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

15 Aug 2014

This week, Japan’s NEC Corporation announced its selection as systems supplier for the proposed new trans-Pacific cable system, dubbed ‘FASTER’, being constructed by a consortium of six global telecoms companies. The new 60Tbps (100Gbps x 100 wavelengths x six fibre-pairs) system, which will connect the United States to two landing locations in Japan, is expected to be ready-for-service by 2Q16, and will cost approximately USD300 million to deploy. The six firms making up the consortium are: China Mobile International, China Telecom Global, Malaysia’s Global Transit (a wholly owned unit of Malaysian telco TIME dotCom), Google Inc, KDDI and SingTel. The new cable system will be landed at Chikura and Shima in Japan and will feature seamless connectivity to many neighbouring cable systems to extend the capacity beyond Japan to other Asian locations. Connections in the United States will extend the system to major hubs on the US West Coast covering the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle areas. The name FASTER was adopted to represent the cable system’s purpose of meeting rising demand for data traffic in the region.

Canadian start-up Arctic Fibre has given an update on its plan to construct a 15,000km Trans-Arctic Internet Cable, running from London through the Northwest Passage to Tokyo, Japan, connecting several places in between. Noting the project has been made possible as a result of the disappearance of sea ice year-round due to global warming, the Toronto-based company will soon start surveying the underwater route with a view to diversifying global fibre-optic capacity whilst reducing over-reliance on terrestrial systems traversing the unstable Middle East region, it said in a quote reported by BuzzFeed. Arctic Fibre is deploying state of the art technology utilisng 100 gigabit wavelengths to construct a system with a capacity of 24 terabits. The backbone cable will provide ultra-low latency service between Tokyo and London, and the system is scheduled to be in service in January 2016.

Cable & Wireless Communications (LIME) has announced that it will be leveraging its submarine fibre-optic network and far-reaching international partnerships to offer its business customers increased connectivity to, and benefits for, their offices across the globe via its ‘LIME Global Connect’ regional data services. According to LIME’s head of ICT Whitney Fennell: ‘LIME Global Connect is the newest addition to our data services portfolio and facilitates the simultaneous transmission of data, voice and video applications, ideally suited for regional and multinational businesses’. LIME boasts the region’s largest Internet Protocol (IP) and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) backbone that spans 13 Caribbean islands, while also being a leading carrier of global IP traffic.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) expects to complete the final stretch of its PHP1.3 billion (USD29.7 million) 600km fibre network rollout in northern Luzon within the year, and notes that the decision to put the cables underground will increase overall network resilience in the event of future storms in the area. PLDT is currently deploying a 124km fibre-optic link between Ilocos Norte and Tuguegarao, Cagayan, which will provide another loop in the operator’s Domestic Fibre-Optic Network (DFON). To date, work has been completed on links between Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, and La Union on the west coast of Luzon, while a separate link to Cagayan running through Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, Nueva Ecija has also been put into service. The carrier says the deployment will benefit some eleven million Smart Communications and Sun Cellular subscribers in the region, as well as 450,000 PLDT HOME users and other businesses in Northern Luzon. The DFON infrastructure, comprising six major loops and four sub-tending loops, currently spans 88,000km of terrestrial and submarine fibre-optic cables, and connects the Philippine archipelago through strategically placed cable landing stations. It has a total capacity of 5.15Tbps.

Telecom Namibia says that repair work on the West Africa Cable System (WACS) off Namibia’s coast is scheduled to start on 16 August 2014. In a statement, the telco notes that a cable fault affecting traffic transiting via the Swakopmund WACS Cable Station was detected in late-May, and whilst traffic flow was restored with an interim solution, the cable will now be repaired fully now that the fault has been localised. The repair work is expected to be completed by 23 August, depending on weather conditions, the outcome of the preliminary onsite inspection and deployment of the repair vessel. For the duration of the repair, Telecom Namibia will reroute traffic through other cable systems. WACS is a 14,530km submarine cable system, connecting South Africa to Europe via West African countries including Namibia and was officially put into operation on 26 June 2012. The total cost for the cable system was USD650 million. It transports the majority of internet traffic for Namibia, Botswana and Zambia.

And finally, Google Inc says it is looking to tackle the problem of hungry sharks mistaking its undersea cables as lunch. Under the initiative, the search engine giant – which owns over 100,000 miles of private fibre-optic routes around the world – is going to reinforce thousands of miles of cable because of confused Selachimorpha. Google cloud team project manager Dan Belcher confirmed that the company has been shielding its trans-Pacific submarine cables with what he calls ‘Kevlar-like material’ to protect them from shark attacks, but did not elaborate. Scientists suggest that sharks are tempted to munch the fibre-optic cables pipes mistaking electric impulses in the cable for potential prey.

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