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

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30 Apr 2021

The Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector has determined that a secondary assessment of an application filed by Google and Facebook to construct, land and operate a high capacity fibre-optic submarine cable system, the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), connecting Los Angeles, California (US) with Toucheng (Taiwan) and Baler (the Philippines) is warranted because risk to national security or law enforcement interests cannot be mitigated by standard mitigation measures. The 11,806km PLCN submarine cable will comprise two fibre pairs with a design capacity of 24Tbps per fibre pair.

Elsewhere, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been notified that the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector is proceeding with its 120-day review of the application for the construction, landing and operation of the CAP-1 system connecting Grover Beach (California) and Pagudpud (the Philippines), following the provision of all requested responses from Facebook, China Mobile International Limited (CMI) and Amazon Data Services. The CAP-1 system reflects the reconfiguration of the earlier Bay to Bay Express (BtoBE) cable system, the application for which had been withdrawn due to security concerns. The CAP-1 system will have six fibre pairs and consist of a single 12,000km trunk between an existing facility at Grover Beach, California and a new cable landing station at Pagudpud. When it enters commercial operations (scheduled for Q4 2022), the cable will have a design capacity of 90×200Gbps (or equivalent) per fibre pair using current technology, with an aggregate design capacity of 108Tbps.

Bulk Infrastructure has announced completion of the marine survey for the Havsil submarine cable between Kristiansand in Norway and Hanstholm in Denmark. All key supply contracts are signed and installation will begin this summer, with a ready for service (RFS) date scheduled for November 2021. In June 2020 the National Communications Authority (Nasjonal kommunikasjonsmyndighet, Nkom) awarded a contract to Telia Carrier to provide a new, diverse route between Norway and the rest of the world, based on the Havsil submarine cable from Oslo via Kristiansand to Denmark. The new cable system will cross Skagerrak, the strait separating Norway and Denmark, with 192 fibres fully buried on the seabed. In early January 2021 Fugro’s vessel Fugro Meridian completed the cable marine survey, finalising the optimal marine route. NSW, part of Prysmian Group, will manufacture the 120km fibre-optic cable in its Nordenham factory. The final supply contract was awarded to Cecon Contracting, which will deploy the system, with plans to complete the offshore phase of the Havsil project this summer.

The laying of a new submarine fibre-optic cable in the Arctic, called Polar Express, will begin in May-June 2021, ComNews writes. UPT, which is tasked with the development of the project, will invest RUB65 billion (USD872 million) in the deployment, with plans to build a new plant for the production of submarine cables in Murmansk in May. Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation Alexander Poshivay was cited as saying: ‘The Transarctic line Polar Express will run from Murmansk to Vladivostok. Its total length will be 12,650km, and it will be laid along the geographically shortest and unparalleled route between Europe and Asia.’ The official added that a total of 150 optical repeaters will be installed along the cable route. The Polar Express cable will consist of six fibre pairs: four pairs will be used for transit traffic from Europe to Asia, and two for ‘going ashore’. The total transmission speed of the cable is scheduled to reach up to 100Tbps, with a project completion date currently set for 2026.

Trans Ocean Network and Ocean Networks have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for Trans Ocean Network to provide landing party services and infrastructure in the Republic of Panama for the Caribbean Express (CX) submarine cable system. Under the terms of the MoU, Ocean Networks will lease space in the Trans Ocean Network cable stations and procure 18 fibre pairs on diverse routes across Panama connecting Maria Chiquita in the Caribbean to Corozal in the Pacific. The CX system will have 18 fibre pairs utilising SDM technology. Initially the system will connect West Palm Beach (Florida), Balboa (Panama), Cancun (Mexico), and Cartagena (Colombia). The system is designed for future connectivity to the Bahamas, Guatemala, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. The cable is estimated to be RFS certified in Q2 2024.

The Development Bank of Latin America (Corporation de Fomento Andino or CAF) is interested in participating as a strategic partner in the development of the Humboldt submarine cable aiming to link Valparaiso (Chile) to Auckland (New Zealand) and Sydney (Australia). The initial design of the 13,000km cable includes between four and eight fibre-optic pairs, with a transmission capacity of 10Tbps-20Tbps. Chile’s Transport and Telecommunications Ministry (MTT) and the Department of Telecommunications (Subsecretaria de Telecomunicaciones, Subtel) are expecting to finalise the financing of the project in 2021, with an estimated figure of between USD388 million and USD450 million required for the rollout.

Subsea Environmental Services and Red Penguin Associates have announced that they have been awarded the contract to decommission the TAT-14 telecoms cable system. The Project Scope includes removal and recycling of shore-ends in the US, UK, France, Denmark and the Netherlands as well as the deep-water segments in the North Atlantic. The Planning Phase of the Project has been underway for almost a year (beginning with a comprehensive desktop decommissioning study), while the Operations Phase commenced last week with the planned recovery of shore-ends in Denmark and the Netherlands. Completion of all in-shore works is anticipated by the end of 2021.

Aqua Ventures Limited (AVL), Digital 9 Infrastructure, Aqua Comms (Americas) and America Europe Connect 2 USA have applied for the FCC’s consent to transfer control of interests in the cable landing licences for the AEC-1, Havfrue and Amitie submarine cable systems from AVL to Digital 9. Digital 9 has already acquired the non-US affiliates of the Aqua Comms Licensees; subject to receipt of US regulatory consents and clearances and satisfaction of other closing conditions, including FCC consent, the parties expect to consummate the reacquisition in the fourth quarter of 2021.

ER-Telecom, Russia’s second largest broadband provider by subscribers, has established an Asian cross-border link by connecting its backbone network with MobiCom Corporation and Gemnet in Mongolia. The route runs from the Russian border town of Kyakhta (Republic of Buryatia) to the Mongolian settlement of Altanbulag. Currently, ER-Telecom operates a cross-border link between Isilkul (Omsk region) and Bulaevo in Kazakhstan, acquired via the takeover of Milekom (which operated a backbone comprising around 30,000km) in July 2020. Andrei Gorbunov , ER-Telecom’s director for B2O, was cited as saying that ER-Telecom intends to increase the total number of border crossings in the Asian part of the Russian Federation to five or six in 2022.

Seaborn Networks and Ascenty have announced that Seaborn’s Seabras-1 international fibre network is now connecting Ascenty’s Sao Paulo and Vinhedo data centres in Brazil to the US. Marcos Siqueira, Vice President of Operations at Ascenty, said: ‘Our customers at Sao Paulo and Vinhedo Data Center campuses require low-latency, high-capacity interconnection between their data centre operations and North America … Seaborn is delivering our connectivity ecosystem. We are excited because we know that Seaborn offers us an IP transport network, and seamless and robust access to internet exchanges that are strategic for our customers who rely on international traffic.’

Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), iXblue and SeaOwl have announced that they are joining forces with the creation of Agora for Maritime & Submarine Sustainable Innovations (AMSSI) to develop partnerships around innovative technologies dedicated to environmental protection underwater. Member companies are currently working on the development of a remotely operated hydrographic surface vessel (a drone capable of carrying out long-distance survey missions).

Altibox is utilising Ciena’s Waveserver 5 coherent optical solution to create a robust and flexible network for cloud providers, global webscale providers and large enterprises. With Ciena’s technology, Altibox Carrier can deliver bandwidth connectivity of up to 800Gbps.

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