HomeInfrastructureSparkle to block Russian subsea cable sabotage

    Sparkle to block Russian subsea cable sabotage


    Italian Navy and international telco to block

    Sparkle, the international arm of Telecom Italia (TIM) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Italian Navy to guard its fibre-optic infrastructure from the sabotage of its undersea cables. The signatories were the Chief of the Italian Navy, Admiral Enrico Credendino, and Sparkle’s CEO Elisabetta Romano at the presence of Sparkle’s Chairman Alessandro Pansa.

    Italian submarines will monitor and deter attacks in the Mediterranean Sea as part of a new deal between the Italian Navy and the country’s largest private cable provider, according to Tom Kington, the Italian correspondent at Defense News

    Sub sea cables are an easy target, said Rear Admitral Vito Lacerenza, the commander of the Italian Navy’s submarine fleet. Even yachts can deploy submarines or undersea drones, so there is an increased need for more accurate situational awareness in the underwater environment to monitor and protect critical infrastructure such as these cables, which carry over 95% of the world’s internet volume, Lacerenza said.

    In a statement, the Navy and Sparkle said they will undertake “joint reconnaissance and monitoring activities of Sparkle’s proprietary submarine cables and neighbouring areas,” adding that the service “will also provide cartographic support for the seabed of interest as well as assistance in emergency operational situations.” Lacerenza said the Navy will exchange information with Sparkle.

    “Their data will give us a better awareness of the network and its critical aspects to help us monitor it better,” said Lacarenza. “Knowing where these cables [are] means we can offer better surveillance using submarine sensors. Crises all around the Mediterranean have increased the attention we pay to this infrastructure. We are learning that the undersea domain is as important as space when it comes to protecting national economies.”

    NATO ministers in 2020 discussed the danger of Russian submarines cutting or tapping undersea internet cables, and the UK last year announced it would build a new surveillance ship to protect cables. At the time, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the “lights could go out” if “incredibly important” undersea cables were attacked, specifically noting that Russia had “taken a deep interest” in the cables.

    “We are proud and honoured of this prestigious collaboration with the Italian Navy, which confirms the strategic role of digital infrastructures for the Country’s development while recognizing Sparkle’s significant contribution,” said Sparkle CEO Elisabetta Romano.

    From Italy’s perspective, recent years have seen growing numbers of cables laid in the Atlantic Ocean and entering the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar and exiting through the Suez Canal to reach Asia and the Middle East. Some come ashore at junction boxes in Sicily.

    In addition to its four U212A submarines, the Italian Navy is now building four upgraded NFS, Near Future Submarines, versions to replace its older Sauro-class vessels. “The NFS submarines will be better able to network with sensors on other platforms, as well as using undersea drones, all of which will make them proficient at monitoring the cables,” Lacerenza said. The cables themselves can possibly act as sensors since they register nearby changes in pressure, offering the Navy the possibility of accessing an unforeseen network of sensors stretching across the seafloor.

    In December Britain’s top military officer warned that a modernised Russian Navy poses a threat to the undersea fiber-optic cable networks that carry much of the world’s communications. Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach, the chief of the Defence Staff, said the vulnerability of the cables to severing by the Russians posed a potentially “catastrophic“ economic threat. Peach told the audience at the Royal United Services Institute in London in addition to new ships and submarines, Russia continues to perfect unconventional capabilities and information warfare.