Colt snags 25-year contract to build, manage fiber in Channel Tunnel

U.K. fiber provider Colt Technology Services scored a major win, locking in a 25-year contract to build new and manage existing fiber infrastructure within the Channel Tunnel that connects the U.K. and Europe.

It signed the deal with Getlink, the company which manages the tunnel. Under the terms of the deal, Colt will be permitted to deploy its high-bandwidth IQ Network through the tunnel to secure new business and will take over existing dark fiber contracts from Getlink once they expire in 2025. It will also manage wholesale market engagement going forward.

Keri Gilder, Colt’s CEO, highlighted the importance of the contract in an interview with Fierce, noting approximately 80% of the internet traffic which runs between the U.K. and mainland Europe today travels through the Channel Tunnel. She said fiber infrastructure it plans to deploy for its IQ Network is perhaps most comparable to subsea cables, but will offer significantly more capacity and be placed in a highly protected environment that isn’t vulnerable to things like shark attacks and ship anchors.

Colt noted in a press release that once installed, its IQ Network will offer “transfer capacity of several terabits per second per fiber pair.”

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Strategically, Gilder said the tunnel offers the best path to close a key network loop that runs between London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. “One of the issues that’s always existed is how you actually get from the U.K., London to Paris on that critical link,” she explained. “There’s been talk about subsea channels being built in parallel, but the Euro tunnel is the best way to create that connectivity.”

Gary Carr, Colt’s CFO, told Fierce the company already has several customers in line waiting for links from the U.K. to mainland Europe. He said Colt expects installation of its new fiber to take four to six months and hopes to begin delivering service “in the early part of 2022.”

“This is a deal we’ve been working on for a year,” he added “12 months ago, Getlink didn’t even know Colt. We’ve been in competition with a lot of our competitors…Honestly, this is what I class as game-changing for Colt.”