TelEm Group SMPR-1 Cable Repair To Serve As Model for Future Emergencies

TelEm Group’s has completed restoration of the damaged SMPR-1 Cable with services back to where there were before the cable was cut early last month. 

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According to Chief Technical Officer (CTO) Mr. Eldert Louisa, voice and data traffic was sent over the repaired cable last Thursday night with total success.

"All connections are restored without disruption to our local and international networks," said Mr. Louisa.

He said Engineers and technicians have been monitoring the connections since Friday morning and can now confirm that the repair operation has been a complete success thanks to the rapid deployment of the cable repair vessel Pacific Guardian and coordination of TelEm Group personnel.

Mr. Louisa said an operation that potentially could have taken many weeks to complete was started and finished within five days, during which both ends of the damaged cable was retrieved from the sea bed, brought on board the cable repair vessel and spliced together before being returned to the sea bed.

"There are still some issues related to how the damage occurred and what steps need to be taken to prevent such a thing happening again in the future, but the most important thing is that we have shown that we can respond quickly and execute quickly to minimize the impact that damage to the SMPR-1 cable can cause to telecommunication services on St. Maarten," said Mr. Louisa.

He said the temporary overland link that enabled voice and data services to be routed via French St. Martin Telecommunication partner, Dauphin, will continue in the interest of both companies. Further negotiations are currently under way in that regard.

"In the event Dauphin have a problem with the connection of the SMPR-1 cable landing on French St. Martin, they will able to use the overland connection as a redundant link in the same way we were able to use the connection while the SMPR-1 cable landing on the Dutch side was being repaired," continued the CTO.

Mr. Louisa said while the backup telecommunication link provides a level of comfort for St. Maarten’s business and residential community, the possibility of a major blackout of telecommunication services still exists if the SMPR-1 cable is cut further out at sea.

"The fact is the SMPR-1 cable has a shore end section on French St. Martin and a shore end section of cable on Dutch St. Maarten. Both of these sections feed into one main cable that connects to the other end of the connection in Puerto Rico.

"We can assist each other with an overland connection if the broken section is at either of the shore ends, but we will be left without telecommunication connection to Puerto Rico if the main cable is cut or damaged along its length," warned Mr. Louisa.

He said the situation calls for a second cable connecting St. Maarten to the U.S.A. mainland, which will be possible with a Dutch-sponsored undersea cable being proposed for the BES islands.

"The BES cable can provide the redundancy required, but that will have to be negotiated with the parties involved in the best interest of the islands and all mutual stakeholders," added Mr. Louisa.

The CTO says TelEm Group has been helping with the BES cable from the outset of the proposal, providing support and expertise whenever possible.

"Based on the support we have given thus far we feel that we should be the preferred partner to land the BES cable on St. Maarten to provide redundancy for all of the islands. We have the infrastructure already in place and we also have the necessary contacts and experience required," added Mr. Louisa.