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

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11 Feb 2022

Orange Group has revealed its participation in the SeaMeWe-6 consortium for the construction of a new express submarine cable system aiming to directly connect Marseille in France to Singapore. Orange will act as the landing party for the system in France and will host the cable in its landing site in Marseille. Jean-Luc Vuillemin, Director of International Networks at Orange, said: ‘We are delighted with our participation in this new system in order to offer a new high-speed and high-performance “express” connectivity solution between France and Asia and to support the growing needs of our customers over time. This new link will also allow us to secure our existing traffic and allow better throughput to our locations in the Indian Ocean.’ Orange Group’s global network currently features more than 40 submarine cables, including its investments in the SeaMeWe-3, SeaMeWe-4, SeaMeWe-5, IMEWE and SAFE systems. Recent projects include Amitie and Dunant in the Atlantic Ocean and PEACE Cable in the Mediterranean.

Inligo Networks and Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison have inked a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to build a high-capacity submarine cable system called Asia Connect Cable (ACC1). According to Desmond Cheung, CTO of Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison, the partnership will allow his company to be an exclusive partner for the new 18,000km submarine network. The ACC1 will feature design capacity of up to 128Tbps, with landings in Singapore (Singapore), Medan, Batam, Jakarta, Manado and Makassar (Indonesia), Dili (Timor-Leste), Darwin (Australia) and Guam and Los Angeles (the US). Construction of the system will begin in 2022, with the first route scheduled to connect Singapore, Batam and Jakarta. In mid-2023, cables will be deployed to Medan, Makassar, Kupang, Dili (Timor-Leste) and Darwin (Australia), followed by rollouts from Manado to Guam by the end of 2023. The project is expected to be completed in 2024, connecting Guam to Los Angeles (US).

Google has revealed that the Equiano submarine cable system will land in Namibia in May 2022, with a landing in Melkbosstrand (Cape Town, South Africa) currently slated for June. Paratus Namibia – which has been selected by Google to serve as the landing partner for Equiano in Namibia – highlighted that the landing station is now ready to accommodate the cable; the landing station was constructed in June 2021, while the internal fit – including power, cabling cabinets, conduits, raceways, cages, and security – was completed in January 2022. Meanwhile, Telkom’s wholesale division, Openserve – which has been tasked with serving as the landing station partner in South Africa – will offer onward terrestrial connectivity for the system in South Africa. Equiano will link Lisbon in Portugal to Cape Town in South Africa, via Lagos (Nigeria), Muanda (DRC) and Swakopmund (Namibia), with an additional spur connecting Rupert’s Bay on the island of Saint Helena. The new system, which is being deployed by Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), will be Google’s fourth private cable, following the deployment of Junior (2018), Curie (2020) and Dunant (2021). The Equiano cable is expected to be ready for service (RFS) in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Vodafone Qatar has signed a 20-year agreement with Saudi Telecom Company (stc) – a member of the 2Africa consortium – to build and operate an international submarine cable landing station in Qatar. Commenting on the agreement, Vodafone Qatar’s CEO Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani, said: ‘We are pleased to be part of this project that will increase the capacity, quality and availability of internet connectivity in Qatar and contribute to the country’s digital transformation. We are currently building the new station for submarine cables, demonstrating the role we play as a strategic gateway to the world and how together we can continue to transform Qatar into a global hub, driven by our robust communications infrastructure.’ The in-deployment 2Africa subsea fibre-optic cable – expected to be RFS in 2023/2024 – will interconnect 26 countries in Europe (via Egypt), the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia), and Africa, delivering a design capacity of up to 180Tbps on key parts of the system; the 45,000km system is being deployed by Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN).

South Korean telecoms firm KT has announced plans to participate in a new 9,000km submarine cable project linking six countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia. The firm inked a MoU with real estate consulting firm Savills Korea, under which KT will carry out a strategic investment in the cable as a member of a consortium dedicated to the project, while Savills Korea will aim to attract more investors and will manage legal procedures such as contracting and licensing. The new submarine system will link Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Grid Telecom, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE) of Greece, has inked a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) with Telecom Egypt for the interconnection between Greece and Egypt via a submarine cable. Greece’s Digital Governance Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis commented that the MoC ‘increases the country’s international connectivity and the volume capacity of its data’, while also contributing ‘toward our reaching an even more powerful digital transformation of both the telecommunications system per se, as well as the country and its economy.’

Elsewhere, Grid Telecom has assigned formal names to its submarine cables connecting Crete to the Greek mainland, in parallel with the subsea electrical interconnections to Peloponnese and Attica regions. The double fibre-optic cable system connecting Crete with the Peloponnese region, which is already in operation, has been assigned the names MINOAS-EAST and MINOAS-WEST. Accordingly, the double fibre-optic cable system that has recently been installed between Pachi, Megara in the Attica region and Heraklion in Crete, in parallel with the electrical interconnection under construction, has been assigned the names APOLLO-EAST and APOLLO-WEST.

The NO-UK submarine cable system between Stavanger (Norway) and Newcastle (UK) has achieved a record-breaking 800Gbps rate. In the deployment, Altibox selected Ciena’s GeoMesh Extreme, using Ciena’s WaveLogic 5 Extreme coherent optical technology and 6500 Packet-Optical Platforms, supporting up to 35Tbps per fibre pair (said to be the highest capacity achieved to date across a repeater-based submarine network). The system – certified as RFS in December 2021 – is owned and operated by the NO-UK consortium comprising Altibox Carrier, Haugaland Kraft, BKK, Ryfylke IKS, Green Mountain, Polysys and Hatteland Group. The 700km NO-UK features eight fibre pairs and is part of a larger European fibre network established by Altibox Carrier, called Euroconnect-1, that will ensure robust and state-of-the-art digital infrastructure between Newcastle and Norway, Ireland, mainland Europe and, ultimately, the US.

Internet connectivity in Tonga is now scheduled to be restored in late February, after cable repair ship Reliance found more than one break along the Fiji cable end, Matangi Tonga writes. Tonga Cable’s CEO James Panuve said: ‘[The ship] recovered the Fiji cable about 20km from Tonga break. They’ve tried testing the cable towards Fiji and indications show broken fibres about 9km further west. They are now picking up the cable towards the optic break and will do more tests from there to see if anymore breaks towards Fiji end.’ The cable faults were caused by the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in January 2022. The cable fault on the Tonga Cable was reportedly located between the TCL cable landing station in Sopu, Tongatapu and FINTEL cable landing station in Suva (Fiji), approximately 37km offshore from Tonga, while the Tonga Domestic Cable Extension (TDCE) was severed near the area of the recent volcanic activity, around 47km offshore. The 827km Tonga Cable between Tonga and Fiji (certified RFS in August 2013) interconnects with the Southern Cross Cable, while the 410km TDCE links Neiafu to Nuku’alofa and Pangai.

Queensland-based Open Infrastructure Group has been selected to deploy and operate a new 3,300km fibre-optic cable spanning northern Queensland to Western Australia (WA), in conjunction with a rail corridor. The project is developed by East West Line Parks (EWLP). From west to east, the new cable will traverse Port Hedland, Newman in WA, Ti Tree in Northern Territory, and Moranbah, Bowen/Abbot Point in Queensland, with EWLP managing director Shane Condon saying: ‘It provides a whole new path as far as Australia’s telecommunication and the Indo Pacific telecommunication landscape has seen before … It will be another protected route across Australia.’

The government of the Republic of Somaliland and representatives of operators Somtel, Telesom and Somcable have reached an agreement for the establishment of a new fibre-optic joint venture (JV), Agence Ecofin writes. Under the terms of the agreement, the three telecom companies will each own 31.67% of the new JV, while the government will retain 4.99%. The telecom companies and the government have also agreed to share the landing points and operation of the submarine cables that will enter Somaliland. The initiative comes two years after the House of Representatives liberalised the provision of optical fibre in the autonomous region.

SEACOM will acquire selected infrastructure assets from Africell Uganda (which ceased operations in October 2021) for an undisclosed sum. According to a company press release, these assets include 760km of fibre-optic network within the capital city Kampala and the surrounding towns, a data centre and office space. This follows SEACOM’s October 2021 acquisition of Kenyan service provider Hirani Telecom’s metropolitan fibre-optic network in the capital city Nairobi.

Seabras 1 Brasil (Seaborn) has been certified by the Brazilian Stock Exchange (B3) to provide connectivity via the RCB network, a high-tech and high-performance communication network, enabling Seaborn to offer advanced connectivity services for the financial market in Brazil.

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Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Namibia, Norway, Qatar, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Uganda, United Kingdom, Africell Uganda, Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), Altibox (incl. Lyse Tele), Ciena Corporation, Google (Alphabet), Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison (IOH), Inligo Networks, KT Corp, Openserve, Orange Group, Paratus (Namibia), Saudi Telecom Company (stc), SEACOM, Somcable (SO!), Somtel International, Telecom Egypt, Telesom, Telkom South Africa, Vodafone Qatar