India's Bharti joins $700 million cable project linking Britain

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BANGALORE: Bharti Airtel, India s top mobile-phone operator, said Wednesday it had joined a consortium to build a $700 million submarine cable system.

Bharti signed a construction and maintenance agreement in London for the Europe India Gateway (EIG), the first high-bandwidth, optical-fibre cable system from India to Britain, the company said.

Fifteen other firms are taking part in the 15,000-kilometer project linking 13 countries across three continents that will start carrying commercial traffic by the second quarter of 2010, it said in a statement.

Among the firms are AT&T, BT, C&W, Djibouti Telecom, Gibtelecom, Libyan Telecom, MTN Group, Omantel, Saudi Telecom Company, Telecom Egypt, Telkom SA and Verizon Business.

The EIG consortium has signed construction and supply agreements with Alcatel-Lucent and Tyco Telecommunications, the statement said.

Bharti will be operating the Mumbai landing station for the cable system that will support internet, e-commerce, video, data and voice transmission.

The project will help meet a tremendous rise in use of data and broadband applications among enterprises and consumers in India, said David Nishball, head of enterprise services at Bharti Airtel.

Whether it is large enterprises leveraging communications technologies to compete in a truly global environment or consumers seeking real-time entertainment over the internet, international connectivity has become a vital part of our lives, he said in the statement.

The EIG cable system will also provide interconnection with other major cable systems connecting Europe, Africa, Asia and North America.

Bharti, which controls 23.8 percent of the Indian phone market, has 64 million clients, 62 million of them mobile subscribers, and a market capitalization of around $42 billion.

The announcement came after the company said on Monday it had begun exploratory talks with South Africa s MTN on a possible takeover. -AFP

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