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

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25 Sep 2020

Iceland’s state-owned submarine cable operator Farice has chosen Galway in Ireland as the landing site for its new submarine cable dubbed IRIS scheduled to run from Iceland to Europe, Galway Daily writes. Farice CEO Thorvardur Sveinsson said: ‘The Icelandic landing site will be on the Reykjanes peninsula with the final location to be decided during the winter 2020/2021 … This coupled with Galway’s reputation for business, education and hospitality will lead to a win-win situation.’ An undersea route survey for the cable is currently underway from Galway to the edge of the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone, which stretches to 200 nautical miles off the coast. TeleGeography notes that four systems currently land on Icelandic shores, namely CANTAT-3 (Iceland-Germany-Denmark), FARICE-1 (Iceland-Faeroe Islands-UK), DANICE (Iceland-Denmark) and Greenland Connect (Iceland-Greenland-Canada). Another planned system – the Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Connecting Europe System (PISCES) aiming to link the US, Europe and Ireland – is reportedly also planned for landing at Galway.

Edge Cable USA (a unit of internet giant Facebook), China Mobile International Limited (CMI) and Amazon Data Services (formerly known as Vadata) have been granted a 180-day Special Temporary Authority (STA) to construct, connect, and test within the US a non-common carrier submarine cable system, called the CAP-1, connecting Grover Beach (California) and Pagudpud (the Philippines). The STA expires on 31 March 2021. The CAP-1 system will have six fibre pairs and consist of a single 12,000km trunk between an existing facility at Grover Beach, California and a new cable landing station at Pagudpud. It will have a design capacity of 90×200Gbps (or equivalent) per fibre pair using current technology, with an aggregate design capacity of 108Tbps. Facebook and its affiliates will hold a 41.67% participation interest (and 50.00% voting rights) in the system, while CMI will have 50.00% (42.86%) and Amazon 8.33% (7.14%). The applicants intend to commence commercial operations of the CAP-1 system by Q4 2022.

Elsewhere, GU Holdings has been granted a STA to continue commercial operation of limited portions of the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) connecting the US to Taiwan and the Philippines, after the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense stated that they have no objection to the application. GU Holdings has been given 180-day STA (until 31 March 2021) to operate the following portions of PLCN connecting the US to Taiwan: the fibre pair owned by GU Holdings and its affiliates and used to connect the US and Branching Unit 1 (Fibre Pair 2 on each of Segments S1.1.1 and S.1.1.2); the branch owned by GU Holdings’ affiliates connecting Toucheng (Taiwan) to Branching Unit 1, including the two fibre pairs on that branch (Segment S2); and common equipment necessary to operate Fibre Pair 2 between the US and Taiwan.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a draft order that will formalise its coordination with Team Telecom, which is known as the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector (tasked the national security review process for foreign investments in US telecoms companies), Lexology writes. The draft order, which the FCC will consider for adoption on 30 September, outlines the rules and procedures that Team Telecom will follow when reviewing applications for submarine cable licences or international 214 authorisations (the licences needed for the provision of international telecoms services). While the participation of any foreign direct or indirect owner of 10% or more of the applicant’s ownership will still automatically trigger Team Telecom review – as will applications to assign, transfer control or modify these licences – the FCC will no longer automatically refer applications for transfer or assignment of domestic 214 licences, even if they would result in a foreign entity directly or indirectly holding 10% or more of the ownership. The FCC will, however, retain discretion to refer these applications to Team Telecom, and the new rules do not prevent Team Telecom from seeking review on its own.

Telecommunications company PLDT has revealed that emergency maintenance activities are scheduled to be performed on the Asian American Gateway (AAG) system from 25 September to 30 September. The company also highlighted that it has put in place measures to minimise the impact of the scheduled maintenance. The USD560 million AAG stretches more than 20,000km connecting Southeast Asia with the US, passing through Brunei, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Since its inception, the system has experienced numerous faults, the most recent one being in May 2020, when a fault 107km off the beach town of Vung Tau in southern Vietnam rendered the cable out of service until June 2020.

Lastly, a six-month project to upgrade Vodafone New Zealand’s entire international optical network is complete, with the operator now able to offer optical capacity across all three international fibre-optic cables – the 2,288km Tasman Global Access (TGA) Cable, the 30,500km Southern Cross Cable Network (SCCN) and the 14,000km Hawaiki system. Vodafone partnered with Ciena for the network upgrade, which features its 6500 Converged Packet Optical platform. Andrew McDonald, Head of Wholesale at Vodafone NZ, commented: ‘This rebuild of our international optical network offers a step-change in how we can manage internet traffic, connecting all three major submarine cables linking New Zealand with Australia, the South Pacific and North America.’

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Iceland, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Amazon, China Mobile International, Ciena Corporation, Facebook, Farice, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Google (Alphabet), PLDT Inc. (incl. Smart Communications and Sun Cellular), Vodafone New Zealand