Cuba's Internet speeds up as undersea cable is activated

Cuba appears to be routing much of its Internet traffic through the ALBA-1 cable rather than satellite links

Cuba's Internet speeds increased on Tuesday, and the country appears to be routing more traffic through a previously dormant undersea fiber-optic cable, according to Internet monitoring company Renesys.

Renesys noticed last week that Internet traffic was being routed into Cuba by Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica through ALBA-1, an undersea cable that links Cuba to Venezuela. The project was completed around 2011, but Cuba had appeared since that time to be relying on three satellite providers.

Internet connections via satellite are prone to high latency, a type of delay caused by the time it takes a data packet to complete the trip to the satellite and back, which can be as much as 70,000 kilometers. For Cuba, that lag time was about a half-second, but it began to shrink last week to about 400 milliseconds, indicating that the cable was being used.

On Tuesday, Renesys noticed that the lag time became shorter again, between 180ms and 220ms, wrote Doug Madory, senior research engineer.

"At 180-220ms, these paths suggest a pure terrestrial solution, based on subsea and overland cables -- the traditional Internet that nearly everyone else on earth enjoys," Madory wrote.

Madory wrote that it is likely Cuban network operators changed their routing policies to make ALBA-1 the default path for outbound traffic from some networks. It appears that satellite is also still in use, he wrote. "Almost immediately, we started getting reports from Havana that delays for Internet traffic were dropping perceptibly, as the new routing policy kicked in," he wrote.

Cuba's state telecommunications company, Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA), hasn't announced their use of the cable.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

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