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

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22 Jan 2021

Orange has reinforced its global connectivity with two new generation submarine cables connecting France to the US. Following the landing of the Dunant cable, a Google project announced back in March 2020, Orange has announced the system is now ready for service (RFS) for its wholesale and business customers. With twelve fibre pairs with over 30Tbps of capacity each, multiplying by three the previous generation of transatlantic submarine cables capacity. Orange also announces the signature of a partnership on the AMITIE cable planned to be RFS at the beginning of 2022. Pending the approval from the local authorities in the US, the cable shall link Massachusetts (US) to Le Porge near Bordeaux (France). The AMITIE submarine cable with its 16 fibre pairs of up to 23Tbps of capacity each, will ensure resiliency and traffic continuity on the vital and important transatlantic axis. Orange will benefit from two fibre pairs on both transatlantic systems, with a total capacity of up to 100Tbps. Orange is responsible for the French part of these two cables as the landing provider, and is in charge of the operation and maintenance of the landing stations. The French operator will supply land links for both systems from the landing station to Bordeaux and then to Paris and Lyon for one, and will offer capacity between Ashburn, the Datacentre Alley and Paris. Jean-Luc Vuillemin, Executive Vice President of Orange International Networks, Infrastructures and Services, said: ‘In the context of the explosion of international traffic, the arrival of a new generation of more efficient submarine cables, and in view of strategic issues and national sovereignty related to submarine cables, Orange continues to be a key global player. With capacity on these two cables, Orange will be able to offer the latest technology, diverse routes and the best latency to its customers once implemented.’

SUB.CO has revealed that its 9,800km Oman Australia Cable (OAC) has been fully manufactured with load #1 (out of two) assembled, tested and being loaded onto a freighter to transfer to the main-lay ship for installation from March 2021. The Marine Route Survey for the OAC system commenced in October 2020, with the final cable route for load #1 being confirmed in December 2020. The full Marine Route Survey is due for completion in February 2021 with any changes to armouring on load #2 being undertaken prior to loading later that month. In Australia, the Perth cable landing infrastructure construction commenced in October 2020 and was completed later in December; the works included an additional seaward facing duct installed for maintenance and possible future cable installation. The OAC is on target to complete its final splice in December 2021 and once completed, will be the only submarine cable directly connecting continental Australia and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

HMN Tech has revealed that the Hainan to Hong Kong Express (H2HE) system has completed manufacturing acceptance tests. The 16-fibre pair repeatered system, featuring a design capacity of 96×200Gbps channels or 19.2Tb per fibre, will commence marine installation in March 2021, with plans to be RFS in Q2 2021. HMN Tech’s SDM solution incorporates 16 fibre pair high-performance repeaters, high-flexibility branching units and a new cable design. The 700km H2HE system is proceeding on schedule with all terminal equipment manufacturing also completed. Once operational, it will provide a low latency, high-speed connection between Hainan, Guangdong in China and Hong Kong. Ma Yanfeng, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at HMN Tech, said: ‘Leading technological innovation remains a primary focus and core competence of HMN Tech. This industry-first commercial application of our 16-fibre pair SDM solution is a significant milestone for both HMH Tech and the wider submarine network community.’

Paratus Telecommunications, a wholly-owned subsidiary of PNH (Paratus), has entered into a 15-year agreement with Blue Path Technology Company and ZA Asset Management (collectively Google), to be the landing partner for the Equiano cable in Namibia. As currently planned, the Equiano system will initially link Lisbon (Portugal) to Cape Town in South Africa, with planned branches to other African countries. Under the bilateral agreement, Paratus will acquire from ZA Asset Management indefeasible right of use (IRU) for the branch connecting Namibia to the Equiano cable for own use, lease, resale or to use the relevant capacity for any legal purpose. Further, Paratus will provide services with a total value of approximately NAD260 million (USD17.5 million). Paratus will construct and sell an IRU for the use of the cable landing station (CLS) to Blue Path Technology, scheduled for completion by 30 June 2021. Paratus will also sell an IRU, consisting of a dark fibre pair on the Trans Kalahari Fiber (TKF) line, to ZA Asset Management.

NORDUnet – a collaboration between the National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) of Sweden (SUNET), Norway (Uninett), Denmark (DeiC), Finland (Funet), and Iceland (RHnet) – is preparing for participation in the upcoming Arctic Connect Submarine Cable (ACSC) project, by signing a Letter of Intent (LoI) with Finnish company Cinia expressing an interest in a dedicated fibre pair on the ACSC for research and education. The 10,000km Arctic cable – designed to provide a bandwidth of 200Tbps – is aiming to offer the ‘lowest-latency sea route between Europe and northern Asia’, and is being developed by Cinia, in collaboration with MegaFon. The ACSC will interconnect Kirkenes (Norway) and Tokyo (Japan), through the Arctic Ocean and Northern Pacific Ocean, including options for additional landings in Japan and in North America. The system will have its European cable landing stations in Northern Norway and Finland, with connections further southwards through Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark extending to the rest of Europe. The project is scheduled for completion in 2023/24.

Alaska Communications and Project 8 (controlled by ATN International) have requested the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) consent to the transfer of control of three cable landing licences comprising the AKRON cable system (owned via Alaska Communications’ subsidiary ACS Cable) and the Northstar Cable System (owned via Alaska Northstar and Northstar), from Alaska Communications to Project 8. The applicants are parties to an agreement and a merger plan pursuant to which Project 8 will acquire Alaska Communications and all of its operating subsidiaries.

The Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector has informed the FCC that it will perform a secondary 90-day assessment of an application for the deployment of the Hong Kong Americas (HKA) system, as ‘the risk to national security or law enforcement interests cannot be mitigated by standard mitigation measures.’ The HKA submarine cable network, which will span more than 13,000km, will feature six fibre pairs and will stretch from Chung Hom Kok in Hong Kong to Hermosa Beach in California; additional connectivity options may be exercised in the future. The cable will be owned and operated by a consortium comprising RTI, China Telecom, China Unicom, Facebook, Tata Communications and Telstra, with a turnkey contract for the system awarded to Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) in January 2018.

Interxion has signed an agreement with PCCW GLOBAL to locate the Pakistan and East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) submarine cable system’s termination and interconnection equipment in Interxion’s MRS2 data centre in Marseille (France). The collaboration will enable low-latency access to over 160 connectivity providers along with multiple content, cloud, gaming and video streaming platforms. Phase 1 of the PEACE project (spanning 12,000km) will link France to Pakistan through a single landing point in the city of Marseille (France) using the Europe-Asia route, and to the city of Mombasa (Kenya) via a short route towards the Indian Ocean that will be expanded to South Africa via the PEACE South extension under Phase 2, reaching a total length of 15,000km. The system will deploy 200G WDM technology interfacing with HMN’s Spatial Division Multiplexing (SDM) repeater, which provide capabilities to transmit 16Tbps per fibre pair.

The Government of Nunavut (GN) is reportedly likely to shelve its current CAD209 million (USD165 million) plan to connect the territory via an ultra-fast fibre-optic cable between its capital Iqaluit and Nuuk in Greenland, with Nunatsiaq News quoting Angela Petru, the territorial government’s director of communications, as saying: ‘There has been significant work on this project over the past year, as the GN had an opportunity to examine a new and emerging alternate route.’ The new route – from Iqaluit to Hudson Bay, where it would interconnect with Kativik Regional Government’s cable between Puvirnituq and Chisasibi – would eliminate the original plan, the spokesperson said, adding: ‘This will create a higher value option for the GN to connect into the existing North America fibre system. [It will also] allow the GN to have a fibre backbone in the south Baffin region and moving west towards the Kivalliq for a potential future connection of that region into existing fibre in Churchill, Man.’ The Nunavut government is now working with the Kativik Regional Government, with plans to have a final route design by autumn and a public procurement seeking a firm to design and build the system in late 2021.

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Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Iceland, Kenya, Namibia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Sweden, Alaska Communications, Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), China Telecom Group, China Unicom, Cinia Group (formerly Corenet), Facebook, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Google (Alphabet), HMN Tech (formerly Huawei Marine), MegaFon, Orange Group, Paratus (Namibia), PCCW Global, RAM Telecom International (RTI), Tata Communications, Telstra (incl. Belong)