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

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30 Jul 2021

Google and Telecom Italia’s Sparkle unit have announced plans to build two new submarine cables, each equipped with 16 fibre pairs, in collaboration with other unnamed partners. The Blue cable system will connect Italy, France, Greece and Israel, while Raman will link Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Oman and India. Blue will be deployed along a new northbound route in the Mediterranean, crossing the Strait of Messina, rather than following the traditional route through Sicily Channel. Within the Blue System, Sparkle’s own private BlueMed submarine cable will feature four additional fibre pairs and an initial design capacity of more than 25Tbps per fibre pair; it will extend up to Jordan (Aqaba) with additional private branches into France (Corsica), Greece (Chania, Crete), Italy (Sardinia and Rome), Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Turkey, Cyprus and more in the future. The Tyrrhenian part of BlueMed is planned to be operational in 2022, while Blue and Raman are expected to be ready for service (RFS) in 2024. Elisabetta Romano, CEO of Sparkle, said: ‘With Blue and Raman submarine cable systems, Sparkle boosts its capabilities in the strategic routes between Asia, Middle East and Europe and the enhanced BlueMed strengthens our presence in the greater Mediterranean area.’

Digital 9 Infrastructure (D9), the new owner of Aqua Comms, has earmarked an investment of GBP50 million (USD69.7 million) in a new submarine cable in partnership with unnamed ‘leading global content provider and consortium. Aqua Comms has dubbed their share of the build the Europe Middle-East India Connect 1 (EMIC-1). The investment will be spread over a three-year period. The new carrier-neutral network between Europe, the Middle-East and India will comprise submarine and terrestrial fibre assets which will connect key locations in these regions. D9 noted that, ‘following completion of the new system, the company will have an interest in approximately 30,000km of subsea and related terrestrial fibre networks, connecting four continents.’

TPG Telecom and Infinera have announced a technology upgrade of TPG Telecom’s PIPE Pacific Cable-1 (PPC-1) connecting Australia and Guam to boost cable capacity and improve reliability by leveraging Infinera’s ICE6 800G solution. The PPC-1 is ultra-long haul system connecting Australia and Guam, including connectivity to Papua New Guinea. It has two fibre pairs spanning approximately 7,000km, with 78 repeaters spaced approximately 92km apart. Using the latest technology from Infinera, the project will boost data capacity on the system by 50%, from 8Tbps currently to 12Tbps. TPG Telecom has received the necessary regulatory approvals to modify the relevant PPC-1 assets, with the upgrade works expected to be completed this year.

SUB.CO has revealed that its 9,800km Oman Australia Cable (OAC) has landed in Perth, Australia. The next phase will see the cable land on Cocos (Keeling) Islands in Q4 2021, with onward installation to Oman scheduled to be completed in Q1 2022; the entire system is due to be certified RFS in Q2 2022. Once completed, the OAC will be the only submarine cable directly connecting continental Australia and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). TeleGeography notes that the Marine Route Survey for the OAC system commenced in October 2020 and was completed in February 2021. In Australia, the Perth cable landing infrastructure construction commenced in October 2020 and was completed later in December; the works included an additional seaward facing duct installed for maintenance and possible future cable installation.

The Speaker of the Guam Legislature, Therese Terlaje has proposed changes to Bill No.36-36, which is intended to authorise an agreement between the Guam government (via Chamorro Land Trust Commission) and Teleguam Holdings (GTA) for landing submarine fibre-optic cables in Alupang Bay. One of the major revisions include a one-time USD100,000 fee for each cable system installed, with USD100,000 in an annual licence payment due no later than 30 days after a system becomes operational. The measure allows for a maximum of six systems to be laid under this schedule. Currently, the local government is asking USD5,000 annually for a submerged land lease in Piti that includes four undersea cables. GTA originally proposed to pay USD15,000 for the agreement covered by Bill No.36-36, according to the speaker’s office.

Hawaiki Submarine Cable has today announced the sale of 100% of the shares of the company to BW Digital, an affiliate of BW Group, for an undisclosed price. Launched in July 2018, the trans-Pacific Hawaiki system connecting New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii and mainland US is a 15,000km fibre-optic carrier-neutral cable with a design capacity of 67Tbps. Remi Galasso, executive chairman of Hawaiki, said: ‘We are delighted to welcome BW Group as a shareholder. Having established a successful subsea cable business with the support of our customers and partners, the company started a process to find a new long-term shareholder who is able to take the company to the next stage of development. BW has an excellent track record of growth in maritime and technology-related assets, combined with the highest standards of governance and strong access to capital through relationships with leading global banks and through the capital markets. Three years after Hawaiki’s commercial launch, it is time to write a new chapter of the company’s history and we believe BW is an ideal shareholder for this fast-growing business.’

Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink) has inked a definitive agreement to sell its Latin American business to New York-based alternative investment firm Stonepeak, in a deal worth USD2.735 billion. AustralianSuper, Australia’s largest pension fund, will act as a co-investor, alongside Stonepeak. Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Lumen will divest its Latin American business, which will operate as an independent, US-headquartered portfolio company of Stonepeak. The assets in question were acquired by CenturyLink in 2017, as part of its buyout of Level 3. At that time the company presided over a 26,000km LatAm network footprint that spanned the likes of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama and Peru. Lumen and Stonepeak expect the transaction to close in the first half of 2022, upon receipt of all regulatory approvals in the US and certain other countries, as well as the satisfaction of other customary conditions.

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Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Cyprus, Djibouti, Greece, Guam, Israel, New Zealand, Oman, Turkey, Aqua Communications (AquaComms), Google (Alphabet), GTA, Hawaiki Cable, Infinera, Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink), Telecom Italia (TIM), Telecom Italia Sparkle, Vodafone Australia (TPG Telecom Limited)