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

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14 Apr 2023

Chinese state-owned telecom firms China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom are developing a USD500 million submarine fibre-optic cable aiming to link Asia, the Middle East and Europe, four people involved in the deal told Reuters. Known as Europe-Middle East-Asia (EMA), the proposed cable would link Hong Kong to China’s island province of Hainan, with onward connection to Singapore, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France. The system would be manufactured and deployed by China’s HMN Technologies.

The cable route study (CRS) for the Far North Fiber (FNF) project, a pan-Arctic submarine cable system connecting Europe and Asia via North America, has commenced. The project is being developed by international joint venture Far North Fiber, formed by Cinia (Finland), Far North Digital (US) and ARTERIA Networks Corporation (Japan). The CRS will be carried out in cooperation with Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) and is expected to be finalised by the end of 2023. The results of the CRS will support the upcoming marine survey, also scheduled to begin during 2023. The planned cable system will run from Japan, via the Northwest Passage, to Europe (Norway, adjacent to Finland and Ireland) with a landing in Alaska (US). There are also several branching units designed along the route to accommodate future branch connections in the Pacific, the Canadian Arctic and the Atlantic. It is estimated that the approximately 15,000km of submarine cables will be operational by the end of 2026.

ICT ministers from six ECOWAS member countries – Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone – have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the development of the Amilcar Cabral submarine telecoms cable project. The six states affirmed their participation in the process of evaluating the technical, economic, financial, social and environmental feasibility of the project, as well as providing the necessary resources for its implementation, while also agreeing to mutually support the efforts of the ECOWAS Commission to carry out and complete the feasibility study of the proposed project. Once the feasibility study is completed, the member states will cooperate and participate in the efforts to determine and plan the next steps for the implementation of the project, including seeking funding from international financial institutions, involving the private sector and coordinating with the landing parties of the submarine cable and/or any other landing parties established in their territories. To ensure the effective supervision and monitoring of the project, the Member States agreed to establish a Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) and a Committee of Experts (CE). The Amilcar Cabral project, which aims to connect the six countries via a submarine cable, has been in development since 2018.

The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) has requested that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) grant an extension to the Special Temporary Authority (STA) that allows the continued operation of the Bahamas II cable system pending the processing of the application to renew the cable landing licence (which expired on 1 April 2022). The Bahamas II Cable is a common carrier submarine cable that links a landing point at Vero Beach (Florida, US) to Nassau (the Bahamas), with an intermediate point at Eight Mile Rock (the Bahamas). The cable has operated successfully for over 25 years pursuant to the cable landing licence granted in 1996. BTC is therefore seeking an extension of the STA (set to expire on 23 April 2023) to continue operating the Bahamas II cable until the application to renew the cable landing licence is approved.

The Puerto Rico Telephone Company (PRTC) and LATAM Telecommunications (LATAM) have requested a special temporary authority (STA) to operate segments of the America Movil Submarine Cable System-1 (AMX-1) connecting Isla San Andres (Colombia) and Puerto Limon (Costa Rica), pending the granting of an application to modify the cable landing licence for the AMX-1 system. The AMX-1 cable is a non-common carrier fibre-optic cable system linking the US, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico. Upon review of the licensing history for the AMX-1 system in connection with the addition of a new segment between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, the applicants discovered that no request had been filed with the FCC seeking to modify the AMX-1 landing licence to add the segments connecting Isla San Andres and Puerto Limon, which were constructed in 2022 and entered services in December 2022. The applicants claim that the omission was inadvertent, and are seeking to remedy it by filing a licence modification request in addition to the STA request. The facilities in question consist of three segments: new 380.7km segment S.4.6.1 connecting Branching Unit 11 (BU11) to Branching Unit 12 (BU12); new 12.7km segment S.4.6.2 connecting BU12 to Isla San Andres; and new 353.8km segment S.4.6.3 connecting BU12 to Puerto Limon. Each segment comprises two fibre pairs, comprising design capacity of 10Tbps per fibre pair.

The port of Alicante in Spain has given the go-ahead for a new submarine cable landing station (CLS), which will be constructed by Valencia Digital Port Connect as part of a cable project known as Barracuda. The new facility will have capacity to serve up to four submarine cables and house a data centre with 96 racks. The project has an initial construction budget of more than EUR10 million (USD11 million). Barracuda will comprise the Alicante-Valencia-Madrid leg of the Medusa Submarine Cable System, which will connect a number of countries along the Mediterranean by 2025. Enrique Martin, Valencia Digital Port Connect CEO, said: ‘It is a giant step in achieving the final objective of obtaining the authorisation. It allows us to be optimistic, despite the delays accumulated to date, with the execution deadlines to have the infrastructure in service for the first half of 2025.’ As currently planned, the Medusa cable will span 8,760km and will consist of 24 fibre pairs, offering 480Tbps (20Tbs per fibre pair) of design capacity. The Medusa system is also set to land at Orange Group’s CLS in Marseille (France), and AFR-IX’s recently completed Barcelona CLS, which is also the landing point for the Meta-led 2Africa cable.

An Israeli investment fund is reportedly set to provide funding for the Trans Europe Asia System (TEAS) submarine cable aiming to link Israel to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states – United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, as well as Jordan and Palestine on a route between Marseille in France and Mumbai in India, the Middle East Eye writes. The 20,000km system, which will include submarine and terrestrial sections, is comprised of two separate connections across the Mediterranean Sea, continuing with two paths interconnecting the Middle East with multiple routes across the Arabian Peninsula (from Ras al Khair on the Gulf to Amman and then onto Israel), and a southern segment along the seabed from the Indian Ocean through the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.

Sparkle has announced the deployment of Infinera and Nokia technologies on its global optical terrestrial and submarine networks to further enhance its offerings. With the deployment of C band + L band (C+L) photonic nodes on the terrestrial links in Europe, the Middle East and South America, Sparkle will increase its transmission capacity up to 38.4Tbps per fibre pair, thus providing connectivity services up to 800G per wavelength between key locations. The new technology will initially be deployed between 23 major PoPs in Europe over 12,465km, with the first link to connect Milan (Italy) with Frankfurt (Germany). The C+L technology will also benefit all of Sparkle’s proprietary optical submarine links, including the upcoming BlueMed fibre pairs. All new capacity additions on the MedNautilus in the Mediterranean, Curie in the Pacific Ocean, Seabras and Monet in the Atlantic, as well as on the remaining submarine infrastructure, will be deployed using the said technologies.

A cut of the West Africa Cable System (WACS) submarine cable system has now been repaired. The fault was detected at the end of last month, around 100km from the coast of the Matombi station in Pointe-Noire (the Republic of Congo). The issue was reportedly caused by ‘fishing gear’.

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Bahamas, Cape Verde, China, Colombia, Congo, Rep., Costa Rica, Egypt, France, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Hong Kong, Israel, Liberia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Spain, AFR-IX telecom, Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), China Mobile, China Telecom Group, China Unicom, Cinia Group (formerly Corenet), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), HMN Tech (formerly Huawei Marine), Infinera, Meta (incl. Facebook), Nokia, Orange Group, Puerto Rico Telephone Company (Claro), Sparkle (formerly Telecom Italia Sparkle)

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