Cable Compendium: a guide to the week’s submarine and terrestrial developments

19 Jun 2015

Napoleon Nazareno, president of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT), has revealed that his company is looking to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a consortium of telcos for the construction of a second submarine cable linking Asia to the US, with plans to invest between USD50 million and USD100 million in the venture, the Business Mirror Philippines reports. Nazareno disclosed that the project will enhance the firm’s international bandwidth capacity and will raise the resiliency of its overseas links. Meanwhile, PLDT vice president for international networks, Genaro Sanchez, added: ‘We are still in the planning stage for our second cable to the US, now bypassing Guam and Hawaii. [The landing station] could be in Daet or Batangas.’ The PLDT has invested in a number of submarine cables, including the Asia Africa Europe-1 (AAE-1), the Asia Submarine-cable Express (ASE), the Asia Pacific Gateway (APG), the SeaMeWe-3 and the Asia-America Gateway (AAG) Cable System. In recent years the 20,000km AAG link – which is the sole submarine cable directly connecting south-east Asia to the US – has been plagued by periodic outages, with the cable’s technical design being cited as a factor in its repeated breakdowns.

Indeed, VietNamNet Bridge writes that the ongoing problems affecting the Asia America Gateway (AAG) submarine cable is enticing would-be investors to leap into the market to fill the void. Afzal Abdul Rahim, CEO of Malaysian group TIME dotcom is quoted as saying that his company has now acquired 25% of Vietnam’s CMC Telecom for USD12 million – coming on the back of investment of more than USD200 million in numerous subsea cable systems by the Malaysian group over the past five years. TIME dotcom reportedly intends to work with CMC Telecom to conquer the Indochina market, with Afzal Abdul Rahim saying that TIME dotcom is actively considering ‘setting up more cable systems, both sea and land, to improve internet connection capability’. Internet users in the region have been urging ISPs to develop alternative systems to reduce the reliance on AAG which is creaking under the strain and has suffered frequent breakdowns, resulting in it undergoing maintenance four times this year already.

Italian telecoms operator Tiscali has selected French-US vendor Alcatel-Lucent to deploy a 100G terrestrial fibre-optic backbone infrastructure and upgrade the existing submarine links from Sardinia to Sicily and the mainland. The new agile optical networking solution, which utilises Alca-Lu’s 1830 Photonic Service Switch (PSS) platform, will allow Tiscali to increase both data capacity and data transmission speeds in response to growing demand for high-bandwidth services. The equipment maker will also upgrade the Janna submarine system, which comprises two subsea cables; the first links Olbia (Sardinia) and Civitavecchia on the Italian peninsula, while the second link stretches between Cagliari (Sardinia) and Mazara del Vallo (Sicily). The project is scheduled to be completed by October 2015.

The Iran-Pakistan fibre-optic project has been inaugurated in Iran’s south eastern city of Zahedan, in a ceremony attended by Iran’s communications minister Mahmoud Vaezi, Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) reports. The new 700km link is said to have capacity of 64 STM-1. Iran and Pakistan signed a MoU in 2007 for the construction of a fibre-optic network connecting the two countries; the project was estimated to cost in the region of USD1 million.

Cameroon’s connection to the West Africa Cable System (WACS) submarine cable system is scheduled to go into service on 1 July 2015, following the completion of the fibre-optic network linking the cable’s landing point in Limbe and Douala, the country’s largest city. The 14,900km cable stretches along the west coast of Africa, linking South Africa to the UK with landings in Namibia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, the Canary Islands and Portugal. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in September 2014 ownership of the WACS landing station in Limbe was handed over to CamTel; the facility was acquired by the government from MTN Cameroon the previous July, for a total consideration of XAF14 billion (USD24 million). As such, CamTel has monopoly control over two submarine cable systems, SAT-3 and WACS. A third cable – the African Coast to Europe (ACE) system – is scheduled to land on Cameroonian shores by end-2015, after Orange Cameroun signed an agreement with the government for the operation of the link.

Mobile operator Tele2 Eesti will deploy a 2,100km data transmission line for the SEB Baltic banking group, which operates in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, with 10G design capacity. The operator will interconnect SEB’s server centres in the three Baltic States, thus providing its branches with a safe connection. Construction work on the project started in April 2015 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of June. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s Cable Compendium, in January 2015 the operator inaugurated the Baltic Highway, a 3,000km fibre-optic data network linking Tallin (Estonia) and Frankfurt (Germany), with additional nodes in Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw and Berlin.

Broadband connectivity on the remote Shetland Islands, located in Northern Scotland, has been seriously impacted, following a fracture on the fibre-optic cable link between Maywick and Lerwick, ISPreview.co.uk reports. The cable, which was installed by Shetland Telecom, connects to the SHEFA-2 submarine network, which links the Faroe Islands with mainland Scotland. A statement on Shetland Telecom’s website earlier this week said: ‘Engineers will be back on site [on 18 June 2015] to deploy a complete replacement of a section of fibre. We are hopeful of having all services restored before mid-day.’

Hawaiki Cable has selected the French banking group Natixis to help it find investors willing to back its proposed USD300 million subsea cable linking New Zealand, Australia and the US. Paris-listed Natixis has a proven track record in project financing and telecoms infrastructure and whilst broadband users in the region who stand to gain from the proposed link – which will compete directly with the Southern Cross Cable network – were hoping to hear that project was already 100% funded, Hawaiki Cable CEO Remi Galasso is hopeful that construction will now begin this year. Auckland-based Hawaiki Cable was believed to have secured investor backing from New Zealand-based Todd Corporation, but the status of its involvement in the project is now unclear. Nevertheless, Galasso is confident that all the monies needed will be in place by October and next month, he intends to seek permission to land the cable in Hawaii and Oregon, he said.

Allied Fiber, which is described as the United States’ first open-access, integrated, network-neutral colocation and dark fibre superstructure, has announced that its Southeast Route connecting Miami and Atlanta is complete and officially Ready for Service (RFS). The new link consists of: eleven Allied Fiber built and owned, network-neutral colocation facilities; it spans 708 route miles (362 in Georgia and 346 in Florida); it has a total of 270,672 fibre miles (189,024 in Florida and 81,648 in Georgia); and is equipped with local access fibre ‘splice points’ at 3,000-5,000 feet intervals, allowing network service and content providers leasing colocation space and dark fibre in the Allied Fiber system to provide their customers with improved performance, speed and reliability.

Alcatel-Lucent is deploying a 100Gbps optical transport network in Thailand to help Advanced Info Services (AIS), the country’s largest cellco in terms of subscribers, meet the growing demand for data capacity which it reports is doubling year-on-year. AIS has chosen the France-based vendor’s 1830 PSS optical platform, combining it with elements of the existing 10G optical network. Alca-Lu is upgrading the transport network from Bangkok and out to the North and Northeast regions of Thailand. Work will be completed within the next few weeks.

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