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

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19 Mar 2021

Confluence Networks has announced that MasTec has acquired an equity interest in Confluence, a Florida-based developer of submarine fibre-optic systems. The investment will allow the company to complete the development and construction of Confluence-1, an undersea cable system linking global communications nodes on the East Coast of the US (New York, Miami, Virginia Beach and Jacksonville) and opening a new strategic node in Myrtle Beach. When fully implemented, its 24 fibre pairs will provide over 500Tbps of capacity on the new route. Confluence-1 is expected to enter commercial operations in H2 2023.

The Melting Pot Indianoceanic Submarine System (METISS) linking South Africa to Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius has entered commercial operations. The system landed on Fort Dauphin (Madagascar) in early June and on Mauritius and Reunion in mid-June, though deployment works were subsequently delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 3,200km fibre-optic cable – deployed by Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) – delivers 24Tbps of design capacity. The project, which was initiated by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), benefits from the financial backing of the EU and the French Development Agency (Afd). The project is being developed by a number of telecoms operators – Telma and Blueline of Madagascar, Emtel and CEB FiberNET of Mauritius, Zeop and SFR of Reunion, and Canal+ Telecom of France.

Australian fibre and network solutions provider Vocus has completed the installation of its twelfth fibre-optic cable crossing the Sydney Harbour. The new 720-fibre core submarine system was installed near the Anzac Bridge, adding to the six submarine cables (and five systems along road bridges and tunnels) between Parramatta and the central business district (CBD). It provides dark fibre connectivity as well as 10G and 100G wavelengths. Vocus Group managing director and CEO Kevin Russell said: ‘The addition of this 720-core cable is the latest investment in our network infrastructure, right in the heart of Australia’s data capital, to meet skyrocketing demand for data. With this new connection, Vocus now has a total of 144 direct data centre connections on its network, including 17 Vocus-owned data centres … Vocus owns and operates around 30,000km of high-capacity fibre infrastructure connecting all mainland capitals as well as international connections to Asia.’

A consortium aiming to deploy a submarine cable connecting the three Pacific nations of Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati and Nauru has informed all three bidders for the project that their applications had been ‘invalidated’ as they ‘did not meet the required conditions’, Nikkei Asia writes. The USD54.45 million project – centred on the deployment of the 2,000km East Micronesia Cable (EMC) System linking the three nations to the HANTRU-1 Submarine Cable between Pohnpei (FSM) and Guam – secured funding from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in April 2018, with applications from Japan’s NEC, France’s Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) and China’s HMN Tech (previously Huawei Marine) forthcoming by May 2020. However, in December 2020 the US government warned the three nations about the security threat posed by the cut-price bid by HMN Tech (said to be 20% lower than the bids submitted by rival infrastructure providers). Following the cancellation of all submitted bids, a spokesperson for the ADB was cited as saying: ‘We are now working with the respective governments, and our co-financiers the World Bank, to determine next steps for the project.’

The Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector has informed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it has no objection to the FCC’s approval of an application filed by BP Exploration & Production (BP) and Tampnet for the assignment of the submarine cable landing licence held by BP for a Gulf of Mexico fibre-optic network to Tampnet, pursuant to a Purchase and Sale Agreement between the two sides. The approval is conditional on the assurances of Tampnet to abide by the commitments and undertakings set forth in a Letter of Assurances (LoA) of 26 February 2021. BP currently owns the Gulf Fiber Network, an undersea, non-common carrier fibre-optic cable linking Freeport (Texas) to Pascagoula (Mississippi). The system features two fibre pairs, each with a design capacity of 320Gbps. Under the proposed transaction, Tampnet has agreed to acquire 100% of the Gulf Fiber Network.

Peru’s Ministry of Transport and Communications (Ministerio de Transportes y Comunicaciones, MTC) has initiated a resolution procedure to determine a course of action regarding the concession awarded to Azteca Communications for the deployment and management of the National Fibre Optic Backbone (Red Dorsal Nacional de Fibra Optica or RDNFO) project. According to the MTC’s most recent statement, only 3.2% of the installed capacity on the network was being used, while generated income covered just 7.7% of its costs. The MTC claims that, over the course of two years of negotiations with the company, discussions shifted from a potential amendment of the contract to optimise utilisation of the network, to the alteration of the licence to end the contract and finally a termination of the contract without altering the licence. With the two parties seemingly unable to find an acceptable solution, the MTC has launched a unilateral resolution process, via public consultation. A public hearing is set to take place in May this year, with the MTC to reach a decision on the matter in July. The USD333 million RDNFO project involves the installation, operation and maintenance of around 13,500km of fibre-optic cables connecting 22 regional capitals and 180 provincial capitals in Peru.

Pan-African technology group Liquid Intelligent Technologies (LIT, previously Liquid Telecom) has completed its project to connect East and West Africa with a new high-capacity fibre link running 2,600km across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). LIT founder and chairman of the Econet Group Strive Masiyiwa was cited by The Chronicle as saying: ‘Next week … President Felix Tshisekedi of the DRC will officially commission our fibre link, which runs from the port city of Moanda [Gabon], through Kinshasa [DRC], to Lubumbashi [Zambia], Zimbabwe and all the way to Cape Town [South Africa] … Once in Zambia, the cable joins the Liquid cable that runs to East Africa and on to Egypt.’ The executive added: ‘We have a special project to cross the Congo River to link Kinshasa and Brazzaville [Republic of the Congo]. This will be completed by the end of March this year. We are linking Kinshasa to Luanda [Angola]. This will be finished end of April.’ LIT’s pan-African fibre network currently spans over 73,000km.

Cinia has selected Ribbon Communications’ Apollo OTN Transport and Switching platforms to upgrade its backbone transport network in Finland and Northern Europe. Once fully deployed, the solution will enable key high capacity, low latency and resilience across Cinia’s regional network. Cinia will use Ribbon’s Apollo 9600 series of optical transport platforms and Apollo 9900 series OTN switching platforms at key nodes for wavelength grooming and route protection.

NEC and its subsidiary OCC Corporation have completed the full qualification of submarine repeaters and optical cable containing up to 24 fibre pairs (48 fibres), which is a 50% improvement in fibre count over the 16 fibre pair systems generally available today. This development allows cable owners worldwide to construct submarine telecom cables with ‘superior traffic capacity while reducing the cost per bit of the wet plant’. This approach is fully in line with SDM (Space Division Multiplexing) system architectures. NEC’s 24 fibre pairs solution also enables better connectivity in high-density subsea branches.

Telefonica could carry out a partial sale of the submarine infrastructure operated by its Telxius unit and then fold the asset into Telefonica Infra, the standalone infrastructure division it created in 2019, Chief Operating Officer Angel Vila was cited by Bloomberg as saying. The Spanish company is currently said to be working with advisers to gauge interest from potential buyers. Previous reports claimed that Telefonica was aiming to offload the business for around EUR2 billion (USD2.4 billion). Created in 2016, Telxius expects to operate 100,000km of submarine cable globally by the end of 2021.

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