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

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27 May 2016

American multinational technology company Microsoft and social networking giant Facebook are partnering with Telxius, the new infrastructure company which is now in charge of Telefonica Group´s 31,000km international submarine cable network, to build a new trans-Atlantic submarine cable linking Virginia Beach (Virginia, US) to Bilbao (Spain). Construction work on the Marea cable – which will have a design a capacity of 160Tbps – will commence in August, and is scheduled to be completed by October 2017. Frank Rey, director of global network acquisition for Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure and operations, said: ‘As the world continues to move towards a future based on cloud computing, Microsoft is committed to building out the unprecedented level of global infrastructure required to support ever faster and even more resilient connections to our cloud services. This robust, global infrastructure will enable customers to more quickly and reliably store, manage, transmit and access their data in the Microsoft Cloud.’

Common Tower Technologies (CTTSB), a wholly owned subsidiary of Warisan Harta Sabah (the investment arm of Malaysia’s Sabah state government), has signed an agreement with Brunei International Gateway (BIG) to land a new submarine cable in Tungku (Brunei), the Borneo Bulletin reports. The new Labuan-Brunei Submarine Cable (LBC) will stretch across the Brunei Bay, near the South China Sea, with landing stations in Tungku and Kiamsam, which are situated in Malaysia’s federal territory of Labuan. The system – which is wholly-owned by CTTSB – is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2016. BIG CEO John Murray said: ‘This new cable into Brunei from Labuan will provide a gateway for CTTSB and its customers in Sabah to reach more international destinations and it helps establish Brunei as a communication hub for Southeast Asia.’

Telefonica has renewed a marine maintenance service agreement for its domestic and South America-1 (SAM-1) submarine cable systems with equipment vendors Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks (ASN) and TE SubCom. The five-year extension will come into effect on 1 January 2017. Under the Atlantic Private Maintenance Agreement (APMA), ASN and TE SubCom will continue to make available three dedicated maintenance vessels in the Western Atlantic (Curacao) and the Eastern Atlantic (Cape Verde and Calais). TeleGeography notes that the SAM-1 cable system connects the United States with Central and South America with landing stations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru, while Telefonica’s domestic network provides service between Spain’s mainland and the Canary Islands.

The African Development Bank (ADB) has approved a EUR52.04 million (USD58.2 million) loan to the government of the Republic of Congo to help finance the country’s connection to the regional Central Africa Backbone (CAB) programme, with the remaining funding (roughly EUR14.5 million) set to be provided by the Congolese government, AllAfrica reports. Under the project, 550km of fibre-optic cables will be deployed from the capital Brazzaville to Ouesso, with extensions to the neighbouring Central African Republic and Cameroon. At the border with Cameroon, the fibre-optic network will interconnect with another backbone network (approved by the World Bank in December 2015). When completed, the CAB will connect a total of eleven Central African countries.

Solomon Islands’ Minister for Communication and Aviation (MCA), Peter Shanel, has revealed that an additional funding of USD5 million is still required for the connection of the island to a submarine cable, after unnamed financial backers provided investment worth USD5 million, the Solomon Star News reports. The official added the project is on track and that ‘the government remains optimistic on its implementation.’ As previously reported by TeleGeography’s Cable Compendium in July 2015, the project will be managed by the Solomon Islands Sea Cable Company (SISCC), which is co-owned by Solomon Islands National Provident Fund (SINPF) and Solomon Telekom (Our Telekom).

International submarine cable consulting firm Pioneer Consulting has supervised the relocation of two shore-ends for telecoms provider Dhiraagu – the Maldives subsidiary of telecoms operator Batelco – on the Dhiraagu Cable Network, which connects the nation’s main atolls. Originally installed in 2006, the system is a four fibre pair unrepeated telecoms cable with a 12.14km segment linking Male to Hulhumale, and a 5.9km segment between Male to Villingili. Due to the planned construction of a new bridge linking Male to Hulhumale, relocation of both shore-ends in the capital (and most populous city) Male was mandatory, Pioneer Consulting said.

British fixed line incumbent BT claims to have achieved the fastest ever speeds – 2Tbps – over a live core network link spanning 727km between London and Dublin, in a trial conducted in partnership with Huawei. BT noted that it used optical super-channel technology on the commercial fibre link, which was carrying live customer traffic between the UK and Ireland. Further, BT has also announced the successful transmission of speeds reaching 5.6Tbps over a single optical fibre running on its trial network between the BT Labs in Adastral Park and the BT Tower in London, beating a previous record of 3Tbps set in 2014. According to BT, the technology and techniques pioneered in its labs – using Terabit super-channels and flexible grid infrastructures – will allow it to avoid a ‘capacity crunch’, by squeezing far more bandwidth out of its existing core optical networks.

Lastly, Telecom Italia is reported to be in talks with state-controlled lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) over its stake in the Milan-based fibre network operator Metroweb. Reuters writes that Telecom Italia is looking to exchange a stake in its international wholesale business TI Sparkle for CDP’s interest in Metroweb, which is held via Fondo Strategico Italiano (FSI).

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