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

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1 Oct 2021

The 2Africa consortium – consisting of China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC – has announced the addition of a new segment, called the 2Africa PEARLS branch, extending the 2Africa cable to the Arabian Gulf, India and Pakistan. This extension will bring the total length of the 2Africa system to over 45,000km, making it the longest submarine cable system ever deployed; it surpasses the length of SeaMeWe-3, a 39,000km cable built in 1999. 2Africa PEARLS will feature landing locations in Oman (Barka), UAE (Abu Dhabi and Kalba), Qatar (Doha), Bahrain (Manama), Kuwait (Kuwait), Iraq (Al-Faw), Pakistan (Karachi), India (Mumbai), and a fourth landing in Saudi Arabia (Al Khobar). Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) will deploy the 2Africa PEARLS branch utilising new technologies, such as SDM, that allow the deployment of up to 16 fibre pairs. The new announcement follows similar extensions of the 2Africa system to the Canary Islands and the Iberian Peninsula (announced in June 2021), Seychelles, Comoros Islands, Angola and a new landing to south-east Nigeria. The 2Africa submarine cable is expected to go live in 2023/2024, delivering a design capacity of up to 180Tbps on key parts of the system.

Orange Group has landed the transatlantic 6,600km Amitie submarine cable system on a beach in the French commune of Le Porge, situated near Bordeaux on the Gironde coast, following landings in Massachusetts (US) and Bude (UK). Commissioning of the Amitie system is scheduled for early 2022 and Orange will benefit from two pairs of fibre-optic cables as part of this new system, offering capacity of up to 23Tbps each. The Amitie system will consist of three segments: Segment 1.1 will connect Lynn, Massachusetts with a branching unit in the Atlantic Ocean between the UK and France; it will have 16 fibre pairs and a length of 5,276km. Segment 1.2 will connect Bude (UK) with the branching unit via twelve fibre pairs and a length of 645km. Segment 1.3 will connect a new landing station in Le Porge (France) with the branching unit via twelve fibre pairs and a length of 871km. Orange Group will serve both as the France landing party for the system and will own a portion of the system extending twelve nautical miles from the French shore.

Digicel has inked a partnership agreement with Orange to extend the Deep Blue One system from Trinidad to French Guiana. Deep Blue One will provide connectivity to French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago, with the opportunity to connect offshore oil and gas rigs. The new system will also complement Digicel’s existing Southern Caribbean Fiber network which stretches approximately 3,000km and connects 20 islands in the Eastern Caribbean from Trinidad & Tobago up to Puerto Rico, with onward connectivity to Miami and New York (US). The 2,000km Deep Blue One system will feature five branching units, with between two and eight fibre pairs in each segment, offering a minimum capacity of 12Tbps per fibre pair. The system will have new cable landings in Trinidad, Tobago (with a new route between Trinidad & Tobago) and Suriname. Orange will act as the landing party in Cayenne (French Guiana) and will operate the cable landing station on behalf of Digicel while its subsidiary, Orange Marine, will be in charge of laying the cable. Cable installation is scheduled to begin in mid-2023, with the overall project expected to be completed in early 2024.

Neutral Networks has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a licence to construct, land and operate within the US a private fibre-optic submarine cable network, known as the Neutral Networks Laredo Cable (NNLC), connecting Laredo, Texas (US) and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas (Mexico). The NNLC will consist of three high-capacity, digital fibre-optic cables in a three-duct conduit encased in a pipe located beneath the riverbed of the Rio Grande. Neutral Networks will operate NNLC on a non-common-carrier basis, providing fibre-optic-related solutions to carrier and enterprise customers on particularised terms and conditions pursuant to individualised negotiation. Neutral Networks intends to commence commercial operation of the NNLC system no later than January 2022.

Bulk Fiber Networks has completed the installation of the HAVSIL submarine cable between Kristiansand in Norway and Hanstholm in Denmark. The new cable system crosses Skagerrak, the strait separating Norway and Denmark, with 192 fibres fully buried on the seabed, and joins a new terrestrial segment running down Denmark’s west coast, avoiding the more traditional routes to form a diverse new express route to Norway. The end points include Bulk’s N01 data centre campus in Kristiansand (Norway) and the DK01 data centre campus in Esbjerg (Denmark). In early January 2021 Fugro’s vessel Fugro Meridian completed the cable marine survey, finalising the optimal marine route. NSW, part of Prysmian Group, manufactured the 120km fibre-optic cable in its Nordenham factory. The final supply contract was awarded to Cecon Contracting, which is deploying the system, with the cable installation process commencing on 5 September.

Portugal’s Directorate-General for Natural Resources, Security and Maritime Services (DGRM) has signed a concession with Google for the installation of the Equiano submarine cable. The concession will be valid for 25 years, with the 15,000km submarine cable scheduled to start operations in 2022. As currently planned, the Equiano system will link Lisbon (Portugal) to Cape Town in South Africa, with additional branches to Accra (Ghana), Lagos (Nigeria), Swakopmund (Namibia) and Saint Helena (Rupert’s Bay). The new system, to be laid by Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), will be Google’s fourth private cable, following the deployment of the Junior system linking Rio de Janeiro and Santos in Brazil (certified ready for service [RFS] in Q3 2018), the Curie network between Los Angeles (US) and Valparaiso in Chile (RFS Q2 2020) and Dunant, linking Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez in France and the US (RFS January 2021).

ARCOS-1 and A.SurNet have sought the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) authority to modify their cable landing licence for the ARCOS submarine cable system, which connects the US with 14 countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America to include a new landing point in Cuba. The cable landing will be accomplished by creating a branch from an existing branching unit of the ARCOS cable (constructed as part of the original ARCOS-1 system in 1999) that lies approximately 56km off the coast of Cuba to a beach manhole in Cojimar (Cuba); the cable will then extend through a cable land route to an existing cable landing station in Cojimar. The new branch will be known as Segment 26. Columbus Networks Limited (CNL) or a wholly-owned and controlled subsidiary of CNL, will be the landing party, with Segment 26 to be jointly owned by CNL and some of the ARCOS consortium members; ETECSA meanwhile will acquire an indefeasible right of use (IRU) on some capacity on Segment 26 from CNL. The new branch will be constructed by SubCom.

Chilean president Sebastian Pinera has extended an invitation to Uruguay to join the Humboldt cable project, currently developed by Chile, Argentina and Brazil. The Humboldt submarine cable aims to connect Valparaiso (Chile) to Auckland (New Zealand) and Sydney (Australia). The initial design of the 14,810km Humboldt cable includes between four and eight fibre-optic pairs, with a transmission capacity of 10Tbps-20Tbps. Chile’s Desarrollo Pais (previously Fondo de Infraestructura) is aiming to complete the rollout by early 2025.

HyperOne, a new startup established by Australian technology entrepreneur Bevan Slattery, has received registrations of interest from more than 500 businesses across Australia willing to undertake various elements of a project for the construction and delivery of a private Australia-wide fibre-optic backbone. The company is planning to reveal its preferred partners in late October, with construction set to commence by the end of 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’ and will be capable of carrying more than 10,000Tbps. 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.

GTT Communications has announced the completion of the sale of its infrastructure division to I Squared Capital. The division consists of a pan-European, North American, and subsea fibre network and data centre assets and associated infrastructure services provided to customers. The deal, which was announced in October 2020, was valued at USD2.15 billion. Post-closing, new owner I Squared has announced that the acquired assets have been rebranded as EXA Infrastructure. The new company, which will be based in London, serves customers across 103,000 route kilometres of fibre that connects 300 cities. The network includes dense metropolitan footprints, connected by multiple inter-city routes and pan-continental subsea cables.

Lastly, HMN Tech has completed a 32-fibre pair optical amplifier (repeater) prototype. The vendor claims that the ‘next-generation submarine product will achieve capacity transmission at a petabit-level, aligning with the rising demand for increased fibre count or SDM systems and the on-going requirements for greater SLTE transmission capabilities’. Commercial release of a fully qualified product is targeted for 2022.

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Australia, Bahrain, Chile, Cuba, Denmark, France, French Guiana, Guyana, India, Iraq, Kuwait, Mexico, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay, Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), China Mobile International, Columbus Networks, Digicel Group, Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA), EXA Infrastructure (previously GTT), Facebook, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Google (Alphabet), HMN Tech (formerly Huawei Marine), HyperOne, MTN Group, Neutral Networks, Orange Group, Orange Marine, Prysmian Group, Saudi Telecom Company (stc), SubCom, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone Group, West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC)