Marseille, on track to become the fifth largest internet traffic center in the world

Posted on November 14, 2022, 5:06 pmUpdated on November 14, 2022, 5:13 p.m

It is a still unknown aspect of Marseille. And yet it is growing. Gradually, Marseille is becoming a hotspot for global Internet traffic, as Miami or Singapore already are. Today, 16 submarine cables (carrying data streams) arrive and depart from Marseille. Which, in terms of web traffic, makes the city the 7th hub in the world. But with the arrival in early November of the 2Africa cable, the longest in the world and future projects, the Mediterranean metropolis should soon grow to 5e square.

The general public does not know, but when a Frenchman watches a series hosted on Netflix servers in the United States, or makes a WhatsApp call in Asia, the traffic passes through these approximately 430 pipes located at the bottom of the sea. the oceans. Once on the ground, the data then passes through terrestrial networks, be it fiber or the 4G-5G antennas of telecom operators. Therefore, submarine cables must necessarily arrive at strategic locations connecting continents.

95 milliseconds to connect Bombay

But Marseille has a double advantage. It can serve the Maghreb, the rest of Africa via the Strait of Gibraltar, as well as the Middle East and then India via the Suez Canal. At the same time, Marseille is well connected to other land centers such as Paris or Frankfurt. In Europe, this is also the case of Genoa, Lisbon or Barcelona. But Marseille tends to steal the show.

“With Paris, France is the only country in Europe that has 2 cities in the top 10 in the world,” recalls Fabrice Coquio, Managing Director in France of Digital Realty (formerly Interxion), a large US operator that operates 300 shopping centers. data in the world including 4 in Marseille. Here, you can connect to Bombay in 95 milliseconds. Furthermore, 20% of internet traffic from Marseille goes to India! »

Because apart from its privileged strategic position, the city has another advantage: it is home to many data centers, especially around the port of Marseille-Fos. But today, telecom operators and Gafam investing in submarine cables want them to connect directly to data centers, the same way highways go through tolls and roundabouts.

For this, the investors behind the cables are ready to pay dearly, with rents paid for 20 to 25 years to data center operators. For them it is the security to reach directly to the multinationals who have already placed their IT in these data centers, thus making the cables more profitable faster.

Peace, the cable from China

In Marseille, the 16 submarine cables all reach Digital Realty’s data centers, which it leases to cloud giants such as Amazon and telecom operators. What “waits” for 2Afrika is a former submarine base built by the Germans in 1943 and which has remained unused for 75 years. But Marseille is also the arrival point for the French Peace, the cable built and financed by China that connects Singapore to Pakistan via the east coast of Africa, Egypt and then Malta. “Orange bought capacity in Peace, but asked in return to arrive in Marseille”, explains a specialist in this sector.

Geopolitics is never too far away in submarine cables, centers can emerge or rather disappear depending on the progress of the world. Therefore, the place of Marseille is not acquired in principle. In the 19th century, when submarine cables began to be laid by the great industrial powers of the time (the United States, the United Kingdom, France), Latin America was a major strategic crossroads for transcontinental communications, before falling out of favor of Asia during the 20th century. century.

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