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

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26 Feb 2021

GU Holdings (Google) has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting a licence to construct, land, and operate a private, non-common carrier fibre-optic submarine cable system named Grace Hopper connecting the US with the UK and Spain. Grace Hopper will consist of a main trunk from Level 3’s existing landing station in New York (US) to CenturyLink’s landing facility in Bude (UK), and a branch connecting a single branching unit on the main trunk to an existing landing facility in Bilbao (Spain). The main trunk will have a total length of 6,354km and will consist of 16 fibre pairs, while the Spain Branch will stretch 837km featuring 16 fibre pairs. Each fibre pair will have a total design capacity of approximately 22Tbps (for a total design capacity of approximately 352Tbps). The cable will be owned by Google and its indirect, wholly-owned subsidiaries as follows: GU Holdings will own 100% of the cable in US territory, Google Singapore (100% of portion in international waters), Global Infrastructure UK (100% of portion in UK territory) and Yeso Computing (100% of portion in Spanish territory). Yeso has partnered with Telxius to be the landing party in Spain; upon completion of Grace Hopper, Telxius will own the portion of the system that extends twelve nautical miles from the shores of Spain, with Telxius granting an indefeasible right of use (IRU) for the same portion of the system to Yeso. Subject to authorisation, Google plans to commence construction and testing of the system in August 2021, with commercial operations scheduled to begin in February 2022.

FB Submarine Partners has revealed a project to deploy a 1,200km submarine fibre-optic cable system from Florida (US) to Cancun (Mexico). The GigNet-1 cable system, which has been in development for two years, is expected to be completed in 2022. FB Submarine Partners has completed the desktop route survey, regulatory and permitting feasibility studies for the landings in the US and Mexico, market demand and analysis studies, and selection and contracting of key suppliers for the system design, equipment and installation. IT International Telecom is now scheduled to begin a marine route survey for the system in March 2021, with Xtera selected to serve as the primary engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the project. The vendor will provide the submarine wetplant consisting of fibre and amplifiers (repeaters) and the submarine line terminals in Florida and Cancun, and will manage the installation. In Mexico, FB Submarine Partners will partner with GigNet for access to the beach in Cancun and colocation in GigNet’s Cancun cable landing station. GigNet, which operates an advanced fibre-optic network in the Riviera Maya region, will serve as a major tenant on the submarine cable system, and will provide IP transit and private line connectivity throughout the region.

HMN Tech has announced that the Maldives Sri Lanka Cable (MSC) is now operational. The 840km international system provides high-speed, low latency connectivity between Hulhumale in the Maldives and Mount Lavinia in Sri Lanka. The new system comprises four fibre pairs, equipped with HMN Tech’s high-output titanium housing repeaters deployed at 3,700m water depth. The USD22 million project has been bankrolled by Dhiraagu, Ooredoo Maldives and Dialog Axiata; both Dhiraagu and Ooredoo Maldives each hold a 45% share of the cable, while the remaining 10% is owned by Dialog Axiata.

The Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association of India (TEMA) and the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) have approached India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to include technologies available with domestic equipment makers for the INR10.72 billion (USD147.5 million) Kochi-Lakshadweep Islands (KLI) submarine cable connectivity project. TEMA Chairman Emeritus N K Goyal told the PTI: ‘The government officials working on the KLI project want to use repeater cables. This will lead to a foreign vendor winning the project because the choice is limited. The repeaterless cables, which are available with domestic players, can work to a distance of 600km and at 30% lower price than repeater cables … We have domestic capability available for laying the submarine cable but the “product-specific” clause proposed in the project can take away this prime project of strategic and security importance to foreign vendors.’ In a letter to Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, the PHDCCI meanwhile highlighted that the repair cost of repeater cables is close to three times compared to that of repeaterless cables. The KLI project will see the deployment of a dedicated submarine fibre-optic cable between Kochi and eleven islands of India’s smallest Union Territory Lakshadweep (an archipelago comprising 36 islands in the Laccadive Sea) – Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Agati, Amini, Androth, Minicoy, Bangaram, Bitra, Chetlat, Kiltan and Kadmat. The project was approved by the Cabinet in December 2020 and is expected to be completed by May 2023.

Equinix and Vodafone have announced a plan to build a new submarine hub in Genoa (Italy), called GN1, with the new facility set to act as a strategic interconnection point for the 2Africa cable system. GN1 will have a direct fibre connection to ML5, the soon-to-be opened Equinix flagship data centre in Milan, and will offer a new, complementary and diverse alternative option for the Mediterranean region. 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). 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.

Prysmian Group has announced that it will supply 770km of submarine cables for the Brazilian operator Rede Nacional de Ensino e Pesquisa (RNP) and its Norte Conectado project aiming to connect Macapa to Santarem and Alenquer, which are located in the north of the Amazon region, via a fibre-optic backbone that will be installed on the beds of the Amazonian rivers. In particular, Prysmian will manufacture and supply its MINISUB repeaterless submarine cables with high fibre count that will be deployed in four separated links. The cables will be produced at Prysmian’s production plant in Nordenham (Germany) and delivered in the second half of 2021.

The FCC has been notified that the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector is reviewing an application filed by Honolulu-based Hawaiian Telcom (HTI) and the bankruptcy estate of the Paniolo Cable Company for the assignment of the cable landing licence for the Paniolo Cable System from Paniolo Cable Company to HTI. In December 2020 HTI agreed to acquire inter-island submarine and middle-mile terrestrial fibre infrastructure assets currently owned by the bankruptcy estate of the Paniolo Cable Company for a total purchase price of USD50 million, with an application for the licence transfer filed earlier in January 2021.

Jamalul Izza, Chairperson of the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association (APJII), has revealed that recent connectivity issues in Indonesia have been caused by a fault on the Jakarta-Bangka-Bintan-Singapore (B2JS) cable system. The cut was reported in the segment connecting Jakarta to Bangka; the network is said to be currently under repair. The 1,070km system, which was certified ready for service (RFS) in Q2 2013, connects Jakarta, Batu Perahu, Pesaren, Batam and Singapore; it comprises a 759km submarine section and 311km of terrestrial fibre and provides a capacity of 380Gbps via 24 cores.

Elsewhere, the WIOCC Network Operation Centre (NOC) has revealed that it observed multiple client services interruptions on the route between Djibouti and Marseille, caused by a fault on the Europe India Gateway (EIG) submarine cable.

Lastly, Zayo Group Holdings has added a pair of diverse, underground, high-capacity fibre-optic cables into the NJFX cable landing station (CLS) campus. The new fibre infrastructure offers lit and dark fibre metro and long-haul connectivity via Zayo’s global network. The fibre cables also offer Zayo customers access to the submarine cable systems that terminate at NJFX, including Havfrue/AEC-2, Seabras-1 and Tata TGN-Atlantic.

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