INTERVIEW | Patrick Gatt: GO with another €25m investment in Malta’s connectivity

GO recently announced an investment of €25 million in a third submarine cable – as part of the multi-million-euro connectivity PEACE System (Pakistan East Africa Connecting Europe) project - a submarine cable connecting countries across the globe on its way from Asia to France. BusinessToday spoke to PATRICK GATT, Senior Manager, Wholesale & International Services, who is overseeing the implementation of this project


What is this project about?

GO has always invested in Malta’s digital infrastructure and its connectivity to the rest of the world. This project represents another major milestone in Malta’s communications history and a huge investment by GO in the country’s connectivity needs of tomorrow. This 30-month project, due to be completed and operational by early 2022, consists of an underwater cable that will connect Malta to an international 12,000km cable system which will connect Malta to the West Mediterranean, North Africa, the Far East and beyond.

When was this project conceived and why?

The need for a resilient international connection to address the country’s insularity was something that we at GO have thought about in great detail. The risks over Malta and its economy due to the fact that the country’s only international connections are via Sicily are a concern because we know that solid connectivity, speed, and maximum uptime are main requirements by our customers, and potential foreign direct investors alike.

This project will make GO the first operator in Malta to have additional redundancy on international connectivity to another country other than Italy. GO never shied away from investing heavily in infrastructure and whilst I think that we have clearly shown this already by embarking on rolling out True fibre to all Maltese homes and businesses, the project announced recently is yet another bold statement by GO which fuels confidence in investors seeking to set up their business in Malta. I believe that this project is bound to forever change Malta’s international connectivity landscape.

What were the main stages of this project, what is the duration and at what stage is it today?

Negotiating the commercial agreement was a laborious job yet we were lucky to find full collaboration and goodwill from our vendors. The marine survey took longer because just after we started, ports around the Mediterranean were closing down due to the pandemic. In parallel, we spent a lot of time seeking an appropriate cable landing site from where we would eventually need to power up the cable and connect it to the rest of our land network. The ecological sensitivity of Golden Bay and its waters made this part of the project particularly challenging, but we worked closely with local authorities such as ERA, the Planning Authority, the Lands Authority, Continental Shelf, and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage to find the adequate balance and be of minimum disruption to the environment. Currently, the building of the cable landing station is in an advanced stage. Located just below the car park up the road from Golden Bay, this is being built with full consideration to the sensitivity of the area without compromising the parking facilities. I think that our architects did a wonderful job in this respect.

What about the underwater cable inside the actual bay?

We shall start laying the east package from Egypt en-route towards Malta later on this summer. Towards the end of summer, we shall proceed with the beach operations where eventually the submarine cable will be extended towards our shores up to the land manhole prepared last year. The cable will follow a network of ducts to reach the landing station and eventually our core network, work completed in collaboration with Malta Enterprise. The duration of this project averages around three years.

Who will benefit from this project?

Our purpose as a company is to ‘Drive a Digital Malta, Where No One is Left Behind’. When you think about it, our industries, our businesses, and – I dare say – our lives and livelihoods depend on stable and reliable connectivity. So once this project is completed, GO will be in a position to offer peace of mind and unparalleled resiliency to its customers and of course new economic prospects in terms of FDI. It also makes sure that Malta is prepared for the connectivity needs of the future, in effect leaving no one behind.

What are we talking of in terms of investment?

We are investing €25 million in this project. It has always been GO’s strategy over the years to make bold statements and invest on such projects that serve our purpose to drive a digital Malta where no one is left behind. The PEACE cable project is yet one such example.

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