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

3 Apr 2020

A consortium including RTI Connectivity, AARNet and Google has announced that the construction of the Japan-Guam-Australia South (JGA-S) submarine cable has been successfully completed and is ready for service (RFS). The JGA-S system is a private, non-common carrier fibre-optic submarine cable connecting Guam and Australia. It consists of a main trunk between Piti (Guam) and Sydney (Australia) and a branch to the Sunshine Coast; the system has a total length of approximately 7,081km and consists of two fibre pairs with a design capacity of 18Tbps per fibre pair. JGA-S will be separately owned and operated from the Japan-Guam-Australia-North (JGA-N) system between Guam and Japan, with RTI 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).

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted an application filed by AT&T Mobility Puerto Rico (AMPR) seeking to relinquish its interest in the Americas-II cable system (filed in December 2019). Pursuant to Section 1.767(m)(2) of the FCC’s rules, the party seeking such a modification is required to serve the application to each of the other licensees of the cable system. AMPR, as the successor to Centennial Puerto Rico, held 2% voting and ownership interests in Americas-II, and in October 2013 it conveyed its rights and obligations to AT&T. As AT&T agreed to sell AMPR to Liberty Latin America (LLA) in October 2019 and will no longer be affiliated with it, AMPR has decided to relinquish its interest in the licence.

US-based Sprint, on behalf of the TAT-14 submarine cable consortium, has notified the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that the TAT-14 submarine cable linking Denmark to the US will be retired from service on 15 December 2020. All TAT-14 consortium members have been notified and overwhelmingly voted in favour of retiring the TAT-14 submarine cable on the date indicated above. The TAT-14 submarine cable is being retired because of the cost-effectiveness and availability of leased capacity compared to continuing to operate the submarine cable. The 15,295km system, which entered operations in April 2001, has landing stations in Blaabjerg (Denmark), Bude and St. Austell (UK), Katwijk (Netherlands), Norden (Germany), St. Valery (France), and Manasquan and Tuckerton (New Jersey, US).

Global Marine’s vessel CS Sovereign is undertaking an emergency cable repair on the Swansea-Brean submarine fibre-optic cable in the Bristol Channel. The cable repair is estimated to take approximately five days and should be completed this week. The 97km Swansea-Brean system links Brean to Oxwich Bay (both in UK).

South African National Research & Education Network (NREN) has revealed that cable repair vessel Ile D’Aix has reached the site of the cable break of the West African Cable System (WACS), which was damaged in late March. The system is expected to be repaired by 4 April. Elsewhere, the SAT-3 cable break, which occurred off the Congolese shore, is currently being repaired by the Leon Thevenin vessel.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) has announced that the national fibre-optic networks in Sierra Leone and neighbouring Guinea have been interconnected at Gbalamuya, Kambia district, providing much-needed redundancy for both countries. According to a press release, the interconnection was completed in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC), Sierra Leone Cable Limited (SALCAB), the Regulatory Authority for Post and Telecommunications (ARPT), Societe de Gestion du Backbone National (SOGEB) and Afritek Guinea. In Sierra Leone, the terrestrial fibre-optic link from the capital Freetown to the border with neighbouring Guinea – via Jui, Masiaka and Gbalamuya – was completed as part of the 600km national fibre backbone project deployed by Huawei in 2015. The second phase linked Masiaka to the border of Liberia, via Mile 91, Moyamba, Bo, Kenema, Zimmi and Gendema. As of October 2019 the backbone network had fibre PoPs in 28 cities of Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, in February 2012 Huawei secured a USD238 million contract to construct a fibre-optic network in Guinea, to be largely financed by Chinese loans. Work on laying the cables began in July 2015, with a total of 4,352km of fibre deployed by March 2020; the terrestrial fibre-optic link from Conakry to the border with Sierra Leone at Pamelap via Coyah, Forecariah and Farmoreyah, was completed during 2018/19.

Tofane Global has announced the acquisition of Portugal’s NOS International Carrier Services, a subsidiary of NOS, for an undisclosed sum, subject to regulatory approval. The transaction follows Tofane Global’s September 2018 acquisition of Altice Europe’s international mobile and voice carrier business in France, Portugal and the Dominican Republic, and the February 2019 acquisition of US-based wholesale carrier iBASIS from Dutch telco KPN. Once the transaction is finalised, NOS International will be consolidated under the iBASIS brand, strengthening iBASIS’ footprint in Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Timor-Leste, Macau, and Sao Tome and Principe. Manuel Ramalho Eanes, NOS Executive Board Member, said: ‘For NOS, this transaction is a path for growth. We were seeking the right way to capitalise on our core business while optimising our wholesale services. TOFANE provides us with the solution we needed for more efficient and economical voice and mobile international operations. It enables us to extract the highest value from Tier 1 access, economy of scale, while maintaining independence vis-a-vis larger players.’

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