Is dormant Polarnet project back on the agenda?

28 Jan 2013

According to Russian website, long-dormant Russian-backed plans to roll out a trans-Arctic communications cable under the ‘Polarnet’ name received a boost last week, when Russia’s telecoms ministry reached an agreement on funding with the government. The project, which was first mooted around a decade ago, was last publicised in October 2011, when it received the backing of the Governmental Commission for Federal Communications and Technological Issues. At that time it was noted that the scheme was being bankrolled by Oleg Kim, a well-known businessman with links to a number of disparate industries.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in October 2011 it was revealed that the project was expected to be implemented in three steps, with phase one involving the deployment of a cable link spanning from Bude, UK to Tokyo, Japan via Murmansk, Anadyr and Vladivostok in Russia; the first stage of rollout was priced at USD860 million. The second stage of rollout will see Polarnet extend the communications cable to the coast of the Russian Arctic and Far East territories and will require funds worth approximately USD500 million. The third and final phase of deployment will see Polarnet lay the land-based segment of the cable, in partnership with domestic oil pipeline firm Transneft.

However, the lack of progress during the last 15 months – which saw India’s Tata withdraw its tacit backing of the scheme – has reportedly seen the cost of the project spiral, to reach USD980 million. Nevertheless, US-based Tyco Electronics SubCom (TES) was selected to implement the system during the interim period, and has selected 59 subcontractors to supply infrastructure, software and marine services.

Previously, it was reported that the 17,000km cable, which would have a lifespan of around 25 years, would be divided into a ‘Western’ segment, reaching from the UK to Murmansk (4,600km); a ‘Central Arctic’ section, covering Murmansk to Anadyr (6,600km) and an ‘Eastern’ component, spanning Anadyr to Vladivostok (4,900km, alongside three extensions of 1,600km apiece); a direct link to China was also mooted for future connectivity.