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

19 Jul 2019

Vocus Group has revealed that the 4,700km Coral Sea Cable System (CSCS) aiming to link Sydney (Australia) to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Honiara in the Solomon Islands has now been installed at the landing sites at both PNG and the Solomon Islands. A statement from Vocus said that 42 repeaters will be placed along the length of the cable between Honiara and Sydney. The four fibre-pair system will deliver a minimum of 20Tbps capacity to PNG and the Solomon Islands, respectively, bringing a total capacity of 40Tbps. The cable system, along with a 730km submarine cable system connecting Honiara to Auki (Malaita Island), Noro (New Georgia Island) and Taro Island, is set to be completed by the end of the year. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s Cable Compendium, in July 2018 Australia’s Vocus Group enlisted Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) to build the CSCS cable. The AUD137 million (USD101 million) cable project was awarded to Vocus by the Australian government in June 2018.

Elsewhere, Vocus has boosted the end-to-end capacity of its Australia-Singapore Cable (ASC) submarine system linking Perth (Australia) to Singapore via Jakarta in Indonesia to 60Tbps, a 50% increase from its initial launch. The ASC submarine cable system stretches 4,600km, and also features an onward spur to the Christmas Islands. Vocus says that the Singapore-Indonesia connection now has a capacity of up to 44Tbps and the Perth-Indonesia branch has seen its capacity increase to up to 33Tbps. Vocus Chief Executive of Wholesale Mark Callander said: ‘Based on the current demand, we expect to see capacity on ASC exceed 4Tbps within the first twelve months of launch, and there is increasing demand across all paths to the west.’ Vocus is also planning to expand the ASC system, according to Callander: ‘The ASC provides valuable future options, such as a connection to our existing North West Cable System that extends from Port Headland [Australia] to Darwin [Australia]… It also gives us more options into Indonesia, the fourth most populated nation in the world, and with the seventh largest economy that is growing at around 5%.’

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has submitted a petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stating that DHS has no objection to the FCC approving an application filed by ATN Undersea Cable Corporation (ATN Cable), a wholly-owned subsidiary of ATN International, to construct, land and operate a fibre-optic submarine cable system extending between the islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands (USVI) on the condition that the ATN abide by its Letter of Assurances (LOA) of June 2019. The ATN has undertaken to comply with a number of conditions, including: maintaining a security point of contact (POC); providing cable system information and principal equipment information 60 days prior to commencement of system construction; providing 15-day advance notice prior to any maintenance and repair work on the system; and providing 30-day notice to any change in its list of vendors and/or contractors. The VILink System will land in Nazareth, St. Thomas and Christiansted, St. Croix and will have one non-repeatered segment composed of 24 fibre strands. The cable’s initial deployment will use 10Gbps wavelengths on a single fibre pair and may be upgraded to 40Gbps and/or 100Gbps technology in the future. ATN Cable is the only proposed owner of the VILink System and will be the landing party in both St. Thomas and St. Croix; ATN will exclusively control and operate all aspects of the VILink System.

Ketchikan Public Utilities (KPU) has applied for a licence to construct, land and operate a private submarine fibre-optic cable connecting Ketchikan (Alaska) with an existing landing station at Prince Rupert (British Columbia, Canada). The KetchCan1 Submarine Fiber Cable System will consist of a single continuous segment approximately 167km in length. The KetchCan1 system will have up to 48 fibres with a design capacity of 2.4Tbps per fibre pair and an initial lit capacity of 200Gbps. KPU will operate the cable system on a non-common carrier basis. The KPU intends to commence commercial operation of the cable system in September 2020 and is seeking a ‘timely grant’ of a cable landing licence ‘no later than October 2019’, in order to have all of the permits and licences in place prior to awarding the bid and placing the cable order (scheduled for November/December 2019). KPU will own, control, and operate all portions of the cable system.

Chile’s Transport and Telecommunications Ministry (MTT) and the Development Bank of Latin America (Corporacion Andina de Fomento – Banco de Desarrollo de America Latina, CAF) have entered into a CLP2.1 billion (USD3 million) technical cooperation agreement to finance a feasibility study for the Asia-South America Digital Gateway submarine cable project. The study will provide the technical, legal, financial and economic specifications for the construction of an undersea cable between the two continents. The potential cable route covers a distance of approximately 24,000km and its initial design includes at least two fibre-optic pairs, with a transmission capacity of between 10Tbps-20Tbps. Telecommunications Undersecretary Pamela Gidi disclosed that, regardless of the results of the feasibility study, the government will take the necessary measures to ensure that part of the route passes by Easter Island. The MTT expects the first results of the study during the second half of 2019, with plans to create the holding consortium tasked with the construction of the cable during 2020. The tender’s terms and conditions will become available next week, with the MTT aiming to begin the auction process via the Department of Telecommunications (Subsecretaria de Telecomunicaciones, Subtel) shortly after.

Submarine cable operator SEACOM is interested in acquiring capacity on Google’s Equiano submarine cable between Africa and Europe, TechCentral writes. SEACOM CEO Byron Clatterbuck was quoted as saying that an agreement with Google is not yet signed, though the two sides are currently engaged in discussions. The Equiano system will initially link Lisbon (Portugal) to Cape Town in South Africa, with planned branches to Nigeria and potentially other African countries. The new system, to be laid by Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), is scheduled to enter operations by 2021. The cable, equipped with space-division multiplexing (SDM) technology, is designed with nine branching points, strategically located by West African countries, but at present the only one with a projected landing is at Lagos (Nigeria) – to be added after the link to South Africa goes live in 2021. Clatterbuck also said that his company is paying close attention to plans by Facebook to build the Simba system linking the African continent’s eastern, western and Mediterranean coasts. Elsewhere, SEACOM is looking to double its capacity this year, according to Clatterbuck, with the executive cited as saying: ‘Given the rapid growth from various cloud service providers, as well as bandwidth-hungry corporates, SEACOM is upgrading its subsea cable systems’ lit capacity from 1.5Tbps today to 3Tbps. The upgrade will be completed this year.’

The Association of Submarine Cable Operators of Nigeria (ASCON) is seeking the partnership of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to ensure the protection of submarine and terrestrial cables and other critical infrastructure in the telecoms industry, the Guardian writes. The association noted that the cost of repairing damage to submarine cables could range from USD1 million to USD3 million to repair a single fault. The ASCON said that it is crucial for the regulator to intervene in ensuring that submarine cables are protected from damages resulting from external factors, including maritime activities that impact the seabed such as ship anchoring, dredging and fishing practices like bottom trawl fishing.

Lastly, Zayo Group Holdings has announced that it will significantly expand its fibre network in central Florida by adding more than 2,300 route miles of high-fibre count network in its new markets of Tampa (1,200 route miles) and Orlando (over 1,000 route miles).

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