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

3 Jan 2020

The Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Ltd (BSCCL) has revealed that four international firms – US vendor SubCom, Japan’s NEC, Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) of France and China-based Huawei – have expressed interest to deploy the country’s third submarine cable connection. A three-member team of BSCCL will participate in a SeaMeWe-6 consortium meeting in Singapore this month, with the tender proposals scheduled to be evaluated at the meeting. BSCCL Managing Director Mashiur Rahman told Dhaka Tribune: ‘The four companies were asked to submit [their bids] this month. The consortium will evaluate the tender from 6 January until 16 January in Singapore. We will make a final decision based on the evaluation report.’ Unnamed BSCCL sources meanwhile claim that the cost of connecting the country to the SeaMeWe-6 system would be around BDT6.1 billion (USD70.4 million), with a tentative ready for service (RFS) date of 2023.

The government of Saint Helena has inked a contract with Google to connect the island nation to Phase 1 of the Equiano cable project, which will initially link Lisbon (Portugal) to Cape Town in South Africa, with planned branches to other African countries. The branch between the main trunk of the Equiano cable and Saint Helena will be 1,140km long and is expected to be operational by early 2022. The marine route survey for the Equiano cable was launched on 8 July 2019 at the landing site in Melkbosstrand (South Africa). The new system, to be laid by Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), is scheduled to enter operations by 2021. The cable, equipped with space-division multiplexing (SDM) technology, is designed with nine branching points, strategically located in West African countries. The system will be Google’s fourth private cable, following the deployment of the Junior system linking Rio de Janeiro and Santos in Brazil (certified RFS in Q3 2018), the Curie network between Los Angeles (US) and Valparaiso in Chile (RFS in 2019) and Dunant, linking Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez in France and the US (RFS in Q3 2020).

GU Holdings has requested a modification of its cable landing licence for the Curie submarine cable system, which currently connects Los Angeles (California, US) and Valparaiso (Chile). Specifically, GU Holdings seeks to modify the cable landing licence to include a new landing point in Panama City (Panama). The Panama Branch will connect a new landing facility in Panama City (to be owned by TI Sparkle Panama) to a stubbed branch previously installed on the main (US-Chile) trunk; it will be approximately 1,073km in length and will consist of four fibre pairs with a design capacity of 18Tbps (total design capacity of 72Tbps). Google Singapore Pte Ltd (GSPL) will own 100% of the system located in international waters, while Google Infraestructura de Panama (GIP) will wholly own the portion in Panamanian waters. GU Holdings intends to commence commercial operations over the Panama Branch in the third quarter of 2021.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that an application filed by RTI Solutions, RTI HK-G, RTI Connectivity and GU Holdings for a licence to land and operate within the US the Hong Kong-Guam (HK-G) cable system, a private fibre-optic submarine cable network connecting Hong Kong and Piti (Guam), is subject to the streamlined processing procedures, with the authority stating that it will take action upon the submission within 45 days (unless the application is deemed ineligible after further examination). The applicants and their affiliates are planning to operate the HK-G system on a non-common-carrier basis, either by providing bulk capacity to wholesale and enterprise customers on particularised terms and conditions pursuant to individualised negotiations, or by using the HK-G system to serve their own connectivity needs. The HK-G system will consist of one segment with a length of 3,693km, comprising four fibre pairs. Each fibre pair will have a total design capacity of 12Tbps (for a total of 48Tbps) using current technology. The HK-G system will land at a new cable landing station in Guam (known as Piti 2), which will be owned and operated by Gateway Network Connection (GNC); RTI Solutions will serve as the US landing party and control the Guam landing arrangements for the HK-G system under a contract with GNC. In Hong Kong, the cable is slated to land in an existing facility owned by NTT Com Asia (with RTI HK-G acting as the landing party). Commercial operation of the HK-G system is expected to commence by the fourth quarter of 2020.

Maltese integrated telecoms company GO has announced a ‘multi-million euro’ investment in a new submarine cable system, following the simultaneous outage of two of its submarine cables last week. The new system will branch out into a dual connection towards both the Western and Eastern parts of the Mediterranean, connecting the west coast of Malta to Marseille (France) – thus bypassing the traditional connection to mainland Italy – and to Egypt. Works on the production of the cable, as well as critical preparations on the local physical infrastructure, are currently underway. GO operates two international submarine cables connecting Malta to Sicily (Italy); the first system (spanning 238km) was certified RFS in 1995, while the 290km GO-1 Mediterranean Cable System was inaugurated in 2008.

Brazilian telecoms infrastructure provider Telebras has revealed that it is retracting from the EllaLink (previously known as EulaLink) project – aiming to deploy a direct submarine fibre-optic cable between Europe and Latin America – citing lack of resources. The company has sent a letter to partner EllaLink Ireland to amicably terminate the contract announced on 2 January 2019. The reason for the withdrawal is Telebras’ inclusion in the Fiscal and Social Security Budget (OFSS) 2020 as a dependent state enterprise, ‘despite all efforts made by Telebras to reverse this situation’. As a result, the company is unable to make any payments towards the EllaLink project in 2020. As currently planned, EllaLink will bring 72Tbps of connectivity between Europe and Latin America. The 10,119km-long system will land at Sines in Portugal and at Praia Grande near Sao Paolo (Brazil), with branches to Fortaleza (Brazil), the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira and the island nation of Cape Verde. The system will be deployed by Nokia’s Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) unit and is scheduled to be RFS in 2020. Note that the only existing direct fibre-optic cable between Europe and Latin America, the ATLANTIS-2 (commissioned in late 1999), remains in service, although is based on ageing technology.

Hong Kong operator HKT has launched the Ultra Express Link (UEL) submarine cable across the Lei Yue Mun Strait, connecting Tseung Kwan O Industrial Area and Chai Wan Data Centre. The 2.76km cable boasts 2,016 optical fibre cores, with an ultra-low latency of 15 microseconds.

Zayo Group Holdings is planning to switch on a new fibre route from Montreal (Quebec, Canada) to Albany (New York, US) by the end of this month. The fibre-optic link, which will support 100Gbps wavelengths, will be the company’s third route out of Montreal. The new network will offer a more direct connection to Albany as well as onward connections east to Boston and south to New York City and most other northeast markets. It also serves as part of a link from Toronto to New York City. Annette Murphy, Executive Vice President of Lit Solutions at Zayo, said: ‘This route enables customers to directly connect from Montreal to New York City, Ashburn, New Jersey, Philadelphia and other major cities in the northeast, without having to double the distance and latency via routes that traverse west. This also provides a new redundant and diverse option out of Toronto back to Montreal and the East Coast and strengthens our position in the pan-North American marketplace.’

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued an Order on Reconsideration that amends certain aspects of the Submarine Cable Outage Reporting Order. The new legislation narrows the scope of reportable outages to reduce the potential for reporting mundane events and to ease reporting obligations on affected entities for outages involving planned maintenance. The FCC issued the new order after the North American Submarine Cable Association (NASCA) and the Submarine Cable Coalition (SCC) filed petitions in 2016 requesting that the Submarine Cable Outage Reporting Order is revised in order to minimise costs and administrative burdens in reporting outages.

Seabras 1 Bermuda and its subsidiary Seabras 1 USA have filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code, to ensure an orderly process to effectuate a new restructuring plan for Seabras 1 Bermuda. Upon emergence from the process, the companies expect to be well-positioned to pursue their combined business plan ‘independent of the overhang caused by the current challenges’. The companies expect to complete the process within the next few months and to emerge from bankruptcy within the second quarter of 2020, subject to all required approvals. Seaborn Networks – being the operator of the companies’ business – is not part of the filing and is not expected to be impacted by it.

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