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

4 Aug 2017

Russia’s Ministry of Communications and Mass Media is planning to support a project for the construction of a trans-Arctic fibre-optic cable system, reports Comnews.ru. The cable system would connect Bude in the UK with Tokyo (Japan) via the cities of Murmansk, Anadyr and Vladivostok in Russia. The project is being carried out by the Russian company Polarnet Project, though Finnish company Cinia Group has also expressed interest. Polarnet and Cinia are reportedly planning to establish a joint venture for the development of the project in August. The Russian and Chinese governments discussed the deployment of the cable system last week.

Angola Cables will start the deployment of the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) on 9 August in the coastal area of Sangano in the Quissama municipality of Brazil, reports Jornal de Angola. SACS is a 40Tbps cable – 6,165km in length – with four fibre pairs that will connect Angola to Brazil, linking Africa and the Americas; the cable is expected to be ready for service (RFS) by mid-2018.

Bolivian operator Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Entel) has announced plans to invest between USD40 million and USD60 million to roll out a fibre-optic cable through Peru to the Pacific Ocean, Los Tiempos writes. Entel’s manager Oscar Coca is planning to meet with Peru’s Minister of Public Works on 8 August, ‘to address the issue’. The executive added that work on the submarine cable project is expected to begin by the end of 2017, and is scheduled to take a year to complete. TeleGeography notes that land-locked Bolivia currently takes most of its international fibre connectivity via links with neighbouring Chile, but these connections are expensive and the government is negotiating with other countries such as Brazil and Argentina in an attempt to source other routes. The proposal to deploy a 1,600km link via Peru to the Pacific Ocean was first unveiled in March 2015, though no timescale for the rollout was disclosed at the time.

Global Marine Systems (GMS) has been contracted to undertake a repair to the Murdoch-Cygnus fibre-optic cable in the North Sea. The cable repair is scheduled to take approximately 14 days, depending upon weather or other operational conditions. The submarine cable linking the two platforms was installed by GMS in 2015 on behalf of Tampnet, which claims to operate ‘the largest offshore high capacity communication network in the world’, carrying traffic for approximately 240 platforms and a large number of vessels in the Norwegian, Danish and the UK sectors of the North Sea. Its fibre-optic submarine network directly interconnects Norway with the UK, and provides ‘the lowest latency between Norway, the UK and North America.’

Four companies have submitted bids for the fibre-optic project Fibra Optica Austral (shelved in October 2016 but relaunched in May this year), under which the Chilean government aims to deploy nearly 4,000km of fibre-optic infrastructure in the southern Patagonia region, BNamericas writes. The bidders were revealed as: Telefonica, which bid CLP53.5 billion (USD82.4 million); Chilean rural telecoms services provider CTR with CLP52.7 billion; Austral Telco – an investment consortium led by Chilean mobile operator WOM – CLP52.7 billion; and Canada’s VuPoint Systems Ltd (undisclosed financial offer). The tender encompasses four stretches: one 450km submarine cable linking Puerto Williams with Puerto Montt, in addition to three terrestrial connections across the Magallanes, Antartica Chilena, Aysen del General Carlos Ibanez del Camp and Los Lagos regions. Subtel will now evaluate the applications until 3 October (for the submarine portion of the project) and 17 October (terrestrial links). TeleGeography notes that Subtel relaunched the auction in May 2017; the regulator shelved the project in October last year, after Conexiones y Telefonia Austral was named as the sole company to have submitted a bid for one of the four sections of the network. The Fibra Optica Austral project will require an investment of USD100 million and is slated for completion by 2020.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is aiming to introduce a new licensing framework for Long Distance International (LDI) providers, with plans to award a new concession to spur investment in the sector, The Daily Times reports. The proposed new LDI licensee will be required to deploy a minimum of 8,000km of fibre-optic networks throughout Pakistan within eight years of licence award. In addition, the new provider would be required to participate in the deployment of new undersea submarine cables with diverse landing points (other than Karachi) within ten years. Further, the company would be required to set up a cross-border link with at least one country within five years of issuance of the LDI licence.

Safaricom has acquired a 260km fibre-optic cable between the cities of Marsabit (Kenya) and Moyale (on the border of Kenya and Ethiopia) from Mauritius-based Bandwidth and Cloud Services for an undisclosed sum, with the deal receiving regulatory approval from the anti-trust watchdog last Friday. Local news source Business Daily reported that the acquisition will provide Safaricom with additional redundancy route through Ethiopia in the event of outages on the Mombasa undersea cables. ‘We continuously look for means to expand our coverage and find additional fibre routes that will enable our customers to have convenient access to more connectivity options,’ Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore was cited as saying.

Italian investment firms F2i and Marguerite have reached an agreement with a group of investors for the purchase of 89.81% of MC-link for EUR50.5 million (USD60 million) via the F2i Fiber fund (80/20 owned by F2i and Marguerite), which also entered into an agreement with Serenissima Partecipazioni, a subsidiary of Abertis Group, for the acquisition of 94.12% of Infracom for EUR57.8 million. Once the deals are finalised (expected to take place in September), the two units – MC-link and Infracom – will be integrated into one platform. MC-link currently operates a fibre-optic network spanning 2,200km, seven Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) and four data centres: two in Rome, one in Milan and one in Trento. For its part, Infracom operates a 9,000km-long fibre-optic network in 35 Italian cities and three data centres: in Milan, Assago and Verona.

NTT Communications Corporation has launched international data network services in India through its affiliate NTT Communications India Network Services (NTTCINS). The company says it acquired a Virtual Network Operator-International Long Distance (VNO-ILD) network licence in March 2017. NTT Com revealed plans to invest more than USD160 million in two data centres in Mumbai and Bangalore, which will be operational by April 2018.

Lastly, Crown Castle International has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire LTS Group Holdings (Lightower) from Berkshire Partners, Pamlico Capital and other investors for approximately USD7.1 billion in cash (subject to certain limited adjustments). Crown Castle anticipates closing the transaction by the end of 2017. Lightower owns – or has rights to – approximately 32,000 route miles of fibre located primarily in top metropolitan markets in the North-east, including Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Following completion of the transaction, Crown Castle will own or have rights to approximately 60,000 route miles of fibre – effectively doubling its current footprint.

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