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

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24 Mar 2023

The Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector is reviewing an application submitted by Google and Facebook for the deployment of the Apricot submarine cable, 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 Q4 2024.

EXA Infrastructure has deployed Infinera’s ICE6 800G coherent optical solution on the Trans Adriatic Express (TAE), a submarine cable system linking EXA’s European footprint to Turkey via Albania and Greece. TAE is a joint venture between EXA and Trans Adriatic Pipeline Ag (TAP), the owner of a new gas pipeline connecting the Caspian Sea to southern Italy. Completed in 2020, the pipeline connects Melendugno in southern Italy to the Turkish border at Kipoi via Albania and Greece.

Eastern Communications has revealed plans to invest PHP1.04 billion (USD19 million) in 2023 to further develop its operational presence in the Visayas and Mindanao regions, and to complete the deployment of the Philippine Domestic Submarine Cable Network (PDSCN) as scheduled in April 2023. The 2,500km system is a joint project developed by Globe in partnership with Globe and InfiniVAN. The project kickstarted in July 2022 in Subic (Zambales) and in the coming weeks, the PDSCN will land in Liloy and Dipolog, Zamboanga del Sur; Maasin, Leyte; and Mactan, Cebu, before being activated.

Malaysia’s Transport Ministry is working on reinstating exemptions (previously introduced in 2019) to non-Malaysian vessels conducting submarine cable repairs. Transport Minister Anthony Loke said a formal announcement will be made once all the necessary processes are finalised. The cabotage exemption – which was granted to non-Malaysian vessels in 2019 during Loke’s previous tenure as a transport minister – was reversed when Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong took over the post in 2020. Loke was cited as saying by Malay Mail: ‘Repairing an undersea cable is an important component to [the data centre] industry and it needs certainty in terms of repair work to be done and repair work can only be done in the open sea by specific vessels, that is where there are no local vessels available’, adding that the cabotage exemption was granted in 2019 to shorten the time needed to apply for an exemption. Shortly after the exemption was lifted, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) chairman Datuk Rais Hussin issued a statement criticising the move. Rais said three new cables that were originally planned for landing in Malaysia were now under review. The cabotage exemption reversal also prompted the review of a planned investment to build data centres worth approximately MYR12 billion to MYR15 billion (USD2.7 bllion to USD3.4 billion).

Fast Congo, a subsidiary of Paratus Group, has announced that its 620km fibre-optic route between Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Muanda, the landing point of the West Africa Cable System (WACS) submarine cable, is now active. The fibre route was originally funded by the World Bank, and in March 2022 the government-backed Societe Congolaise de Fibre Optique (SOCOF) revealed that a 15-year contract for the deployment, operation and maintenance of the link was awarded to Fast Congo. According to a company press release, Fast Congo has been installing the necessary infrastructure to connect the network over the last few months, which is now live and fully operational.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a financing agreement with Bandwidth and Cloud Services Group (BCS) for the installation of a new fibre-optic backbone in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). BCS was licensed to operate in DRC during 2020; the company is currently deploying a submarine fibre-optic cable link across Lake Tanganyika to connect the towns of Bukavu, Uvira, Baraka and Kalemie in Eastern DRC, and to serve as an alternate gateway in Eastern and Southern Africa. BCS previously laid a cross-border submarine cable between Uganda and DRC across Lake Albert in 2019, and deployed a second cable through Lake Albert as a backup in 2020.

Internet users in Singapore are experiencing a slowdown in download speeds, with Singtel revealing that the issues were caused after ‘a few cables’ were damaged in February 2023. A Singtel spokesperson said cables were damaged in the course of fishing-related activities, and seabed movements caused by earthquakes: ‘Our engineers took swift action to implement mitigation measures such as re-routing traffic to other cable channels. Repair works are being carried out by our cable partners to restore normal levels of service and are close to completion.’ An update from the company issued on 23 March highlighted that most of the submarine cables had been repaired, with the last one due to be completed this week: ‘Investigations into the causes to the damage of these cables are ongoing, but ship anchors have been found to be cause for the impacted cables off Shantou, China … The ship responsible has been identified and action is being taken against the errant operator.’

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The Submarine Cable Map is a free and regularly updated online resource from TeleGeography. Learn more about our range of maps and sponsorship opportunities over here. For more research on long-haul networks and submarine cables, peruse our Global Bandwidth Research Service.

Albania, Congo, Dem. Rep., Greece, Guam, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Turkey, Bandwidth and Cloud Services (BCS Group), Eastern Communications, EXA Infrastructure (formerly GTT Infrastructure), Google (Alphabet), Infinera, InfiniVAN, Meta (incl. Facebook), Paratus Group Holdings, Singtel Group

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