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

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4 Feb 2022

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted a 180-day special temporary authority (STA) to Neutral Networks to begin commercial operation of the US portion of the private fibre-optic submarine cable network, known as the Neutral Networks Laredo Cable (NNLC), connecting Laredo, Texas (US) and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas (Mexico). The STA is valid until 2 August 2022. 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.

Telstra revealed plans to invest up to USD1.6 billion in two fibre-optic infrastructure projects over the next five years. Under the first project, Telstra will build new ‘state-of-the-art inter-city dual fibre paths’ adding up to 20,000km of new terrestrial cable, with the new inter-capital links set to support transmission rates of up to 650Gbps (compared to 100Gbps today). The company said: ‘It will enable express connectivity between capital cities up to 55Tbps per fibre pair capacity (over six times today’s typical capacity of 8.8Tbps per fibre pair) on routes such as Sydney-Melbourne; Sydney-Brisbane; and Perth-Sydney … The national fibre network project is a multi-year build which will commence at scale in late FY2022 with early trial and test deployments already underway.’ Telstra said it had entered discussions with key anchor customers, including with global hyper scalers, local telecommunications providers and construction partners. The other project will see Telstra construct ground infrastructure and fibre to support the new ViaSat-3 terabit-class global satellite system as part of a 16.5-year contract. Telstra said it will co-locate Viasat’s satellite access node (SAN) equipment at hundreds of sites across Australia and will build and manage high-speed fibre links to each site.

Baltimore-based Transoceanic Cable Ship Co has been awarded a USD38.8 million contract to lay and repair transoceanic cables for the US Defense Department. Under the contract terms, Transoceanic will perform its tasks with the CS Global Sentinel cable-laying vessel. Work is expected to be completed by 22 December 2023, with an option to be extended up to three years and 11 months.

Saudi Telecom Company (stc) is planning to spin off its data centre, submarine infrastructure and PoPs into a new unit. The new company will be 100%-owned by stc and will have an initial capital of SAR100 million (USD26 million); initial valuation of the assets is at SAR2.1 billion as of December 2021. The new unit is expected to inject SAR1.7 billion as additional investment, bringing total investment to SAR3.8 billion.

Telefonica and partner Pontegadea have agreed to pay EUR215.7 million (USD245 million), subject to various adjustments, for a 40% stake in infrastructure group Telxius Telecom. Under the deal, Telefonica will raise its stake in the unit to 70% from 50.01%, while investment company Pontegadea will take the remaining 30%, having previously held a 9.99% stake. The deal is subject to regulatory and competition approvals, with no expected completion date announced. Telefonica said: ‘The deal represents a clear commitment to submarine cables, which are assets with high growth potential and industrial relevance in the new digital era.’ Telefonica previously sold the stake to KKR’s unit Taurus Bidco for EUR1.27 billion in late 2017, though at the time the unit included 16,000 mobile towers; the new owner subsequently offloaded the tower infrastructure (by then numbering 31,000 sites) to American Tower for EUR7.7 billion in 2021. Telxius Telecom operates an international submarine network spanning 94,000km with a coverage of 93 PoPs and 27 landing stations in 23 countries.

Nokia has partnered network operator GlobalConnect on a demonstration of 600G transmission over a live long-haul network link of GlobalConnect Group’s GO-COLOR network. Leveraging Nokia’s fifth-generation PSE-V Super Coherent DSP (PSE-Vs) loaded in Nokia’s 1830 PSI-M optical transport system, the operator successfully validated a planned upgrade of its long-haul backbone networks. The field trial saw error-free performance over a 781km ring with eleven fibre spans and through six CDC-F ROADM nodes. GlobalConnect operates an 84,500km fibre-optic network across the Nordic countries and northern Europe.

NEC Corporation has developed and tested what it claims is the first uncoupled four-core multicore fibre in a submarine cable. The prototype uses a SC520-type submarine cable, which can withstand water pressures at a depth of 8,000 meters and can hold 16 fibre pairs. The prototype cable contains four pairs of multicore fibre and twelve single-core pairs. To reduce inter-core crosstalk and improve signal attenuation, the NEC team integrated a multicore fibre amplifier into the cable; the amplifier as spliced directly with the fibre directly improved performance while minimising cable bulk.

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