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

21 Jul 2017

The government of Guinea-Bissau has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Paris-based telecoms provider Orange Group and MTN Group of South Africa for a USD47 million project to deploy a submarine cable branch connecting the country to the Africa Coast Europe (ACE) network. The new fibre-optic spur will be owned and operated by a consortium dubbed Bissau Cabo, with Orange and MTN holding a 51% stake, while the government will be in possession of the remainder (49%). Under the agreement, the World Bank will provide the bulk of the required financing (USD31.6 million), and Orange and MTN will invest roughly USD8 million each over a five-year period. The project is scheduled to be completed within 18 months.

Chinese equipment vendor Huawei and its submarine network division Huawei Marine Networks have completed a project to build a submarine cable system connecting the Belize mainland with San Pedro Island, Belize’s largest and fastest growing tourist area, on behalf of Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL). The Strategic Evolution Underwater Link (SEUL) cable spans 23km, delivering a design capacity featuring 40 channels at 100G per fibre over eight fibre pairs, with an overall capacity of up to 32Tbps. Huawei said that the project – which was completed on time and within budget – will allow BTL to provide 100Mbps broadband across the entire island of San Pedro beginning in August.

State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has launched a tender for the deployment of a fibre-optic submarine cable across the Bay of Bengal, linking the city of Chennai – the capital of the Tamil Nadu state – and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands (ANI), a union territory of India situated 200km east of the mainland. According to BSNL’s tender documents, the successful bidder must have a total turnover of USD200 million cumulatively during the last three financial years (2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17). In addition, the applicant or its parent/holding company must have successfully executed a minimum of two global repeatered submarine cable system projects during the last ten years, each of which should be of at least 1,000km. The Optical Fibre Cable (OFC), which was expected to be completed by December 2018 but could now be delayed by six months, will connect Chennai with Port Blair and five other islands – Little Andaman, Car Nicobar, Havelock, Kamorta and Great Nicobar. Currently, the ANI archipelago relies solely on expensive satellite connections, which are capped at 1Gbps of bandwidth. The total cost of the project is USD175.7 million – USD124.2 million for laying the infrastructure, with the rest set aside for maintenance and management costs over the next five years.

Saudi operator Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) has launched data transfer operations over the Asia Africa Europe-1 (AAE-1) submarine cable. The 25,000km network – owned by a consortium of 19 global service providers – connects Asia, the Middle East, East Africa and Europe. AAE-1 is described as ‘the longest 100Gbps technology-based submarine system’ and offers design capacity of over 40Tbps. The fibre-optic system landed in Cape D’Aguilar Cable Station (Hong Kong) last week.

BT-owned infrastructure operator Openserve has minimised the impact of a fault in the SAT-3 submarine cable – which occurred on 12 July – by successfully diverting international traffic to other submarine networks. MyBroadband cited Openserve CEO Alphonzo Samuels as saying: ‘A power loss detected on the cable by our technical team in Melkbosstrand [South Africa] on 12 July triggered further investigation of the failure. A physical break in the cable about 53km into the Atlantic Ocean from our landing station at a water depth between 182m to 201m is where the break occurred. The cause of the break has not been determined as yet.’ Openserve, which is in charge of managing and operating the SAT-3 system, said that it is working with vendors to repair the cable and restore traffic to normal as quick as possible.

Internet services in the southern part of Somalia have now been restored after a three-week outage, following the successful repair of the Eastern Africa Submarine System (EASSy) submarine cable. The fault – which occurred off the coast of Somalia in late June 2017 – was reportedly caused by an unidentified commercial vessel. The country has incurred losses of USD10 million per day due to the outage.

State-owned Telecom Cambodia has inaugurated its Greater Mekong Telecom Backbone Network project, which included the installation of a 467km fibre-optic cable connection between Sihanoukville and Kampong Cham, the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) said. The network deployment was funded by a USD39 million concessional loan, which was provided by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Lastly, Mexican state-controlled telco Telecomm has issued the general requirements for participation in the auction for the country’s 25,000km backbone network, revealing that the project will be developed as a public-private partnership (PPP). The successful bidder will provide the resources needed to deploy the network, as well as the required studies, assets, rights of way, infrastructure and equipment, among other things. Telecomm is planning to offer wholesale broadband and telephony services over the network as soon as it receives the green light from the country’s telecoms regulator the Federal Telecommunications Institute (Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones, Ifetel).

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