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

15 Nov 2019

Google has announced that the Curie submarine cable system linking the US to Chile has been successfully installed and tested and is currently being connected to Google’s network, with the system scheduled to enter services in Q2 2020. Equipped with four 18Tbps fibre-optic pairs, the 10,500km Curie system will deliver 72Tbps of bandwidth capacity to South America. Google is also planning to add a new branch to Panama, with SubCom selected to deploy the new infrastructure. Google has also commissioned two other wholly-owned systems: the 6,400km Dunant system linking Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez in France and the US (RFS in Q3 2020) and Equiano aiming to link Portugal to South Africa in 2021.

The members of the Manatua consortium – comprising French Polynesia’s Office des Postes et Telecommunications (OPT), Avaroa Cable Limited (ACL) in the Cook Islands, Telecom Niue Limited (TNL) and Samoa Submarine Cable Company (SSCC) – have approved the final stages of planning for the installation of the Manatua submarine cable aiming to connect Apia (Samoa) to To’ahotu (Tahiti) via a two/three fibre pair trunk, with branching units to Niue, Aitutaki (Cook Islands, one fibre pair), Rarotonga (Cook Islands, three fibre pairs) and Vaitape (French Polynesia, one fibre pair). Transfer of the 3,700km cable (manufactured in New Hampshire, US by SubCom) from the delivery freighter Thorco Liva onto specialist cable laying vessel SubCom Reliance is currently underway. Cable laying operations will commence in Samoa in November, Niue and Cook Islands in December, and French Polynesia in January 2020; the system is expected to enter commercial services in June 2020. The international treaty for the system’s deployment was inked in April 2017 by the President of French Polynesia, the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, the Prime Minister of the Independent State of Samoa, and the Premier of the Government of Niue.

Orange Group has announced its plans to deploy a new international backbone network connecting eight countries in West Africa, to be built around a terrestrial fibre network combined with submarine cables. The multi-regional West African network will connect to the rest of the world via various submarine cables and will connect all the main capital cities in the region such as Dakar (Senegal), Bamako (Mali), Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire), Accra (Ghana) and Lagos (Nigeria). Once completed, the network will enable a host of services, including international private line (IPL) with bandwidth of 2Mbps to 100Gbps and Ethernet private line (EPL) offering point to point connections (L2 VPN) and available bandwidth from 2Mbps to 10Gbps. Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa, said: ‘For Orange, this West African backbone network represents a major investment that will secure availability of international connectivity and will enable us to meet the demand for increased bandwidth necessary for the continued digital development of regions within the zone.’ The commercial launch of the West African backbone is planned for the second quarter of 2020.

Liquid Telecom has announced the establishment of a coast-to-coast direct fibre route linking East and West Africa, following the completion of a 2,600km terrestrial network across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The new route links Muanda to Lubumbashi via Kinshasa, Kikwit, Kananga and Kolwezi, and connects the DRC to neighbouring Tanzania (Dar es Salaam) and Zambia, with onward connectivity to Liquid Telecom’s ‘One Africa’ broadband network, which approaches 70,000km.

Brazilian submarine cable operator GlobeNet is planning to extend its fibre-optic network from Boa Vista, the capital of Brazil’s northernmost Roraima state, to Maiquetia in Venezuela, while another cross-border link will see Tabatinga, a town on the Brazilian border with Colombia and Peru, being connected via fibre-optics to Colombia’s Barranquilla, BNamericas writes. The Colombian cable will most likely be deployed along the bed of the Amazon river, but project details, investment figures and launch dates for both initiatives were not disclosed. GlobeNet’s managing director Carlos Schoeninger said: ‘It’s a huge challenge crossing fibre through the Venezuelan territory … But we need to interiorise data inside the territories.’ GlobeNet is also planning to deploy a new branch to the Malbec submarine system linking Rio De Janeiro in Brazil with Buenos Aires (Argentina), with a landing station near Porto Alegre, the capital of Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state. The in-deployment 2,500km Malbec cable is being developed in collaboration with Facebook. According to Schoeninger, the Argentina-Brazil route – which will interconnect with GlobeNet’s Brazil-US cable – is expected to be activated by June 2020. GlobeNet networks encompass 23,500km from Brazil to the US, with landing points in Barranquilla, Maiquetia and Bermuda. The company has PoPs and data centres in Miami, New York, Caracas, Bogota, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Fortaleza.

Angola Cables and Nokia have announced that they have completed a trial of a direct optical route between Sangano (Luanda, Angola) and Boca Raton (Miami, US), with the network now available for commercial use. The field trial leveraged Nokia’s 1830 Photonic Service Switch WDM platform. Powered by the Photonic Service Engine coherent digital signal processor, the 1830 PSS successfully transmitted optical wavelengths over 12,635km directly from Angola to Florida, reducing latency by 30% compared to existing routes. Angelo Gama, Angola Cables CTO, said: ‘By optically interconnecting the deployed Monet and South Atlantic Cable System (SACS), Angola Cables is able to further reduce latency between content providers in North America and the rapidly growing data consumption markets in Africa … For example, the connection between Johannesburg and New York City will be reduced by up to 18% using the direct SACS and Monet fibre-optic connection.’ The 6,165km SACS system linking Brazil to Angola (certified RFS in September 2018) is owned and operated by Angola Cables, while the 10,556km Monet system between the US and Brazil (December 2017) is owned by a consortium comprising Angola Cables, Google, Algar Telecom and Antel.

Bankrupt Global Cloud Xchange (GCX) has revealed plans to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection ‘after completing the initial phase of its previously announced sale process’. GCX has decided that the best way to maximise value and position the businesses for long-term growth and success is through a ‘standalone Plan of Reorganisation’. Under the terms of the proposed Plan, which has received support from more than 75% of the company’s lenders, GCX will reduce debt by USD150 million. Following its decision to move forward as a standalone company, GCX has terminated the sale process for the company. A US court hearing to gain approval for the standalone Plan of Reorganisation is scheduled for 4 December 2019, with the company expecting to emerge from its Chapter 11 restructuring shortly thereafter. GCX owns the world’s largest private undersea cable system spanning more than 68,000 route km.

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