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

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4 Jun 2021

The trans-Atlantic EllaLink cable system linking Europe and Latin America has entered commercial operation. The 6,200km cable has landing stations at Sines in Portugal and Praia Grande near Sao Paolo (Brazil), with branches to Kourou (French Guiana), the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira and Praia on the African island nation of Cape Verde. Infinera’s ICE6 800G coherent technology meanwhile enables EllaLink to offer advanced customer products and services, supporting over 100Tbps between Portugal and Brazil. In addition, the network supports a 30Tbps link from Portugal to Madeira. Future network expansions will enable EllaLink to extend its submarine network to French Guiana, Mauritania, the Canary Islands and Morocco.

The last remaining segment of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable system linking Europe, West Africa and South Africa has now been put into commercial service. With this extension of more than 4,000km, ACE improves connectivity and reinforces the redundancy of the whole system. The ACE cable network – which was certified ready for service (RFS) in December 2012 – now covers a total distance of 17,000km and connects 20 countries.

MTS has teamed up with Morsvyazsputnik – mobile satellite provider Inmarsat’s licensed operator in Russia – on a strategic partnership for planning and implementing infrastructure projects based on the construction of an underwater transarctic fibre-optic communication line (FOCL) along the Murmansk-Vladivostok route with exit points along the Northern Sea Route (known as Polar Express). In particular, the partners will jointly consider options for deploying a separate communication line between the coastal station of the Transarctic FOCL in the village of Teriberka and the city of Murmansk, as well as analyse the rollout of a separate exit point for the FOCL on the territory of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The Transarctic Polar Express line 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’. 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.

The installation of the first stage of the Eastern Arctic Undersea Fiber Optic Network (EAUFON) is scheduled to commence at the end of July 2021. The project is funded by the Kativik Regional Government (KRG) and is aiming to connect five communities in northern Quebec that have been primarily dependent on satellite links. The contract for the deployment was awarded to Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) in October 2020; the French firm is expected to start its work at the north end of the network and is scheduled to arrive offshore at Puvirnituq on 29 July. ASN is slated to spend six weeks installing the marine fibre to Kuujjuaraapik, Umiujaq, Inukjuak and Puvirnituq. Based on two fibre pairs and offering speeds of at least 10Tbps on each fibre pair, the EAUFON system will be extendable in the future to connect other communities in northern Canada. The system supplied by ASN will integrate a suite of ASN’s submarine products, including high bandwidth repeaters, OADM Branching Units, SoftNode Submarine Line Terminal (SLTE) and modular duplicated Power Feed Equipment (PFE). ASN will produce the 1,200km fibre-optic submarine cable system at its facilities located in France and the UK. The electronics installation and testing of EAUFON is currently slated for November, while the activation of the system is set for December.

Latin American wholesale operator UFINET has selected Infinera’s ICE6 800G coherent technology for its new national long-haul network in Colombia. This deployment will double the capacity of UFINET’s current network, enabling it to meet the growing bandwidth needs of its customers and provide connectivity in unserved regions. UFINET currently operates a 75,000km fibre-optic network connecting 17 countries in Latin America.

Global Marine is preparing to undertake an emergency fibre-optic cable repair on the Channel Islands-9 Liberty Submarine Cable linking Blackpool Sands in the UK and L’Ancresse Bay (Guernsey). The CS Sovereign reportedly arrived on site on 1 June 2021 to commence works on the system.

A January 2020 cable fault on the SAT-3/WASC cable system linking Africa to Portugal and Spain was most likely caused by ‘an exceptionally large and powerful submarine mud slide that originated at the mouth of the Congo River’, according to a recent study conducted by the Departments of Earth Sciences and Geography at the University of Durham in the UK. The study was co-led by Angola Cables and supported by industry members including Vodafone Group, British Telecom and NERC Environmental.

Liquid Intelligent Technologies (LIT) has announced that its fibre-optic network has now reached a total length of 100,000km, up from 89,989km at the beginning of 2021. According to a company press release, the fibre-optic network stretches across 14 countries in Africa and covers more than 100 million people in 643 towns and cities on the continent. During 2021, LIT has completed two terrestrial fibre-optic routes in South Africa totalling 1,767km, a fibre route in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from Muanda to Matadi and Kinshasa and another route in DRC to Mbuji-Mayi (completed this week).

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Brazil, Canada, Cape Verde, Colombia, Congo, Dem. Rep., French Guiana, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom, Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), Angola Cables, BT Group (incl. Openreach), Global Marine Systems, Infinera, Inmarsat, Liquid Telecom Group, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), Ufinet, Vodafone Group