Larry Press Deep Dive: Cuba-Jamaica Undersea Cable Turns On

On the Cuba-Jamaica Undersea Cable, our Larry Press does a deep dive analylsis. Pun intended. It’s–Internet monitors at Renesys have at last detected traffic on the undersea cable between Jamaica and Cuba. Here’s an aerial perspective on the Cuba-Jamaica cable hookup, as well as the view of the longer link up to Venezuela.

ALBA-1 Cable connecting Cuba with Jamaica and Venezuela

Shown above, the ALBA-1 cable connecting Cuba with Jamaica and Venezuela

Until January 2013, the only international Internet connections linking Cuba to the rest of the world were over satellite. Three links gave them an aggregate of 209 Mbps upstream and 379 down.

To put that in perspective, if you are lucky enough to live in Kansas City and have Google Fiber gigabit Internet connectivity in your home, you have more than three times the capacity shared by 11 million Cubans.

This frequently-delayed project to install and light an undersea cable connecting Cuba with Venezuela was finally completed, and it began carrying traffic. The following graph shows that the Telefonica cable, shown in gray, came online in mid-January.


The link to Jamaica was the second phase of the project, and with that cable link becoming operational, Cuba theoretically has thousands of times the bandwidth to the world than it had before.

But it turns out that Cuba’s domestic infrastructure — backbone, middle mile and last mile — is practically non-existent by the standards of a developed nation, or for that matter by the standards of many developing nations. The undersea cable is a strong link in a very weak chain.

The reasons for this are complex. Cuba’s intranet came online shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, the fall crippling the Cuban economy. This was further exacerbated by the US trade embargo, which meant that computers and networking equipment were expensive and often impossible to obtain. Finally, Cuban leaders feared the Internet. (There was some debate on this, and the hard liners prevailed.)

So while Cuba now has new international cable capacity, it is largely unused. In fact, in the five days after the Jamaican link (green in the graph below) came online, we see that more traceroutes were completed over satellite due to the decrease in traffic being routed over the original Venezuelan link (purple).



The Cuba-Jamaica cable is operational now. We’ll keep you posted on further developments. For, I’m Larry Press.

Based in Los Angeles, Larry Press is a founding senior editor covering tech here at He’s also a professor of information systems at California State University at Dominguez Hills. Check his Google+ profile — he’s at +Larry Press — or email him at