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

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10 Jun 2022

Cape Verde’s connection to the EllaLink submarine cable is now live. Vincent Gatineau, Chief Marketing & Sales Officer at EllaLink, said: ‘Thanks to the hard work of the Cabo Verde Telecom teams, the government involvement and the European Bank of Investment support, this project is now a reality, and Praia is now connected directly and neutrally to Brazil and Europe.’ The 6,200km cable, which was certified ready for service (RFS) in June 2021, allows 72Tbps of connectivity between Europe and Latin America. The system boasts landing stations at Sines in Portugal and at Praia Grande near Sao Paolo (Brazil), with branches to Kourou (French Guiana), the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira and Praia on the African island nation of Cape Verde.

Belau Submarine Cable Corporation (BSCC) has commenced the deployment of the next segment of the submarine branch aiming to link the island nation of Palau to the Echo cable system, islandsbusiness.com writes. The project is funded through a mix of grants and loans from Palau, Japan, Australia and the US. The submarine fibre-optic cable will connect from a base at Ngardmau port out 7km into deep water where it is dropped awaiting a hook-up; according to BSCC CEO Robin Russell, the next cable segment will be laid 100km out to the branching unit of the Echo main trunk. 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 16,026km 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 by Meta (Facebook) and Google in partnership with XL Axiata; it is due to be completed in Q3 2023, while the Palau cable is expected to be connected by Q1 2024.

Elettra, a subsidiary of Orange Group, has been selected by Infratel Italia for the supply and installation of submarine optical cable connections that will provide very high speed connectivity to 21 Italian islands. The Ministry of Economic Development’s project, called the Piano Isole Minori (‘Minor Islands Plan’), is part of the overall ‘Italy 2026 Strategy’ and includes 21 connections – including links to Pantelleria, Lampedusa, Ponza, the Tremiti, Favignana and Lipari – for a total of 860km of submarine cables and represents an investment of EUR45.6 million (USD48.7 million). Research ship Urbano Monti will carry out the marine survey to accurately determine the route of each link in the course of 2022, while the marine installation is scheduled for 2023 and will be carried out by Elettra’s cable-laying vessel Teliri.

Greece and Saudi Arabia have agreed on the main terms of an agreement to set up a joint venture to lay a fibre-optic cable linking Europe with Asia, Reuters writes citing people familiar with the matter. The new infrastructure, to be dubbed East to Med Corridor, will be developed by MENA HUB, owned by Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Telecom Company (stc) and Greek telecoms and satellite applications company TTSA. Greece’s power utility Public Power Company (PPC) and Cyprus’ telecoms operator CYTA will also hold a stake in the project, pending final corporate approvals. The final closing of the deal is expected by July, while the project is expected to launch in autumn and be completed by the end of 2025. Another unnamed source told Reuters that the cable, which will stretch from Italy to Singapore, will cost around EUR800 million (USD857.68 million).

Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) has inked a strategic memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Telecom Egypt to build the first submarine cable system to directly connect the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to Egypt. The MoU was signed in Riyadh by Mobily’s CEO Eng. Salman Al-Badran and Adel Hamed, Managing Director and CEO of Telecom Egypt. The agreement explores various new ways to connect international capacity to Europe in the west through Telecom Egypt’s network, and to the GCC in the east via Mobily’s network. The establishment of the new cable system aims to meet the rising communication traffic and the large demand for such services between KSA and Egypt.

XL Axiata and Malaysian company PP Telecomunication Sdn Bhd have successfully completed the construction of the Sea Cable Communication System (SKKL), also known as Batam Sarawak Internet Cable System (BaSICS), linking Indonesia and Malaysia. For XL Axiata, this new infrastructure will strengthen internet connections between Batam, Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi with faster and better quality performance and latency. XL Axiata’s Director and CTO I Gede Darmayusa said: ‘This SKKL is also a new alternative international gateway for Indonesia to Kuching, Sarawak, and Hong Kong, as well as increasing the diversity and reliability of connections to several PoP/HUBs in Asia, which at the same time will support the telecommunications network for the State Capital in Kalimantan.’

A disruption to several submarine cables has degraded internet services for millions of people in parts of Africa and Asia. The issues affected at least the Asia-Africa-Europe 1 (AAE-1) and SeaMeWe5 systems. Kentik director of internet analysis Doug Madory said: ‘Today a technical failure in Egypt knocked out service for multiple submarine cables degrading internet connectivity for millions of people in South Asia, the Middle East and East Africa’, adding that the service appeared restored within hours as the issue was on land.

The first stage of the Norte Conectado programme – which is aiming to bring connectivity to the Amazon region through the deployment of a fibre-optic backbone network – is in its final phase. So far, around 97% of the infovia 00 is completed, for an initial investment of BRL76.9 million (USD15.7 million). Under the project, around 705km of fibre-optic cables have been deployed along the bed of the Amazon River, connecting Macapa (AP) to Alenquer (PA) via the Para cities of Almeirim, Monte Alegre and Santarem. infovia 00 is one of the eight Norte Conectado projects, which will ultimately connect a total of 58 cities in Acre, Amapa, Amazonas, Rondonia and Roraima with 12,000km of subfluvial optical cables traversing the Amazonas, Negro, Solimoes, Madeira, Purus, Jurua and Rio Branco rivers. The Norte Conectado programme, itself a part of the ‘Programa Amazonia Integrada Sustentavel’ (Sustainable Integrated Amazon Programme), is coordinated by the Ministry of Communications (MCom) and is carried out in partnership with the National Education and Research Network (RNP).

Peru’s Ministry of Transport and Communications (Ministerio de Transportes y Comunicaciones, MTC), via the National Telecommunications Programme (Programa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones, Pronatel), has launched a revised tender for the operation and maintenance of the 13,600km National Fibre Optic Backbone (Red Dorsal Nacional de Fibra Optica or RDNFO). The authority has made updates to the terms of reference, including widening the project to a nationwide mandate after previously focusing only on the northern, central and southern regions. The RDNFO was previously managed by Azteca Comunicaciones, though the operator submitted a proposal in early 2020 to terminate its concession early by mutual agreement. Negotiations between Azteca and the MTC were unsuccessful and in July 2021 the ministry unilaterally ordered the cancellation of the licence, to take effect from early 2022. A previous tender for the operation and maintenance of the network was cancelled in May 2022, after the agency ruled that none of the three bidders had managed to comply with the conditions of the tender.

Following the completion of the first phase of the Congolese component of the Central African Backbone (CAB) project, Congo is now connected to Cameroon through a 347km terrestrial fibre-optic cable. The fibre network was established by Huawei, China Communications Services International (CCSI) and Globotech-MG Telecom.

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