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

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4 Oct 2019

Australian telecoms giant Telstra has inked agreements with Southern Cross Cables Limited (SCCL) shareholders – and secured the relevant regulatory approvals – to acquire a 25% stake in SCCL. The transaction is set to be completed within the coming days, subject to certain procedural conditions being satisfied. As a result of Telstra’s share purchase, Spark New Zealand’s holding in the cable will be diluted to around 37.5% (note: precise stake depends on level of pre-sales). Telstra will also become an anchor customer on the in-deployment Southern Cross NEXT submarine cable. The system will be operated on a non-common-carrier basis by providing bulk capacity to wholesale, enterprise and internet content customers, with commercial operation of the system expected to commence in January 2022.

The Southern Cross NEXT network will consist of four fibre pairs on the main US-Australia trunk route, which will have a design capacity of 18Tbps per fibre pair (and a total design capacity of 72Tbps) using current technology. The system’s initial lit capacity has not yet been determined. The US-Australia Trunk will have a length of 13,483km and land at existing landing points in Sydney (Australia) and Hermosa Beach (California). The branch will be owned and operated by Optus Networks. The Takapuna Branch – to be owned and operated by Spark New Zealand – will connect a branching unit on the main trunk to Takapuna (New Zealand); it will have a length of 1,301km and will comprise two fibre pairs, one of which is an express pair connecting Takapuna directly to Hermosa Beach and Sydney. The 309km Suva Branch will land at an existing facility in Suva (Fiji) and will consist of one fibre pair, to be owned and operated by Fiji International Telecommunications. The Savu Savu Branch (comprising one fibre pair and owned by the Fiji government) will stretch 305km to a newly-established landing point in Savu Savu (Fiji). The Apia Branch will link the main trunk with Apia (Samoa) via one fibre pair with a length of 310km and will be owned by the Samoa Submarine Cable Company (SSCC). The Nukunonu Branch (owned by the Telecommunication Tokelau Corporation) will also comprise one fibre pair and will stretch 53km to a newly built landing station in Nukunonu (Tokelau). The 377km Kiritimati Branch, owned by Bwebwerikinet Limited, will connect the main trunk to a new landing facility in Tabwakea, Kiritimati (Kiribati) and will comprise one fibre pair.

In other news, legislation to advance Bermuda’s efforts to become a digital hub for the interconnection of submarine cables was tabled in the House of Assembly last week. Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, tabled three bills for consultation that he said would provide a strong regulatory framework to attract this ‘potentially valuable sector’ to the island. The three Bills tabled were the Submarine Cables Permit and Licensing Act 2019, the Submarine Cables (Protected Areas) Act 2019 and the Submarine Cables (Protected Areas) Order 2019. The government is seeking feedback from industry stakeholders throughout October, after which any necessary amendments will be made, and final versions of the Bills will be tabled in the House in November. Mr Roban told MPs: ‘The Bermuda Business Development Agency is currently focused on promoting Bermuda as an Atlantic digital hub for interconnection of cables. There is currently no Atlantic hub and, because of our unique, prime geographic location, Bermuda is a logical choice to become that hub. By comparison, the Pacific Ocean has three hubs; Guam, Hawaii and Fiji.’

Nigeria-based infrastructure firm MainOne Cable Company has completed the landing of the MainOne submarine cable in Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire), thus wrapping up the final leg of its ongoing expansion to Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire. Following the landing at the Grand Bassam beach, the cable will be connected to an existing branching unit on the MainOne cable trunk already located offshore. The submarine cable will also be connected to MainOne’s newly constructed Tier III data centre in Abidjan. In September 2018 Orange and MainOne signed an agreement for the construction and installation of the two new branches and landing points in Dakar (Senegal) and Abidjan. Via the partnership, Orange will acquire additional capacity on the MainOne cable, and will be the owner of the cable landing station in Dakar.

Pan-African submarine cable operator SEACOM has lit a 1TB fibre line connecting the South African cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town. SEACOM CEO Byron Clatterbuck noted that SEACOM previously only had capacity from Durban up to Johannesburg. More capacity will be added along key national routes which connect Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Durban, East London and Kimberly in the next phase of SEACOM’s rollout.

Crosslake Fiber has revealed that it selected Hylan to support the design, engineering and construction of its Lake Ontario fibre network leg in New York State. Crosslake’s new fibre network – spanning 1,500km and including a 131km submarine link across Lake Ontario – will provide a physically diverse subsea and terrestrial route between Toronto, Ontario (Canada) and Buffalo, New York (US). Crosslake will deliver optical and dark fibre solutions over the new system. Hylan built 40 miles of fibre-optic infrastructure at the shore end in New York State, which completed the link.

Finally, Sweden’s EQT Infrastructure IV Fund (EQT) has announced that it has agreed to acquire German fibre operator inexio from Warburg Pincus, Deutsche Beteiligungs, the company’s founders and several minority investors. inexio was founded by David Zimmer in 2007 and now boasts a ‘unique and scalable network’, consisting of more than 10,000km of fibre in Rhineland-Palatinate, Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg and Saarland. The transaction is expected to close in Q4 2019, subject to regulatory approvals.

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