where the single ownership structures are becoming predominant, also as a result of the emergence of content and application providers as major investors.

With this report, BEREC aims to clarify the general authorization and related frameworks applicable to international submarine connectivity and to identify possible solutions to promote investment in this sector and to strengthen the European Union’s geostrategic position.