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New Submarine Cable Systems

Deep Blue Cable to Usher in New Opportunities for the Caribbean

Submarine Cable NewsFeed - New Submarine Cable Systems

Wednesday, 06 September 2017 11:18

Editor’s Note: The Caribbean region has seen little in the way of new subsea systems in recent years.  Most of the submarine fiber optic cable infrastructure dates back around the turn of the century. Given this, it is perhaps not surprising that the largest system to have a supply contract announcement to date in 2017 is one that is destined for the Caribbean.

In July, Deep Blue Cable announced that it had contracted with TE SubCom to build a new Caribbean cable network. The system design spans nearly 12,000 km with initial landing points in 12 markets throughout the region, including the Cayman Islands, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, and Turks & Caicos Islands, with dual diverse landings in the U.S., which will include the first landing of a cable on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Stephen Scott, CEO of Deep Blue Cable, and Dave Robles, Managing Director, America Sales from TE SubCom, about the Deep Blue project. The following are their perspectives into the project that, when completed, will be one of the largest Caribbean cable systems ever deployed. 

Scott: Interest in building a new submarine cable system began when the investors in Deep Blue Cable were studying market conditions in the Caribbean. First, they began looking at the age of the Caribbean submarine cables that are currently in service and when those cables were going to pass their operating timeframe. A major shareholder in Deep Blue who is also a shareholder in Digicel, a leading mobile phone company in the Caribbean, recognized that this would be a risk factor for Digicel in the future. 

Secondly, in general terms, the cost of traffic in the Caribbean is higher than it should be, as there is not much in the way of competition. The existing supply comes predominately from Cable & Wireless, who do a very good job at bringing services to many of the islands in the Caribbean, but it’s a monopoly. Pricing in the Caribbean isn’t market established, so the costs of connections are very high and it excludes many of the business development opportunities on those islands. 

Lastly and quite specifically, for Digicel it is an opportunity to come in and create a system that will give them an opportunity to ensure price-competitive connectivity to mainland US for many years to come, including beyond the next five to seven years when there is a very significant end-of-life of systems in that region. Digicel and Deep Blue Cable have a common shareholder, but otherwise we’re fully independent. 

When we began planning our network, we were primarily focused on building out to the big islands throughout the Caribbean where the most capacity was going to be required over the next 10 or 15 years.  And on the way through, we wanted to design it so that we could connect some of the smaller islands at the same time or plan to connect them up at a later phase. So, whereas there are about 20 landings in phase 1, at the end of phase 2 and 3 there will be 40 or more landings throughout the Caribbean. 

Robles: For a network like Deep Blue, the capacity demands are relatively modest compared to the “big pipe” routes like the transatlantic and transpacific, where you are trying to get as much capacity as possible from one end to the other. The objective here is very different. From TE SubCom’s perspective, we were really focused on cost effectiveness; on how to make the network as economical as possible.  You start out with a relatively large number of landings, but then there’s the potential to grow that over time and you want to do that as efficiently as possible. 

On the cost effectiveness piece, we really went back to our standard product and looked at how we could remove some cost from there. It was a relatively minor change but it had a definite impact on the cost side and that was just modifying our SL17 cable just very slightly, removing some material without compromising on the strength. We were able to remove quite a bit of material cost there. 

With regard to network flexibility, the very first conversations we had with Steve’s team were really around the network architecture, and we recommended Optical Add Drop Multiplexing (OADM)-type architecture that allows you to add and drop wavelengths to some of these smaller landings – you can just drop a wave or two or whatever you want at 100 Gbps each. We do that by using OADM in the wet plant itself.  That’s an area that TE SubCom pioneered about 10 years ago and we’re applying a version of that here.  So, we steered Deep Blue toward a trunk and branch-type design based on OADM technology. That reduced the number of landings involved and made the whole thing a lot more cost-effective while preserving flexibility by being able to drop more capacity in the long term. 

TE SubCom announced late last year a partnership with Ciena to jointly offer turnkey solutions where we provide the wet plant and Ciena provides the dry plant. So, there is really a joint effort here when we talk about a network architecture to smoothly evolve the capacity over time and this is due to close coordination between SubCom and Ciena. This is a great example of that partnership really working. 

What we typically see when we bring a major project into a region like this, is that it tends to stimulate other activity — feeder systems, additional branches and other links to tap into regional networks — so, we’re optimistic that this is the beginning of a growth cycle throughout the region as a whole. If you look at the way the Deep Blue cable is designed, there are a lot of additional branching units along the way for expansion and to get to all sorts of different places throughout the region. And the OADM technology I described earlier tends to lend itself to that.  So, we’re excited about where this is headed, with the initial build and then going beyond that with additional opportunities. It’s a great opportunity for SubCom over the longer term as well. 

Scott: In terms of demand in the Caribbean, when we began to study the region, it boiled down to the fact that you have the language skills and a well-qualified, eager workforce that wanted to get into the call center, NOC and help desk types of services. We’ve seen this story before in other parts of the world. In India, for example, it has really transformed the Indian business environment. In the Caribbean, they haven’t been able to copy that success because those types of services have become very bandwidth intensive in terms of the interaction with the client and the resilience needed to see those industries develop. 

More immediately, there’s the domestic side – the retail element. There is strong demand among the populations of those islands for high-bandwidth services. This is especially true for video, which requires very, very significant bandwidth to get the best out of it. 5G mobile technology is going to require about 40 times the capacity as 4G and that has to come from somewhere. 

In terms of growth, we looked at other developing regions over the past 15 years. We’ve seen how take-up of mobile broadband and video technologies, such as HDTV and 4K video (and with 8K video right around the corner), have increased tremendously the demand for bandwidth in those regions. In the Caribbean, if you take even the most pessimistic view of growth and capacity, it is still much, much more than what is available today. 

One thing that is really unique about Deep Blue’s cable is that it will have a Florida Gulf Coast landing, which has never been done before. The advantages that the State of Florida recognizes is that all of the landings are on the east coast and that if there was a significant event you would have a massive impact on connectivity, not only on Caribbean but also on South and Central American traffic. 

For us, it was from a design standpoint that looked like it would work well. We’ve had some good discussions with the U.S. Department of Defense about support. The company that is handling the applications for us in the United States has a great deal of confidence in us that we will be successful, providing that we meet the exact requirements for where and how we land and what we avoid on the way in. It isn’t weaving a cable through an oil field. It is predominantly environmental considerations. 

We’ve looked at a number of very good landing sites and had preliminary discussions in regard to access. I’m confident, and from an architecture standpoint, it looks very good for Deep Blue. It creates a degree of product separation when compared to the other operators in the region. That’s why we wanted to do it. 

Robles: From the construction perspective, any time you do a new landing in a new place there are special challenges and studies to be done. We’re going through that process now, sending teams out to the sites and scoping out the best location for the actual cable landing and manhole. The good news is that we’ve been to Florida many, many times. The environmental regime and the permitting process that you have to go through is the same whether you’re on the Gulf Coast or Atlantic Coast. 

We know the process very, very well. We know the people who we need to speak to. So, we have a high degree of confidence that we can get it done on schedule. Of course, the actual details of the sensitivity of the environment and habitat can change from place to place, so it is difficult to talk today about what the final solution is going to be. We’re still going through the initial stages, but I don’t think there is any great concern about getting it done. 

Scott: There is a natural buildup of terrestrial fiber on the west coast of Florida to meet the requirements of the demographics. I think a by-product of that is some good infrastructure getting planned. We can create some restoration around there as well. 

We did a significant re-design of the system with the support of SubCom. We changed a lot of things regarding how we restored around the loop. It really illuminated the obvious need to have a cable system that lands in the western side of Florida. With the architecture now, we have a whole system on the western side that stands in its own right, and an eastern system that has some cross-over and has many of the islands heavily protected. We have a lot of really smart guys who designed it well and that really plays to our advantage.

Submarine cable isn’t like terrestrial - it’s very expensive and takes a long time planning. The world is pretty unforgiving if in five years’ time we realize that we didn’t quite plan it right and it’s not as flexible as we want it to be. So, we thought long and hard about what, five years down the line, people were going to be asking Deep Blue Cable to be doing in terms of flexing itself around that region. We tried to put into it enough capacity and enough redundancy to allow us to meet those requirements going forward.  

 

Quintillion Cable Construction Status Report

Submarine Cable NewsFeed - New Submarine Cable Systems

Monday, 28 August 2017 13:21

Quintillion is constructing an 1800-km state-of-the-art, subsea fiber optic/broadband network with landing points in six key Alaska markets located on the Arctic/Northern Slope, the first such system deployed in this region.

The Quintillion Subsea Cable System will be connected in the Q4 2017 timeframe to a currently operational Quintillion terrestrial fiber optic network capable of transporting massive amounts of data and internet traffic to the lower 48 states and international gateways.  Quintillion will be launching commercial operations and providing broadband services to clients addressable to its completed subsea/terrestrial network infrastructure in this same timeframe and is extremely excited to deliver innovative technology and capability to Alaska business entities and other potential clients, who have waited too long for modern technology and broadband services, available to them at a reasonable cost.

The cable-laying vessel Ile de Batz and several support vessels are currently installing the remaining cable off the northern coast of Alaska. Installation will be completed later this summer and the system is scheduled to go live by December 1, 2017.  Phase I (Alaska) includes development of a subsea trunk line from Prudhoe Bay to Nome with branching lines to Deadhorse, Utqiagvik (Barrow), Wainwright, Pt. Hope, Kotzebue and Nome. In addition, new fiber has been installed between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay that will connect these northern Alaska communities to the Pacific Northwest.

Once Phase I in Alaska is complete this year, the Quintillion Subsea Cable System plans to connect Asia to Western Europe via the southern portion of the Northwest Passage through the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic, with potential connections into Northern Canada.

 

Watershed Moment for African Internet

Submarine Cable NewsFeed - New Submarine Cable Systems

Thursday, 17 August 2017 12:39

Angola Cables took a step closer to completion of the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) at an official launch in Sangano, Angola. SACS is the first direct link between Africa and South America. The installation of the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) – a subsea cable with 40 Tbps of capacity that will extend more than 6,500 km to Fortaleza, Brazil – began on the Angolan coast in the municipality of Quissama. The SACS system is being constructed by NEC Corporation.

The launch event was attended by José Carvalho da Rocha, the Angolan Minister of Telecommunications and Technologies, local and international business leaders, as well as the shareholders and guests of Angola Cables. The installation of SACS is considered a strategic project for Angola to advance the region’s digital economy and to improve global communications.

When the entire network is completed, along with associated elements such as data centers and Internet Exchange Points, SACS will offer a paradigm shift in Africa’s telecommunications sector. According to António Nunes, CEO of Angola Cables, “For Angolans, the time to access content available in America – the largest center for the production and aggregation of digital content and services – will improve fivefold.” Currently it takes approximately 300 milliseconds to connect between Angola and Brazil. With SACS, the latency – the time lag between a data packet being sent and received – is expected to be reduced to approximately 60 milliseconds.

“Angola is becoming one of the telecommunications hubs in sub-Saharan Africa,” added Nunes. “Current cable systems, such as WACS, together with the SACS and Monet cables systems – complemented by local data centers – will improve connectivity, but also economically benefit Angola and the surrounding regions as tech companies requiring high connectivity establish and grow their operations in Africa.”

The installation phase of the cable on the Angolan shore is one of the most important aspects of the project as several levels of interaction and activity are required with several entities simultaneously, and therefore constitute a critical and high risk moment. The protection of both the cable and the teams involved is one of the aspects analyzed and therefore the work is rigorous and well planned. “The installation of SACS represents the realization of a dream, a development that reflects our ability to find solutions and overcome challenges, always having in mind the final objective,” said António Nunes.

 

Installation of SACS Begins in Angola

Submarine Cable NewsFeed - New Submarine Cable Systems

Tuesday, 15 August 2017 08:30

Angola Cables took a step closer to completion of the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) at an official launch on August 9 in Sangano, Angola. SACS is the first direct link between Africa and South America. The installation of the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) – a subsea cable with 40 Tbps of capacity that will extend more than 6,500 km to Fortaleza, Brazil – began on the Angolan coast in the municipality of Quissama. The SACS system is being constructed by NEC Corporation.

The launch event was attended by José Carvalho da Rocha, the Angolan Minister of Telecommunications and Technologies, local and international business leaders, as well as the shareholders and guests of Angola Cables. The installation of SACS is considered a strategic project for Angola to advance the region’s digital economy and to improve global communications.

When the entire network is completed, along with associated elements such as data centers and Internet Exchange Points, SACS will offer a paradigm shift in Africa’s telecommunications sector. According to António Nunes, CEO of Angola Cables, “For Angolans, the time to access content available in America – the largest center for the production and aggregation of digital content and services – will improve fivefold.” Currently it takes approximately 300 milliseconds to connect between Angola and Brazil. With SACS, the latency – the time lag between a data packet being sent and received – is expected to be reduced to approximately 60 milliseconds.

“Angola is becoming one of the telecommunications hubs in sub-Saharan Africa,” added Nunes. “Current cable systems, such as WACS, together with the SACS and Monet cables systems – complemented by local data centers – will improve connectivity, but also economically benefit Angola and the surrounding regions as tech companies requiring high connectivity establish and grow their operations in Africa.”

The installation phase of the cable on the Angolan shore is one of the most important aspects of the project as several levels of interaction and activity are required with several entities simultaneously, and therefore constitute a critical and high risk moment. The protection of both the cable and the teams involved is one of the aspects analyzed and therefore the work is rigorous and well planned. “The installation of SACS represents the realization of a dream, a development that reflects our ability to find solutions and overcome challenges, always having in mind the final objective,” said António Nunes.

 

How is the submarine fiber optic cable industry doing in 2016?

Submarine Cable NewsFeed - New Submarine Cable Systems

Friday, 22 July 2016 18:03

The submarine fiber optic cable industry has had more than its share of ups and downs in its roughly 30-year history, so it is always interesting to take a moment to consider where it stands today.  We look at two metrics when judging the health of the industry: new contract award announcements and new project announcements.  The first indicates how much business there is for the suppliers, the second is a measure of the industry’s optimism for being able to develop and finance new cable systems in the future. 

So where do we stand?  Cable contract announcements for the first half of 2016 are down by about 50% from the same period last year, while new project announcements are up by the same amount.

What does this mean?  While new awards are down, the previous two years were very strong and the current downturn is probably nothing more than the industry “catching its breath.”  More significantly, the huge increase in projects coming into development shows a high level of enthusiasm.  Not all will go to contract, but there should be enough entering the pipeline to keep the industry growing at a significant rate.

The second half of 2016 could tell us much more about the state of the industry.  If contract award totals rebound or even just remain at the current level, things should continue to look bright.  If they slump further or if a number of already-contracted-for projects run into difficulty, there could be factors coming into play that would be a cause for concern down the road. 

Subscribe to the Submarine Cable World NewsFeed to follow the industry on a daily basis and see how the year develops.

 

Angola Cables commends Ocean Specialists’ role in subsea cable project development

Submarine Cable NewsFeed - New Submarine Cable Systems

Thursday, 21 April 2016 12:39

Following their recent announcement of a partnership that will install over 17,000km of new subsea cable directly connecting Angola, Brazil and the United States, Angola Cables has affirmed and praised Ocean Specialists, Incorporated (OSI) for the highly strategic role the subsea cable advisory and project management firm has played in the design and development of Angola Cables’ global network build out. 

Angola Cables, with the strategic and operational support of OSI, has initiated two innovative new subsea cable networks.  The first, known as the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) links Angola with Brazil, is already under construction and marks the first South Atlantic modern D-WDM fiber optic cable network in history.  The second, the recently announced Monet cable network, will further connect Santos and Fortaleza in Brazil and Boca Raton, Florida, providing onward connectivity to Angola via SACS.  The Brazil-US network is currently under construction in partnership with Algar Telecom (Brazil), Antel (Uruguay) and Google.

Subsea telecommunications cable networks are critical to global voice and data communications, and carry over 98% of the worlds’ telecommunications traffic.  High-speed fiber optic networks are essential to both businesses and consumers, and allow real-time access to apps, social media, websites and other bandwidth intensive services.  As the most efficient way to transmit information between continents and cities, fiber optic cables provide added benefits of security and reliability that are indispensable to both telecom service providers and their enterprise customers.

“The design and implementation of a subsea cable network is a highly specialized undertaking, and OSI, as our partner in network development from the very beginning of the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) discussions, has been instrumental to our success.  From providing an initial economic viability analysis and network development strategy to evaluating investment options and network design, and then on to running a competitive tender process and rigorous evaluation process for our network contractor, OSI has been absolutely critical in supporting Angola Cables as we execute our regional and global strategy,” stated Antonio Nunes, CEO, Angola Cables.

“With their existing ownership in the West Africa Cable System (WACS), Angola Cables’ network build out across the Atlantic and on to the United States is an important piece in its Tier 1 global connectivity strategy,” stated Tom Soja, Vice President, OSI and Strategic Advisor to Angola Cables.  “The SACS and Monet networks, combined with the existing WACS network, place Angola in an excellent position to function as the ‘hub’ of Africa’s regional communications needs.”

Angola Cables has extended OSI’s five-year relationship and responsibilities to the project implementation phase which will carry the company’s involvement through to the final acceptance and initial O&M of the new subsea network. OSI – the industry’s leading submarine cable project management and delivery firm – has actively led and directed these two major supply contracts on behalf of Angola Cables, from project feasibility and funding to network build and installation, contracting two leading suppliers in the undersea cable industry for final project completion.

OSI’s team combines unequalled subsea cable development experience throughout the planning, design, procurement and installation phases of a subsea network development.  OSI minimizes project and network risk and maximizes return on investment to ensure project success. 

OSI provides Subsea Cable Network:

  • Planning including business case analysis, financial structure analysis, life-cycle planning and partner identification;
  • Design to fully consider and mitigate all risks, maximize system reliability and develop feasible budgetary targets;
  • Procurement using our teams’ vast experience working both for and with major industry suppliers; Installation & Commissioning from factory acceptance and quality assurance to ship reps and transmission experts;
  • Operations & Maintenance during initial commercial traffic and circuit turn-up and wet plant repair planning & contracting.
 

Schedule of upcoming conferences of interest to the submarine cable industry

Submarine Cable NewsFeed - New Submarine Cable Systems

Wednesday, 02 March 2016 10:12

As we noted earlier, there are a number of major conferences specifically for, or related to, the submarine cable industry in the upcoming months.  Here is a brief rundown:

SubOptic

3/16-21, Dubai

THE conference for the submarine cable industry, held once every three years

OFC

3/20-24, Anaheim, California

The annual Optical Fiber Communications Conference, a technology conference that often includes recent developments in submarine cable transmission technology

ITW

5/8-11

International Telecoms Week is the world’s largest meeting for the global wholesale telecommunications community

 

Aqua Comms to Present in Submarine Cable Workshop at PTC'16

Submarine Cable NewsFeed - New Submarine Cable Systems

Thursday, 14 January 2016 10:14

Aqua Comms Limited (AquaComms), a provider of scalable, subsea capacity-based network solutions, announces today that its Chief Operations Officer, Greg Varisco, will participate in a workshop at PTC’16 taking place 17–20 January 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii at the Hilton Hawaiian Village® Waikiki Beach Resort. Mr. Varisco will present at the conference’s “Submarine Cable Workshop: Waves of Change!” on Sunday, 17 January, at 11 am at Coral 2.

Organized by the David Ross Group, an international consultancy that specializes in undersea telecommunications networks, the Submarine Cable Workshop will examine how submarine cables comprise the critical infrastructure for the modern world of communications, carrying over 98% of intercontinental data traffic. Alongside executives from TE SubCom, Telekomunikasi Indonesia International, Microsoft and TeleGeography, Mr. Varisco will explore how subsea cables, including Aqua Comms’ America Europe Connect (AEConnect), one of the first transatlantic cables constructed between New York City and London in nearly 15 years, provide a web of comprehensive connectivity, reliability and redundancy.

Subtitled “The Changing Global Cable Map, What’s Next?” the Submarine Cable Workshop will also address the huge volumes of demand from Over-the-Top (OTT) content providers and the effects these demands will have on building the network of the future.

 

SEA-ME-WE 5 lands in Malaysia

Submarine Cable NewsFeed - New Submarine Cable Systems

Monday, 11 January 2016 09:36

As reported in Friday's Submarine Cable World NewsFeed, NEC has successfully landed the SEA-ME-WE 5 cable in Melaka, Malaysia.  NEC is responsible for the deployment of SEA-ME-WE 5 from Singapore to Sri Lanka.  Below are some photos of the landing.

 

NEC SMW5 image

NEC SMW5 image 2

 

SEACOM celebrates sixth "Foundation Day"

Submarine Cable NewsFeed - New Submarine Cable Systems

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 10:24

It is always nice to highlight the philanthropic side of the submarine cable industry.  East African submarine fiber optic cable operator SEACOM celebrated the sixth anniversary of its commercial launch by spending time with – and providing support to – local communities in the African countries where it has a direct presence.  Check out the details of SEACOM's work by using the following link: http://seacom.mu/seacom-celebrates-sixth-foundation-day-helping-communities-across-africa/

 

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