'Strategic' submarine cable to connect islands where locals just emerged from stone age

India's decided the Andaman Islands need proper internet

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India's government has decided to build a submarine cable between the city of Chennai and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

The where? The Andaman & Nicobar Islands are about 1,300km east of India, way out in the Bay of Bengal.

The Islands are home to about 380,000 people, among them the Jarawa people who lived a more-or-less stone age lifestyle until the late 1990s, when they started to interact with other islanders after a road was built close to their jungle home.

India's cabinet has two reasons for the cable, the first being strategic as the official notice of the project says the islands “safeguard India's eastern seaboard.”

As, presumably, does the nation's successful test yesterday of a new Long Range Surface to Air Missile System. Sea power projected from the Andaman Islands is important to India, as proximity to the Malacca Strait means it can throw its weight around in the key sea route to China. Wiring the Islands therefore gives India's Andaman Command, with its multiple naval and Air Force presences, a hotline to home.

India's other motivation is to improve the Islands' current 1 Gbps satellite connection to help assist “educational institutes for knowledge sharing, availability of job opportunities and fulfil the vision of Digital India.” That vision includes increasing opportunity for indigenous people such as the Jarawa, who are mostly trying to keep to themselves even as others encroach on their lands and lifestyle.

The cable-laying project is expected to cost the country a surprisingly small US$150m, with completion scheduled for the end of 2018. Wonder which contractors it used? ®


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