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

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23 Apr 2021

Telxius has announced that the Tannat submarine cable connecting Santos (Brazil) with Las Toninas (Argentina) is now open for business. The landing point in Las Toninas, Argentina, was planned from the start, but Argentina’s National Communications Agency (Ente Nacional de Comunicaciones, ENACOM) only authorised Google Infraestructura Argentina to proceed with the deployment in July 2019. The 2,000km Tannat system is co-owned by Uruguayan state-run telco Antel and Google. Tannat links Maldonado, near Montevideo in Uruguay, to Santos in Brazil’s Sao Paulo state. The Tannat cable completes a main connectivity route between the US and key hubs in South America as a continuation of the 11,000km BRUSA cable (Virginia Beach-Rio de Janeiro) and the 390km Junior system (Rio de Janeiro-Santos). Additional route diversity is provided via SAm-1, the 25,000km subsea cable ring that surrounds Latin America. Further, the Virginia Beach landing station provides direct access to the MAREA and Dunant submarine cables, creating a global loop that connects South America, the US, Europe and beyond. Pablo Fraguas, Sales VP, Southern Region of Telxius Cable, said: ‘With the addition of Tannat to our subsea network in Latin America we have effectively established the most modern and diverse end-to-end connectivity route between Brazil, Argentina and the US. This new route not only improves the quality of the available network connectivity within Latin America, it also provides a robust, low latency connection of these markets to the US and beyond.’

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is reviewing an application filed by Google for 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, and has requested that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) remove the application from streamlined processing. Grace Hopper will consist of a main trunk from Lumen’s existing landing station in New York (US) to its 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). 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.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation (Keppel T&T) will grant Philippine-listed Converge Information & Communications Technology Solutions capacity on the Bifrost cable system. Keppel Midgard Holdings will provide Converge with an IRU for one fibre pair on the main trunk of the submarine cable system. Spanning over 15,000km, the cable – to be owned and operated by Facebook, Keppel and Telekomunikasi Indonesia International (Telin) – will link Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Guam and the west coast of North America. The Bifrost system is expected to be ready for service (RFS) in 2024. The three parties have appointed Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) to supply and install the cable system. Keppel disclosed that its share of the total project cost as a joint partner will be approximately USD350 million. Keppel Midgard and Converge will jointly develop a branch that will land in Davao (the Philippines). Converge will be granted an IRU on the entire Davao branch and will be engaged as a landing party for the branch segment. Converge will invest more than USD100 million in the project and will be allowed to independently activate up to 15Tbps of capacity. Converge is currently building a Philippine domestic submarine cable; stretching 1,300km, the Converge Domestic Submarine Cable Network (CDSCN) is designed to link Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao of Philippines with 20 landing stations. This cable is planned to enter service in 2021

The Argentine, Chilean and Brazilian subsidiaries of Silica Networks have announced a joint project to commence a feasibility study of a submarine fibre-optic cable network to the Antarctic continent. The three subsidiaries of Silica Networks will provide funding of USD2 million for the feasibility study. Under the preliminary stage of the project, a fibre ring will be deployed linking Ushuaia in the Tierra del Fuego Province (Argentina) and Puerto Williams in the Antartica Chilena Province (Chile) via the Beagle Channel. The next stage will seek to connect the peninsula of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego with King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands, with onward connectivity to mainland Antarctica. Silica Networks currently operates a fibre-optic network spanning more than 13,000km across Argentina, Brazil and Chile, with access to the Atlantic and the Pacific, providing alternative roads and redundancy via five different passes through the Andes Mountains.

Elsewhere, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has called for fibre to be laid between Australia’s three permanent bases and research outposts in Antarctica – Davis, Casey and Mawson – and the Macquarie Island, located halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica. The BoM said: ‘An intercontinental submarine fibre-optic cable from Australia to the Antarctic continent would establish a reliable, high bandwidth, low latency communication service to Australian research stations for the next 25 years and beyond as a long-term communications plan.’

Telecom Egypt (TE) and Sudan’s Sudatel Telecom Group have inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen their cooperation in the field of international connectivity between the two countries. The cooperation will see the deployment of a cable linking Sudatel’s landing station in Port Sudan and the TE landing stations in the Red Sea. The new agreement complements TE’s plans to launch the Hybrid African Ring Path (HARP) by 2023; this project is not a separate new cable system, but rather is a combination of multiple submarine cables TE is investing in that will outline the African continent.

Hylan has revealed that its Down Under Construction (DUC) division will partner with wholesale provider of dark fibre and conduit networks DF&I to build a new 100% underground direct fibre route between Ashburn and Manassas (Virginia, US). The new in-development Ashburn to Manassas project is moving ahead of schedule and expected to be finalised within 18 months. It will connect the TierPoint data centre in Linthicum Heights to the data centre markets in Ashburn. The project from Ashburn to Linthicum will provide direct, low latency scalable, underground connection between the I-95 corridor south of Baltimore and the cloud ecosystems in Ashburn utilising the Potomac River Crossing located directly north of Ashburn.

Pan-European bandwidth infrastructure specialist euNetworks has deployed CoreSmart hollowcore fibre from Lumenisity on its first route in the London metro area. The deployment connects the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and an Interxion data centre, reducing latency on the route by a third.

Lastly, Telstra has reportedly held advanced talks with private equity firm I Squared Capital on a potential deal to combine its international division with Hong-Kong based operator PCCW Global. According to unnamed sources familiar with the matter, Telstra International was initially looking at buying PCCW Global, a unit of Hong Kong Telecom, before the talks with the private equity fund began. Telstra announced plans to establish a new holding company and spin off its international division into a new subsidiary in March 2021, with the restructuring expected to be completed by the end of the year.

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