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

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31 Jul 2020

Google has announced plans for the deployment of a new subsea cable – Grace Hopper – which will run between New York (US), Bude (UK) and Bilbao (Spain). The Grace Hopper cable will be equipped with 16 fibre pairs (32 fibres), with Google claiming that it would provide ‘a significant upgrade to the internet infrastructure currently connecting the US with Europe.’ A contract to build the cable was signed earlier this year with New Jersey-based subsea cable provider SubCom, with the project expected to be completed in 2022. Grace Hopper will incorporate novel optical fibre switching that allows for increased reliability in global communications, enabling Google to better move traffic around outages.

The Chilean government has concluded its consultation on the viability of deploying a submarine cable to Asia, opting to roll out a subsea fibre-optic route to Australia instead, Nikkei writes. Under the updated plan, the Asia-South America Digital Gateway will now stretch 13,000km and will link Chile to Auckland (New Zealand) and Sydney (Australia). As previously reported by TeleGeography’s Cable Compendium, Chile’s Transport and Telecommunications Ministry (MTT) and the Department of Telecommunications (Subsecretaria de Telecomunicaciones, Subtel) awarded the contract for the feasibility study to a consortium comprising Telecommunications Management Group (TMG) and WFN Strategies in September 2019. The study was aiming to provide the technical, legal, financial and economic specifications for the construction of an undersea cable between the two continents. The government is now expected to release the final report in 3Q20. According to the updated timeframe, a dedicated fund for the project will be established by year-end, with bids for the contract scheduled for invitation in 2021.

Offshore surveyor Fugro has kicked off its shallow water campaign for the 37,000km 2Africa submarine cable which will interconnect Europe (via Egypt), the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia), and 16 countries in Africa (via 21 landings). Fugro is providing offshore and onshore survey services, including a geophysical route survey and shallow geotechnical testing to overcome any challenges along the planned route. The Dutch company started its survey programme – which includes a pre-installation and engineering survey, permitting support and desk study consultancy – back in March, with plans to conclude the work in March 2021. The 2Africa system is expected to go live in 2023/2024, delivering a design capacity of up to 180Tbps on key parts of the system. The 2Africa consortium – comprising China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC) – had appointed Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) to build the cable in a fully funded project; the 2Africa cable will feature ASN’s SDM1 technology, allowing deployment of up to 16 fibre pairs.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved the Southern Cross NEXT subsea cable system landing at Hermosa Beach (US). The new landing licence will allow the system to interconnect into Southern Cross’ existing data centre locations in Los Angeles (Equinix LA1 and CoreSite LA1), and Silicon Valley (Equinix SV1, Equinix SV8 and Corsetier SV1). Southern Cross president and CEO Laurie Miller said: ‘Obtaining licensing approval is a significant achievement for the project and the Southern Cross team, particularly in these turbulent times … Despite the impacts of COVID-19 across the globe, the project team and our partners have managed to work around issues as they arise and minimise impacts to the project schedule with ready for service (RFS) targeted to be completed by Q2 2022.’ The new cable will provide 72Tbps of total design capacity between Sydney (Australia), Auckland (New Zealand) and the US, with additional connections to Fiji, Samoa, Tokelau and Kiribati.

GCI Communication Corp (GCICC) has applied for authority to relocate the geographic landing point for Segment 1 of the Alaska United Southeast (AU-SE) submarine cable system (previously known as SEAK and SEAFEAST) to Wrangell (Alaska), in order to enhance the geographic diversity of the AU-SE landings. The AU-SE system – which entered services in October 2008 – connects the communities of Angoon, Hawk Inlet, Juneau, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka and Wrangell with the existing Alaska United West System (which is owned by GCICC’s affiliate, Alaska United Fiber System Partnership). Segment 1 of the AU-SE system connects Wrangell with Ketchikan. In Wrangell, Segment 1 shares a landing with Segment 2 of the AU-SE system, which connects Wrangell to Mitkof Island (also known as the Petersburg South landing). This relocation of the Segment 1 landing will entail the construction of a new beach manhole but will not alter the location of the existing cable landing station. GCICC seeks to commence relocation of the Segment 1 landing no later than 8 September 2020.

Orange has deployed additional spectrum capacity on its MainOne submarine cable by utilising Infinera’s fourth-generation Infinite Capacity Engine (ICE4) on the XTS-3600 platform. MainOne is a 7,000km submarine cable connecting Portugal, Senegal, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria, serving as the West African backbone network for Orange’s international connectivity in Africa.

Mertech Marine, a global cable submarine telecoms cable recycling company based in South Africa, has recovered the decommissioned Bermuda-US-1 (BUS-1) cable connecting Bermuda to the US, after purchasing the remaining submerged section of the system from GlobeNet. Mertech Marine’s Lida and Layla vessels began the cable recovery on 1 May 2020.

The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) has submitted a bid to fully acquire Pan-African submarine cable operator SEACOM, valued at around USD603 million. According to an enquiry notice from regional competition authority COMESA Competition Commission, AKFED is seeking to acquire all the shares in the cable operator via its subsidiaries Industrial Promotion Services (IPS) and Jubilee Holdings. COMESA however revealed plans to conduct an investigation into the AKFED acquisition offer in order to determine whether the transaction is likely to prevent/lessen competition and harm the public interest. AKFED already owns a significant stake in SEACOM through IPS.

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