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

18 Jan 2019

Orange Group has announced the official inauguration of its wholly-owned Kanawa cable linking French Guiana and Martinique. The 1,746km cable is expected to be ready for service (RFS) by the end of January 2019. Comprised of two fibre pairs, Kanawa boasts design capacity of 100×100Gbps or 10Tbps, with landing stations in Kourou (French Guiana) and Schoelcher (Martinique). The new system will also provide interconnections with the Americas II cable in Martinique and French Guiana, and the East Caribbean Fibre System (ECFS) in Martinique. Stephane Richard, Chairman and CEO of Orange, said: ‘With its demographic growth and the growth in uses, French Guiana is one of the most dynamic territories for digital technology. We built Kanawa to meet this need for speed and to secure this region’s connection to the global network. This submarine cable, which we are inaugurating today, will connect French Guiana and Martinique and represents an investment of EUR35 million [USD40 million] for Orange.’

The Bangladeshi government has decided to connect the country to a new submarine cable, with a view to addressing rapidly growing data demand, The New Age Bangladesh cited telecoms minister Mustafa Jabbar as saying. Formation of another consortium for the deployment of the SeaMeWe-6 system is reportedly underway, and the Bangladeshi government has decided to join the consortium. Following the introduction of 4G services in the country, total bandwidth usage in the country has doubled, with Jabbar cited as saying that the existing capacity of the two submarine cables would be exhausted within 2020 or before that: ‘It would not be possible for us to provide required bandwidth unless alternative source of [bandwidth capacity] is created.’ The country was first connected to an international submarine system when the SeaMeWe-4 landed on its shores in 2006, while its connection to a second cable – the SeaMeWe-5 – was activated in 2018.

Orange Marine has embarked on the deployment of a 2,900km submarine cable on behalf of Chilean operator Comunicacion y Telefonia Rural (CTR) by landing the Fibra Optica Austral (FOA) system at Puerto Williams (Chile). The FOA system will connect the Chilean cities of Puerto Montt and Puerto Williams, with landings at Caleta Tortel and Punta Arenas. The FOA cable is part of the Chilean Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications’ (Miniseterio de Transportes y Telecomunicaciones’, MTT’s) project aiming to deploy nearly 4,000km of fibre-optic infrastructure in the southern Patagonia region. In October 2017 the ministry revealed that CTR won the tender for the submarine section and one of three land-based sections of the project. The cable was manufactured by HENGTONG Marine.

Telstra has purchased additional capacity on the New Cross Pacific (NCP) Cable System, while also disclosing a ‘further investment’ in the FASTER cable system. The telco did not reveal the scope of capacity it has added on the NCP, but said it was its ‘first large capacity purchase’ on the system. The 13,618km NCP network – which has design capacity of 80Tbps – is owned by a consortium of seven companies, namely China Telecom, China Unicom, Chunghwa Telecom, KT, China Mobile, Microsoft and Softbank Telecom; it entered commercial operations in May 2018. The 11,629km FASTER cable – which was built by NEC Corporation of Japan – connects Brandon, Oregon (US) to a number of major Asian cities, including Chikura and Shima in Japan and Tanshui in Taiwan. FASTER consists of six fibre-optic pairs with an initial design capacity of 60Tbps on the principal portion (Segments 1-4), while Segments 5 and 6 consist of two fibre pairs with 20Tbps initial design capacity; the branch to Taiwan has a design capacity of 26Tbps. The NCP/FASTER announcement follows on a string of recent investments in submarine cable routes: in January 2018 Telstra said it would purchase a half fibre pair on the Hong Kong Americas (HKA) cable and 6Tbps of capacity on the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) system (both slated for completion in 2020), while in December it agreed to acquire a 25% stake in Southern Cross Cable Network (SCCN) revealing it would purchase ‘substantial capacity’ on the SCCN cable and the in-deployment Southern Cross NEXT. Telstra has also invested in a half fibre pair on the INDIGO system (scheduled to be RFS in Q1 2019). Telstra said its investments in the SCCN, the HKA, the PLCN and the INDIGO systems will boost its owned submarine cable capacity by more than 25Tbps.

Elsewhere, Telstra – in cooperation with Ericsson and Ciena – has announced a new rapid restoration service to keep customers continuously connected. Telstra’s Head of Connectivity and Platforms, Nadya Melic, said that following successful trials in December, the new service – utilising Ciena’s GeoMesh Extreme solution – is now available on three of Telstra’s intra-Asia routes. Mrs Melic said: ‘Damage to a subsea cable can take weeks or even months to fix. But with our new continuous connection service, we are able to reroute customers impacted by potential damage to another subsea cable path on our three-path network in less than 30 minutes.’

The Tata TGN-Intra Asia (TGN-IA) cable system connecting Vietnam to Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines has encountered a power failure, VN Express writes. The disruption happened at several points off Singapore’s shore, according to Viettel. The cable is currently being repaired, though no indication has been given on when the system will resume full operations. The 6,700km cable was officially launched in November 2009, but has suffered numerous faults since inception.

Global Marine has been contracted to undertake an emergency submarine cable repair to the Sirius South fibre-optic cable in the Irish Sea. The CS Sovereign arrived on site on 15 January 2019, with repairs expected to take approximately five days. The 219km Sirius South system, owned by Virgin Media Business, connects Blackpool (the UK) with Dublin (Ireland).

Bahrain-based Batelco has enhanced its terrestrial fibre-optic cable system, dubbed Batelco Gulf Network (BGN), by adding a new protected route over the network. The BGN, launched in 2018, spans 1,400km and runs over the GCCIA electricity power grid, supporting up to 8.8Tbps of capacity to all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Adel Al Daylami, Chief Global Business Officer at Batelco, said: ‘As part of its comprehensive plans, Batelco is keen to establish a robust national and international infrastructure and this enhancement of BGN is one of the initiatives which supports the company’s vision towards building a cloud-centric foundation to foster innovation in the Kingdom and the region … The BGN features alternative pathways for submerged underwater routes, and with the introduction of the protection enhancement, customers can enjoy reliable solutions allowing them to run their operations smoothly and facilitating the introduction of new and innovative services.’

Lastly, Zayo has reportedly received a bid from an unnamed private equity investor valuing the company at USD8 billion, Capacity Media writes. Zayo, which operates a 130,000-mile fibre network across North America and Europe, was previously linked to takeover interest from a group of investors, including funds managed by Blackstone Group and Stonepeak Partners, though unnamed sources disclosed that there was no guarantee a deal would be reached as the company was focused on its announced plan to split into two. As reported by TeleGeography’s Cable Compendium, in November 2018 Zayo disclosed it will separate into two publicly traded companies – new infrastructure arm InfraCo will focus on providing core communications infrastructure, while EnterpriseCo will provide solutions for a broad set of enterprise customers.

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