The IONIAN system – Why the IONIAN System?

With this post we start a series describing the IONIAN project in detail. This first post touches on the reasons behind the investment, next posts will more descriptive and technical. We hope they will be of your interest.

The need

Greece’s telecommunications network has suffered from lack of investment during the past years. As an example, in 2021 only 0.4% of the fixed broadband connections in Greece were FTTH, while the average for the OECD was 32.1%. Also, at only 2.4%, Greece has by far the lowest penetration of UFBB within the EU (average of 19%) .

International connectivity - Submarine cables

This lack of investment also affects the international backbone of Greece. Currently there are only two systems connecting mainland Greece to Western Europe, the most recent of which was deployed 18 years ago (OTE’s Kokkini-Bari in 2004).

Submarine cables around Greece (edited detail) - Telegeography

Other systems, such as MedNautilus (RFS 2001) and Minoas (2021) connect Mainland Greece with Crete. Crete, and more specifically Chania is an intermediate landing point (branch) for systems connecting Europe to the Middle East and further to Asia (e.g., Mednautilus, SeaMeWe 3, AAE-1). New systems plan to land in Crete as an intermediate branch of a longer system (e.g., Blue, Medusa).

Terrestrial routes

Given the few submarine alternatives, traffic on the terrestrial routes has increased significantly in the recent years. When going further to the hubs in the FLAP (Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, and Paris), this entails a very long terrestrial path with high operational cost and are likely to suffer outages.

Time (Kairos) to invest

As the prospects for the Greek economy have improved with lower interest rates, telecommunications operators are deploying FTTH infrastructure, with the support of public funds (UFBB and SFBB programs). Additionally, the recently announced construction of Datacenters in Athens (Microsoft, Digital Realty) and cloud investments (AWS) will improve its position as a hub for services and content. This will increase significantly the demand for more bandwidth and diversity for the international backbone.

We strongly believe that a state-of-the-art submarine system directly connecting mainland Greece with Western Europe is required to support the demand for international connectivity that these investments will generate. Such is the starting assumption of the IONIAN project

Design Criteria for IONIAN

In this context, IONIAN has been designed with the following principles:
  • Maximum diversity from existing routes
  • The safest possible submarine route (i.e., deep waters)
  • A submarine span that does not require the use of active wet elements (i.e., a repeaterless system)
  • Availability of appropriate terrestrial infrastructure at the landing points (i.e., fiber, energy, safe location)

In the following posts we will analyze in more detail the design and implementation of IONIAN.