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

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20 Aug 2021

Google and Facebook are teaming up with ‘leading regional and global partners’ for the deployment of a new submarine cable, dubbed Apricot, which will connect Singapore, Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia. The new system will stretch around 12,000km, with an initial design capacity of more than 190Tbps; it is expected to be ready for service (RFS) in 2024. Philippine telco PLDT is also a partner in the project and will invest USD80 million in the cable. The new cable will complement the Echo system, a private fibre-optic submarine cable network aiming to connect the US, Guam, Singapore and Indonesia. The Echo cable will run from Eureka, California (US) to Changi North in Singapore and will feature two additional branches to Agat and Piti (Guam), with plans to also land in Tanjung Pakis in Indonesia. Echo will provide 12Tbps of capacity per fibre pair, with the 16,206km main trunk comprising twelve fibre pairs. The two 372km branches to Guam (BU1 and BU2) will each feature twelve fibre pairs, while the 234km branching unit to Indonesia (BU3) will consist of four fibre pairs. The system is being developed in partnership with XL Axiata; it is due to be completed in Q3 2023.

Vocus has signed construction contracts for a new USD100 million, 1,000km cable linking the Australia Singapore Cable (ASC) to the North West Cable System (NWCS) in Port Hedland – providing the final piece of the Darwin-Jakarta-Singapore Cable (DJSC). The USD500 million DJSC will deliver 40Tbps of capacity between Perth, Darwin, Port Hedland, Christmas Island, Indonesia and Singapore. The DJSC will interconnect with the 4,600km ASC between Perth and Singapore and the 2,100km NWCS between Port Hedland and Darwin, with the completed system expected to be RFS by mid-2023. The new infrastructure will also interconnect with Vocus’ in-progress Project Horizon from Perth to Port Hedland. Vocus is currently in discussions with potential infrastructure partners and customers and is targeting to finalise the project in the same timeframe as the DJSC. Project Horizon will complete Vocus’ national fibre-optic backbone between all mainland capitals.

Google and Facebook have requested 180-day extensions to two Special Temporary Authorities (STAs) granted on 19 March 2021 (and expiring on 15 September 2021) by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) system between the US, Taiwan, and the Philippines. One is looking for the regulator’s consent for the continuation of commercial operations over limited portions of the PLCN prior to the grant of a pending application for a licence to construct, land and operate the PLCN system connecting the US to Taiwan and the Philippines. Specifically, the duo seeks a 180-day STA to operate the following portions of PLCN connecting the US to Taiwan: the fibre pair owned by Google and its affiliates and used to connect the US and Branching Unit 1 (Fibre Pair 2 on each of Segments S1.1.1 and S.1.1.2); the branch owned by Google’s affiliates connecting Toucheng (Taiwan) to Branching Unit 1, including the two fibre pairs on that branch (Segment S2); and common equipment necessary to operate Fibre Pair 2 between the US and Taiwan. Simultaneously, the two companies have requested a 180-day extension to the STA to construct, connect, and test the PLCN system within the US territory. The applicants highlight that without an STA extension, further construction and testing of the PLCN system would likely be delayed at a significant cost and thereby delay the benefits of the new trans-Pacific capacity the PLCN will provide. The 11,806km PLCN submarine cable will comprise two fibre pairs with a design capacity of 24Tbps per fibre pair, when completed.

PEACE Cable International Network has revealed that the integrated factory acceptance test (FAT) for the PEACE Cable submarine cable has now been completed. So far, all the manufacturing and integration of the PEACE Cable has been accomplished, with the final delivery of the system ‘approaching’. This integrated FAT mainly carried out system integration acceptance test on a 3,000km segment connecting Kenya in the Indian Ocean. Phase 1 of the PEACE project (spanning 12,000km) will link France to Pakistan through a single landing point in the city of Marseille (France) using the Europe-Asia route, and to the city of Mombasa (Kenya) via a short route towards the Indian Ocean that will be expanded to South Africa via the PEACE South extension under Phase 2, reaching a total length of 15,000km. The system is slated to enter operations in Q1 2022. Chen Zhongmin, CTO of PEACE Cable International Network, said: ‘For PEACE, the integrated FAT is a key milestone that’s worth celebrations. It means that our PEACE Cable system will soon step into a new stage, complete the final delivery, and provide customers with high-speed and high-quality services in the near future.’

The Australian Federal Police has opened an investigation into the recent damage of the Australia-Singapore Cable (ASC) submarine system, which was cut on 1 August 2021 ‘around 18km from the Perth landing station’. The fault was experienced within the Perth protection zone; damaging a cable or undertaking restricted activities inside a protection zone is a criminal offence that carries fines and/or jail terms.

Lastly, HyperOne, a new startup established by Australian technology entrepreneur Bevan Slattery, has called for formal expressions of interest (EoIs) for the full end-to-end contract for the design, construction and operation of a private Australia-wide fibre-optic backbone, while also looking for ‘experienced and innovative Australian companies’ that can undertake various elements of the project. HyperOne said it has recently completed route planning and design for the network and that construction is scheduled to commence in late 2021. The USD1.5 billion project includes the deployment of more than 20,000km of fibre ‘connecting major data hubs in every capital city in every state and territory across Australia.’ A press release states: ‘HyperOne will also create new major interconnection points for more international undersea cables into Australia from Asia and as far as the Americas and Antarctica.’ According to a map on the project’s website, the backbone will interconnect Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin, with two submarine links to Tanzania; onward connectivity to Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America would also be provided. The HyperOne transmission network would be ‘capable of carrying over 10,000Tbps’, with the HyperOne project office already said to be in discussions with NBN Co, the Northern Australian Infrastructure Fund (NAIF), telecoms companies, various market participants as well as the federal and state governments.

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Australia, Christmas Island, Guam, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Facebook, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Google (Alphabet), HyperOne, PLDT Inc. (incl. Smart Communications and Sun Cellular), Vocus Group (incl. Commander, Dodo, iPrimus), XL Axiata