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

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6 Nov 2020

Telecom Egypt and the Saint Helena Government (SHG) have signed an agreement to connect the island to Telecom Egypt’s submarine system over the Equiano submarine cable system, which will initially link Lisbon (Portugal) to Cape Town in South Africa, with planned branches to other African countries. The branch that connects Telecom Egypt’s system to 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, laid by Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) and equipped with space-division multiplexing (SDM) technology, is designed with nine branching points, strategically located in West African countries. SHG’s Fibre Optic Project Manager, Jeremy Roberts, said: ‘From an operational perspective, this is a key milestone for the Fibre Optic Project, as we now have an association with an international partner of high repute who will ensure that all the necessary technical prerequisites are installed in readiness for the arrival of the Equiano system.’

A new access point for the Tasman Global Access (TGA) fibre-optic network marks the first direct connection between Sydney (Australia) and Hamilton (New Zealand), increasing the amount of capacity available to be used on the cable. Prior to this upgrade, the original 2,300km TGA network – owned and operated by Spark New Zealand, Telstra and Vodafone – included the trans-Tasman submarine cable and existing optic networks which connected PoPs in Sydney and Auckland only; the direct link incorporated two fibre pairs with a design capacity of 20Tbps. Initially, the TGA system was scheduled to be ready for service (RFS) in December 2016, though the completion of the cable was delayed by three months (to March 2017) due to damage sustained by the plough of cable-laying ship Ile de Re, which had to return to Nelson (New Zealand) for repairs. Spark Technology Director Mark Beder commented: ‘Demand for digital services in New Zealand is growing exponentially every year and expanding capacity through the TGA cable, alongside other investments, will ensure ISPs can continue to deliver excellent, low latency connectivity for customers. To date, we have expanded capacity on the TGA cable to 2.4Tbps of data usage … This is less than 10% of what the cable is capable of, meaning we can continue to invest in additional capacity upgrades …’

SUB.CO and its Australian entity APX Partners are teaming up with Ciena to upgrade the 9,200km INDIGO submarine cable, which connects the Australian cities of Sydney and Perth (INDIGO-Central) with Singapore and Jakarta (INDIGO-West). Deployment work on the first section of the INDIGO-West submarine cable was completed in September 2018, with 2,400km of cabling rolled out from the Christmas Islands to Floreat Beach in Perth. Construction of the second section of the INDIGO-West cable, which links Singapore and Indonesia, started in November and was finalised on 21 December 2018, while the rollout of the final splice of the 4,850km INDIGO-Central cable concluded on 24 December. The cable system entered a period of acceptance and commissioning testing in January 2019. Ciena’s GeoMesh Extreme, powered by WaveLogic 5 Extreme on the 6500 platform, will deliver 500Gbps single-wavelength channels speeds across the submarine cable network, providing lower latency, greater scale and increased economic efficiencies. To achieve full control of its network, SUB.CO and APX Partners will also leverage Ciena’s Hosted Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) software via Ciena Services.

Elsewhere, RETN has deployed Ciena’s 800G technology to support important paths in the RETN Eurasian network, connecting key points in Central Europe between Frankfurt (Germany), Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and Hamburg (Germany). RETN deployed Ciena’s Waveserver 5 – powered by WaveLogic 5 Extreme – to deliver 100GbE and 400GbE interconnectivity while optimising costs. In addition, Ciena’s MCP domain controller is helping RETN improve network monitoring and management by using automation features and operational diagnostics to identify and prevent potential connectivity challenges.

The Information and Communication Technology Authority (ICTA) of Kenya announced that the work to re-establish the existing fibre-optic route from Eldoret to Nakadok on the border with South Sudan has been completed, with deployment works on a new 630km fibre-optic cable along a similar route also commencing. The National Optical Fibre Backbone Infrastructure (NOFBI) commissioned by the Kenyan government had previously been completed as far as Lokichoggio in northwestern Kenya, around 60km from the border with South Sudan. The KES3 billion (USD28 million) project is jointly funded by the government of Kenya and the World Bank. Further, the new in-deployment route will run from Eldoret to the border with South Sudan at Nakodok via Kitale, Lodwar, Kakuma, Lokichar and Lokichoggio; the project is due for completion in December 2021.

Lastly, India’s conglomerate Reliance Jio has drawn a USD1 billion investment from two Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds for its telecoms fibre assets. Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), which manages an estimated USD828 billion in sovereign wealth, and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), whose oil-derived assets total USD382 billion, will each invest roughly USD507.2 million for units of Digital Fiber Infrastructure Trust, the infrastructure investment trust that holds Reliance Jio’s telecom fibre assets.

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Australia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, New Zealand, Saint Helena, Singapore, Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), Ciena Corporation, Ministry of Information and Communications, Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio), RETN, Spark New Zealand Group, Telecom Egypt, Telstra (incl. Belong), Vodafone New Zealand