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

14 Feb 2020

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has extended a previously granted Special Temporary Authority (STA) to allow the continued operation of the Taino-Carib cable system (linking Puerto Rico with the US Virgin Islands) until 10 August 2020 while it considers the application for a new cable landing licence (filed in June 2018). AT&T Corporation (AT&T) has requested the extension on behalf of fellow owners of the system, including Embratel, Orange and C&W Networks, following the expiration of the prior cable landing licence. The 186km Taino-Carib system, which was certified ready for service (RFS) in December 1992 has landing points in Condado Beach and Isla Verde (Puerto Rico, US) and Magen’s Bay (US Virgin Islands).

Elsewhere, AT&T has been granted STAs to operate the Americas I and Columbus II submarine cable systems until 10 August 2020 to allow the continued operation of the systems following the expiration of the prior cable landing licences (in September 2019 and October 2019 respectively), while the FCC considers the applications for new cable landings (filed in March 2019). The Americas I cable system links Vero Beach (Florida, US) with Magens Bay (St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands) and interconnects to other cables serving the Caribbean and Central and South America. The 2,013km cable, which entered services in September 1994, has a design capacity of 800Gbps, and has been upgraded six times between 2009 and 2018, with the US terminal points currently providing capacity of 430Gbps. The 2,070km Columbus II, meanwhile, links West Palm Beach (Florida) and Magens Bay (St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands) providing 600Gbps of bandwidth capacity (design capacity of 800Gbps). The system entered operations in October 1994, while its international segments were retired in 2009.

Reliance Globalcom Limited, Debtor-in-Possession (RGL DIP), and GCX OpCo have supplemented an application from January 2020 to assign the cable landing licence for the FLAG Atlantic-1 (FA-1) system held by RGL DIP to GCX OpCo – a to-be-formed, reorganised entity with new ownership. As identified in the application, GCX OpCo’s parent Reorganized GCX Limited will be owned by a diverse group of independent investors, none of which will hold a controlling voting or economic interest or exercise de facto control singly or jointly through any other arrangement. TeleGeography notes that the FCC originally licensed the FA-1 system in 1999, and the cable entered commercial operations in June 2001. Global Cloud Xchange (GCX) and certain GCX’s affiliates filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 in September 2019; the following month Reliance Globalcom Limited (RGL) notified the FCC of the pro forma assignment of the FA-1 cable landing licence from RGL to RGL DIP. During the pendency of the bankruptcy proceeding, Michael Katzenstein, RGL DIP’s Chief Restructuring Officer, will oversee RGL DIP’s management and the operations of the FA-1 cable system. On emergence from bankruptcy, certain GCX creditors or other equity purchasers will own the successor entity to GCX Limited DIP, and indirectly, the successor entity to RGL DIP.

Blackburn Networks has announced plans to build a new subsea cable in the Caribbean referred to as the Boriken Subsea Cable System (BSCS). The new 670km system will connect Aguadilla, Humacao and Ponce (Puerto Rico, US) with Frederiksted (US Virgin Islands) and Macao Beach (the Dominican Republic). Blackburn Networks first confirmed that it had won the contract to deploy the new system in late December. The new cable is scheduled to be RFS in Q4 2023.

Papua New Guinea’s PNG DataCo, the state-owned enterprise responsible for the provision of wholesale ICT transmission services under the newly-restructured business of Kumul Telikom Holdings Limited (KTHL), has revealed that its cable landing station in Daru will be completed by the end of next month, The National reports. The new station, located within the National Broadcasting Corporation premises, will house the Kumul Domestic Cable project, which is funded by the Export-Import Bank of China and is rolled out by Huawei in preparation for the Coral Sea Cable System (CSCS). The domestic network is aiming to connect 15 coastal provincial capitals, running between Port Moresby, Alotau, Popondetta, Lae and Madang. The network will interconnect with the 4,700km CSCS linking Australia to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Solomon Islands, which is on track for completion this month. The international four fibre-pair system will deliver a minimum of 20Tbps capacity to PNG and the Solomon Islands, respectively, bringing a total capacity of 40Tbps.

Orange Marine’s cable repair vessel Leon Thevenin has completed the repair works on the break in the West African Cable System (WACS) two days ahead of schedule. According to the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa (TENET), the break occurred after a section of the WACS system became trapped and embedded in dense and heavy sediment caused by the flow of turbulent waters in an undersea canyon: ‘Repair efforts were challenging due to it being the first repair of this nature in a trunk section of the WACS system. The repair had many technical specifics, tricky fibre management, and demanding jointing and testing operations.’ End-to-end connectivity of the WACS system will be restored once a second break (near the UK) is repaired (expected to take place around 25 February). Another break, on the SAT3/WASC meanwhile is expected to be repaired by 18 February.

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