Mystery Cable Activated in Cuba


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January 22, 2013 Comments (22) Views: 16529 Caribbean, Internet, Politics

Cuban Fiber: Completo?

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Cuban Internet connectivity continues to evolve by the hour, with a new, faster mode of operation in evidence as of this morning. Our measurements from around the world suggest that Cuban technicians may have completed the work they began a week ago, creating the first bidirectional Internet paths that are free of satellite connectivity. viva-cuba-fiber.jpg

In our previous blog, we described how we first detected the signs of change in Cuba’s Internet connectivity on Monday, 14 January 2013. Before that date, everything sent to Cuba experienced a delay of at least half a second, because of the speed of light: every packet sent and received had to travel around 70,000 km (44,000 miles) through space, bouncing off of geostationary satellites and returning to Earth.

On January 14th, we began to see routed paths for data flowing inbound to Cuba through a new service provider, Telefonica. At the same time, we saw a second “mode” of latency for Internet traffic emerge, with reduced delays in the 400ms range. That’s fast enough that at least half the path must be terrestrial; we inferred that we were seeing signs of the activation of ALBA-1 from Venezuela.

For the next week, however, nothing changed. People on the ground in Havana reported no changes in Internet performance. When we wrote our blog on Sunday, it wasn’t clear whether this curious one-way connectivity was intentional, or the result of misconfiguration.


Today, that all changed. At exactly 14:01 UTC Tuesday (09:01 local time), we saw yet another mode emerge in the latency diagrams. In this plot, you can see the original pure-satellite mode (A), the new asymmetric satellite mode (B), and a third, lower mode (C) that excludes the possibility of geosynchronous satellite service altogether. 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. Almost immediately, we started getting reports from Havana that delays for Internet traffic were dropping perceptibly, as the new routing policy kicked in.

What happened here? We speculate that Cuban network operators changed their routing policy to make the ALBA-1 cable the default path for all outbound traffic from certain Cuban networks. That would align with what we see in the data: some satellite providers, like Intelsat, move from mode A to faster mode B (becoming asymmetric: cable outbound, satellite inbound), while some prefixes move from mode B to still faster mode C (becoming symmetric terrestrial: cable outbound, cable inbound).

We’d like to hear confirmation from the Cuban network operators themselves, and we hope they’ll comment below.

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22 Responses to Cuban Fiber: Completo?

  1. bela says:

    Yeah, I get 250ms pings to Cuba from Hungary.
    Its routed through the Telefónica Wholesale global backbone.

  2. Cuquito says:

    361ms from Montreal to

  3. Trinity says:

    450ms from Dominican Republic to Cuba (Consultoria Juridica Internacional, Havana). IP:

  4. Trinity says:

    !195ms! from Dominican Republic to AP’s Office (Associated Press) at Havana ( IP:

  5. Francesco says:

    443ms from Milan

  6. Juan says:

    from Venezuela 433 ms to

  7. Doug Madory says:

    What ISP are you using in Venezuela? ETECSA is still using some satellite, so that is likely what you are seeing.

  8. DJinn says:

    from Costa Rica 450 ms to

  9. Andy Ringsmuth says:

    From Lincoln, Neb., USA, I’m seeing pings for consistently in the 375-400ms range with zero packet loss.
    However, pings to the AP office at must be going both cable and satellite. Pings ranging from as low as 196ms to as high as 1950ms with 9 percent packet loss.

  10. Pedro Gonzalez says:

    I am getting 360ms. Here is part of my traceroute. The 571 ms is from the Tata’s satellite station in Laurentides Quebec.
    12 26 ms 24 ms 23 ms [63.243.
    13 573 ms 571 ms 568 ms [207.45
    14 360 ms 360 ms 361 ms
    15 372 ms 364 ms 365 ms
    16 367 ms 366 ms 387 ms
    17 * * * Request timed out.
    18 * * * Request timed out.
    19 * * * Request timed out.
    20 * * * Request timed out.
    21 * * * Request timed out.
    22 369 ms 369 ms 381 ms

  11. Pedro Gonzalez says:

    Here is another traceroute from London, UK via VPN. Traffic from there is going through Telefonica’s network and it looks like traffic is reaching Cuba via fiber not a satellite link.
    4 94 ms 94 ms 95 ms [149.6.
    5 114 ms 118 ms 108 ms [130.117.14.
    6 192 ms 230 ms 185 ms
    t []
    7 209 ms 205 ms 217 ms
    t []
    8 262 ms 204 ms 218 ms
    9 240 ms 341 ms 252 ms
    10 332 ms 348 ms 394 ms
    11 346 ms 331 ms 346 ms
    12 * * * Request timed out.
    13 * * * Request timed out.
    14 * * * Request timed out.
    15 * * * Request timed out.
    16 * * * Request timed out.
    17 346 ms * *
    18 338 ms * *
    19 348 ms 342 ms 343 ms

  12. mmoya says:

    A friend in Cuba just confirmed that a ping delay is about 200ms less than it used to be.

  13. taqchi says:

    Yes, I can also confirm that.

  14. Trinity says:

    Today, January 24th, the Cuban state telecom company, ETECSA, has released a statement admitting that the ALBA 1 submarine cable is operating.
    This is the statement:
    ALBA 1 submarine cable is operating. ETECSA will begin testing Internet traffic.
    The telecommunications system ALBA-1 submarine cable, that links Cuba with Venezuela and Jamaica using fiber optics, has been operating since August 2012, initially providing voice traffic corresponding to international telephony.
    Since last January 10th ETECSA began to perform quality testing of Internet traffic on the system. They are made using real traffic to and from Cuba, in order to normalize this communication channel.
    After completion of testing, the commissioning of the submarine cable will not mean that the possibilities of access will automatically increase. It will be necessary to make investments in the domestic telecommunications infrastructure, and also to increase foreign exchange resources destined to pay for Internet traffic, in order to achieve the gradual growth of a service we provide free today mostly with social objectives.
    Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba SA (ETECSA)

  15. taqchi says:

    I congratulate the author of this blog. I think the confirmation of ETECSA enough to corroborate your assumptions.

  16. I’ve received confirmation from three different sources inside Cuba that connection speeds and latencies are still as crappy as always at these places: Ministerio de Cultura (culture ministry), Joven Club de Computacion (Youth Computer Clubs) and University of Havana.
    Obviously this is only being activated for the government elite so far. I was told that even before these news people were loudly complaining and raising the issue of slow speeds in meetings so this is going to add wood to the fire as the news spread. The most vocal about it have been foreign students studying in Cuba with young Cuban students following behind.

  17. Trinity says:

    Actually, being Cuban and knowing the modus operandi of the Cuban government, I’m pretty sure that Cuban authorities were forced to admit that the ALBA 1 is operating because Renesys revealed and proved first that information.
    Good work folks!

  18. John says:

    [root@officepc ~]$ ping
    [root@officepc ~]$ traceroute
    5 ( 0.537 ms 0.556 ms te7 ( 0.618 ms
    6 ( 0.407 ms telecomitali ( 0.502 ms telecomitalia.mia03.atlas.c ( 0.616 ms
    7 ( 0.738 ms ge3-0-0.miami1.mia. ( 0.782 ms (195.22.199
    .221) 0.600 ms
    8 ( 43.319 ms 43.312 ms 43.277
    9 ( 41.775 ms 41.746 ms 40.828 ms
    10 ( 38.268 ms 38.213 ms 38.097 ms
    11 ( 36.658 ms 36.678 ms *
    12 ( 36.606 ms 37.605 ms 36.715 ms
    13 ( 37.380 ms 37.238 ms 37.423 ms
    14 ( 38.161 ms 38.201 ms 38.171 ms
    15 * * *
    16 * * *

  19. Adrian Perez says:

    No matter where I ping I still get lazy speeds from the UK. This seems dependent on which host I’m pinging/tracing, which confirms no more than exclusivity as usual. I don’t honestly have any hopes on this, and given the ETECSA statement makes it quite clear, that we will have to wait until the next apocalypse rumor to get broadband, I honestly don’t care any longer. If they surprise while I’m still here, then it’s great, otherwise I just skip stressing myself about it. Being an IT guy, I feel the latency more than everyone else, so you’d understand why it kinda stresses me more than normal people: I can’t do work like this.

  20. Enrique says:

    Ditto Congrats to rensys on this report.
    I just ping’d (ap) from Miami at 412ms with a 4% loss

  21. Doug Madory says:

    ETECSA is still using satellite quite a bit. So it depends where you are pinging from to see the Telefonica path.

  22. Doug Madory says:

    This website is hosted in Venezuela and your traceroute is just going to there. Try performing a traceroute to instead.

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