Google plans to build a network that will connect India and southern Europe. This road, named Blue Raman, would pass through Israel and the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, which are historically enemies of the Hebrew state, near the project reported by the Wall Street Journal, according to sources. This infrastructure includes land and submarine sections.
When the Google Project was mentioned, few details are known. The Blue Raman network will provide the region with the first uninterrupted connection with a capacity of several hundred terabits per second. While the Gulf States have refused to do business with Israeli companies in recent decades, there have been no direct telephone or air connections between these countries.
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On Sunday, November 22nd, 2020, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met informally with Mohammad bin Salman – nickname MBS -, the Saudi Crown Prince, and Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State under Donald Trump, in Saudi Arabia. This meeting is the final stage of Mike Pompeo’s farewell tour, from a government that has worked hard to recognize Israel in the region. During Donald Trump’s tenure, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan formalized their relations with the Israeli government. In addition, the Sultanate of Oman has declared its support for peace initiatives with Israel.
Israeli communications minister Yoaz Hendel congratulates on this strengthening of relations with countries in the region: “Where you can lay land or submarine cables, you also create mutual interests.” He sees no security risk for his country and says the Hebrew state “knows how to defend its infrastructure and its data”. Israel’s reputation on cybersecurity can only support its position.
“Every cable that connects us to the world is an advantage”
“There is a connection between technology and geopolitics,” says Ivan Skenderoski, managing partner of Salience Consulting, a consultancy specializing in telecommunications. In recent years, the country has welcomed MBS given the development of trade relations with Israel. For example, executives from Israeli companies have made business trips to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the results of which are not transparent and remain unclear. L’Orient Le Jour reports that Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal ben Farhane has declared his support for “normalization with Israel for a long time” while stressing that “a very important thing must happen first; and it is one lasting and comprehensive peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, including the establishment of a Palestinian state within (within) the 1967 borders. “
The Blue Raman project comes at a time when Google is trying to bypass Egypt, imposing the highest fees on telecommunications operators in the world. According to advisers interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, they can account for up to 50% of the road costs between India and Europe. “If you can find a great road with a toll, those who can will build it around you,” said an analyst with TeleGeography, a telecommunications research firm.
The Jordanian neighbor between Israel and Saudi Arabia welcomes this announcement of the “digital road”. It embodies a reduction in the costs of networks, economic and entrepreneurial opportunities: “Every cable that connects us to the world is beneficial to Jordan,” argues the Jordanian Minister for Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, Ahmad Hanandeh. Jordan has suffered from regional conflicts for several years and is trying to get its head out of the water, particularly by improving its tourist attractions, including the ancient city of Petra, as demonstrated by the collaboration between the Jordanian Tourist Office and Youtubers’ French Mamytwink.
Google has invested heavily in submarine cables for more than 10 years. The company has built more than a dozen cables and is not the only company involved in the sector. Facebook is also participating in this race, particularly with the 2Africa project, a network that spans 37,000 km. Lesser known public figures are also interested. The American Cinturion is working on a project called Trans Europe Asia System. Telecom operators are looking for routes around the world, according to Greg Varisco, managing director. He praised the changes in the Middle East: “The latest politics in the region certainly speak for what we are doing.”
Egypt declined the Wall Street Journal’s request for comment, as did Oman and a spokesman for Saudi Arabia.