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

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27 Sep 2019

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has submitted a petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stating that DHS has no objection to the FCC approving an application filed by GU Holdings (an affiliate company of Google) for a licence to land and operate within the US a fibre-optic submarine cable linking Los Angeles (California, US) and Valparaiso in Chile. GU Holdings initially filed an application for the authorisation of the Curie cable rollout in October 2018, though the bid was subsequently removed from FCC’s streamlined processing section, subject to a national security review. GU Holdings requested a Special Temporary Authorisation (STA) to construct, connect and test a portion of the cable in the US territory during the review period, and the request was granted (for 180 days) in December 2018; an STA extension request was subsequently awarded in June 2019 (valid until 10 December 2019). The deployment of the Curie submarine cable network linking Chile with the US was completed in April 2019, with the landing of the submarine cable in the Playa Ancha area in the Valparaiso Region of Chile. The four-fibre pair system, deployed by SubCom, spans over 10,476km and includes a branching unit for future connectivity to Panama.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted its approval for the award of a licence to Ketchikan Public Utilities (KPU) for the construction, landing and operation of a private submarine fibre-optic cable connecting a new cable landing facility in Ketchikan (Alaska) with an existing landing station at Prince Rupert (British Columbia, Canada). The KetchCan1 Submarine Fiber Cable System will consist of a single continuous segment approximately 167km in length. The KetchCan1 system will have up to 48 fibres with a design capacity of 2.4Tbps per fibre pair and an initial lit capacity of 200Gbps. KPU will operate the cable system on a non-common carrier basis. The KPU intends to commence commercial operation of the cable system in September 2020 and is planning to award the deployment contract and place the cable order in November/December 2019. KPU will own, control, and operate all portions of the cable system.

Queensland’s Sunshine Coast has announced the completion of an AUD7.2 million (USD4.9 million) cable landing station at Maud Street (Maroochydore), situated around 100km north of Brisbane. The new facility is part of the Sunshine Coast International Broadband Submarine Cable (SCIBSC) project, which will connect to the Japan-Guam-Australia South (JGA-S) submarine cable. The SCIBSC system has a length of 552km and comprises two fibre pairs with a design capacity of 18Tbps per fibre pair; the branch is expected to be operational in mid-2020. The Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Council has set aside AUD35 million to deploy the cable, AUD15 million of which will be provided through the Queensland government’s AUD150 million Regional Growth Fund. The JGA-S system, meanwhile, is a private, non-common carrier fibre-optic submarine cable connecting Guam and Australia. It will consist of a main trunk between Piti (Guam) and Sydney (Australia), which will have a total length of approximately 7,081km and will consist of two fibre pairs with a design capacity of a minimum of 18Tbps per fibre pair, and the branch to the Sunshine Coast. JGA-S will be separately owned and operated from the in-deployment Japan-Guam-Australia-North (JGA-N) system between Guam and Japan, with RTI JGA holding 62.5% participation and voting interest in JGA-S and AARNet (12.5%), while Google will control 25% via three affiliate companies: GU Holdings (portion in US territory), Google Infrastructure Bermuda Limited (GIB, portion in international waters) and Google Australia (portion in Australian territory). JGA will wholly own the branching unit connecting the Sunshine Coast Branch to the main trunk.

Cisco has announced the successful testing of its NCS 1004 platform over the 6,605km MAREA submarine cable connecting Virginia Beach (US) to Bilbao, Spain. The test was to demonstrate the ability to provide increased transatlantic bandwidth as well as simulate transpacific distances via loopback on one end of the cable. Several channel capacity combinations were tested to maximise the performance and spectral efficiency on the cable. For the Virginia to Bilbao trial, 400G error-free performance was demonstrated; channels with record spectral efficiency of 6.445 bits per second per Hertz (b/s/Hz) were achieved, while 4.52b/s/Hz spectral efficiency was tested on the looped back scenario of over 13,200km. Bill Gartner, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Optical Systems and Optics at Cisco, commented: ‘We demonstrated that 24.7Tbps could be used on MAREA with plenty of margin. We also tested in full loopback mode (Bilbao to Virginia and back to Bilbao) showing that 18.5Tbps could be deployed for double the distance, also with plenty of system margin.’ MAREA is a joint project between Telefonica’s infrastructure subsidiary Telxius, Facebook and Microsoft. Telxius joined the two original partners Microsoft and Facebook in May 2016, to manage the construction process and operate the cable, with deployment work on the system commencing in August 2016. The system, which entered commercial operations in February 2018, features eight fibre-pairs and an initial design capacity of 160Tbps (increased to 200Tbps).

Lastly, Norwegian telecoms regulator the National Communications Authority (Nkom) is planning to award NOK100 million (USD11 million) of state funding in October to support the establishment of an open and non-discriminatory wholesale approach to alternative sea fibre connections for a period of at least seven years, after the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) approved the grant of public subsidies for the creation of new international submarine cable capacity. The funds will cover documented extra costs arising from reserving fibre capacity, on certain terms.

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