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

20 Jun 2014

Reliance Communication’s (RCom’s) submarine cable unit Global Cloud Xchange (formerly known as Reliance Globalcom) is to build a submarine cable connecting Mumbai and Singapore with total investment on the link set to reach USD200 million. The move forms part of Indian operator RCom’s strategy to provide a direct subsea route along a corridor that will be accessible to a number of emerging markets. It is reportedly in talks with three unnamed groups – one of which is a technology specialist – to partner it in the construction of the ICX submarine cable, and according to Global Cloud Xchange Chief Executive Officer William Barney, RCom is putting up USD40-USD45 million of the monies needed for the project. The remaining investment will be provided by RCom’s three partners, he said. The ICX cable, which is expected to go live in 24 months, will have landing stations at Mumbai, Thiruvananthapuram and Chennai, before proceeding to Singapore, Barney added, noting that Global Cloud Xchange is also considering the siting of landing stations in cities in Sri Lanka. ‘This cable will enable us to become the largest submarine cable operator connecting Europe with Asia,’ he is quoted as saying.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) chairman Manuel V Pangilinan has announced that the company is to build a new cable landing station in Visayas – one of the country’s three principal geographical regions – to further improve its network resilience/redundancy across the country. Pangilinan says that Visayas would appear the ‘most likely’ location given that PLDT has two cable landing points already in another region, Luzon, one in La Union, two in Batangas and one in Daet, Camarines Sur. The new cable landing station would be funded by a consortium of telcos, he said. PLDT is a key member of a number of cable consortia operating in the region, namely the Asia-America Gateway, Asia Submarine Cable Express and the Asia Pacific Cable Network. In May this year, PLDT confirmed it is investing around PHP1 billion (USD22.9 million) to add a further 15,000km of new fibre-optic cable facilities in 2014, extending the group’s total fibre network to nearly 100,000km by the end of this year.

The owners of Hong Kong-based undersea cable operator Pacnet are again looking to sell off the company, thought to be valued at around USD1 billion, and have taken the first tentative steps to seek out a potential buyer for the business. According to Bloomberg, which cites people familiar with the matter, some of Pacnet’s principal investors, namely Ashmore Investment Management Ltd, Spinnaker Capital Ltd and Clearwater Capital Partners, are working with the bank Credit Suisse on the sale, with Citic Telecom International Holdings Ltd, a unit of China’s largest state-owned investment firm, rumoured to be among the frontrunners. Interestingly, Citic is also being linked to a possible bid for the submarine cable assets of India’s Reliance Communications (RCom). Pacnet owns and operates more than 46,000km of submarine cables, connecting Asia and the United States, but its owners are seeking an exit strategy as competition from regional telcos heats up. Last year, rivals switched on two competing submarine cable systems in the region, while a third is due to start operation before the end of this year.

Angola Cables has announced a strategic partnership with German-based Internet exchange operator DE-CIX, to establish a long-term collaboration and create the foundations of a new neutral interconnection environment in Angola and in the Southern African Region. Angola Cables, which is managing the Angolan participation in the WACS submarine cable and the upcoming SACS link to Brazil, says it will be supported by DE-CIX via the new memorandum of understanding (MOU). Antonio Nunes, president of Angola Cables, said: ‘The MOU comes at a critical time in the development of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Internet market, as major global and local players increasingly face the challenge of promoting innovative Internet services while continuing to ensure safe and effective online usage. DE-CIX has experience in developing strong Internet ecosystems around the world.’

Xtera Communications has won a contract on a turnkey basis from the US Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to build a new undersea fibre-optic cable system within the ‘Southern Command’ area of responsibility. The US Southern Command (or Southcom) is located in Doral, Florida, and its assigned area of responsibility includes Central and South America plus parts of the Caribbean. The planned cable system will be approximately 1,500km long and will enable connectivity to the Defense Information System Network (DISN) via fibre-optics. Xtera will supply its turnkey 100G optimised submarine system solution for this project, including undersea optical repeaters, ‘Nu-Wave Optima’ Submarine Line Terminal Equipment (SLTE), cable and all marine services.

Australia’s Vocus Communications has entered into an agreement with Telecom New Zealand to acquire the latter’s 10% interest in the Sea-Me-We 3 cable between Perth and Singapore for USD2.3 million. The cable, which is currently the only undersea cable connecting Perth to Asia, has a current design capacity of 140Gbps to be upgraded later this year to 300Gbps. The system is 100G capable and it is expected there will be further upgrades in coming years, while its lifespan extends to 2025. Vocus added that this investment has been underpinned by a long-term contract with ‘a major US enterprise customer’.

Kazakhstan’s Kazakhtelecom and China Telecom have agreed to expand capacity of their telecoms network links on the Kazakhstan-China border to 200Gbps.

SubPartners has announced that TE SubCom has reserved 3,300km of SL17 submarine cable for use within the APX-West (Singapore to Perth, Australia) cable system. APX-West is a four fibre-pair system which will connect Perth, Australia to Changi North, Singapore with planned branches to Jakarta, Indonesia and Christmas Island. The system is approximately 4,700km long and has an initial design capacity of up to 32Tbps. It is expected to be Ready for Service (RFS) by Q2 2016.

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