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elcome to Issue 92, our Global Outlook Edition. I started my third cold today. Since the beginning of December I have sneezed my way through our annual Christmas Gløgg party, two holidays and one mini-vacation for two to New Orleans. Now with the new year upon us, I have started with a new grunge. My wife calls me a baby. And I suppose I am, but I am seriously becoming annoyed with all this hacking. Speaking of hacking, there has been an interesting debate growing here in Washington about who did or did not ‘hack’ during the recent

It’s only been twelve months since I last thought about it, but it is still amazing how much has changed in our industry.

election. And now with the inauguration quickly upon us a new administration, a new sheriff, is coming to town. I have been to other presidential inaugurations in the past. They are typically celebratory, hopeful events, but this year I will instead be as all mid-Januarys just coming back from PTC ’17 in Honolulu. I am normally quite happy to sit quietly in the audience and listen to others opine about our industry, but again this year I have been asked to participate in the submarine cable session. It’s only been twelve months since I last thought about it, but it is still amazing how much has changed in our industry. The sheer number of systems that are or have been built in the recent past is staggering. Whether the quick pace will continue or not, or whether we are starting a new phase, I look forward like you to learning. So as always, should you be attending PTC ’17, please come to the submarine cable session and our SubTel Forum booth to say hello –

I believe this cold will be well and truly gone by then; and of course, save me a seat at the mai tai bar! Wayne Nielsen is the Founder and Publisher of Submarine Telecoms Forum, and previously in 1991, founded and published “Soundings”, a print magazine developed for then BT Marine. In 1998, he founded and published for SAIC the magazine, “Real Time”, the industry’s first electronic magazine. He has written a number of industry papers and articles over the years, and is the author of two published novels, Semblance of Balance (2002, 2014) and Snake Dancer’s Song (2004).



IN THIS ISSUE... Exordium..............................................................3 by Wayne Nielsen News Now............................................................6

Global Outlook: The Year That Almost Was.......................................................10 by Kieran Clark Reviewing 2016 And Speculating About The Future.........................................................14 by John Tibbles Protecting $10 Trillion Worth of Transactions, Every Day..............................24 by Brian Lavallée SubOptic Insert...............................................29

A Cable Ship and a Rescue on the High Seas...........................................................32 by James Herron

Virginia Beach Is Now The Biggest Digital Port In The Mid-Atlantic...............38 by Rob Hudome 4

The Atlantic: 2017 Infrastructure Analysis..............................................................42 by Hubert Souisa & Horst Etzkorn

How I Successfully Managed To Build A Submarine Cable............................................50 by Mikinori Niino Back Reflection: The Origin Of The Optical Cable....................................................56 by José Chesnoy

Advertiser’s Corner.......................................64 by Krisitan Nielsen Coda.....................................................................67 by Kevin G. Summers


ADVERTISER INDEX STF Analytics......................................................8

OFS.......................................................................12 Huawei Marine................................................22 SubOptic Insert...............................................28


TE SubCom........................................................36 Virginia Beach Economic Development....................................................41

WFN Strategies...............................................55 Undersea Fiber Communication Systems............................62


Submarine Telecoms Forum, Inc.

2017 MEDIA KIT 5




SubTel Forum welcomes appropriate news submissions from around the industry. If an item is newsworthy, we wil strongly consider it for posting on our daily news feed. Please keep in mind the following guidelines if you wish to submit a ress release to our new team: »» AP Style preferred. »» Cleary written, addressing pertinent parties and events in the first two paragraphs. »» Identify the organization or individual sending the release and include the name and telephone number for the primary point of contact »» Date the release and specify whether the material is for immediate use or for release at a later date. »» Type “END” at the bottom of the last page.

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$70M High-Speed Undersea Internet Cable Almost Done

APG Submarine Fiber Optic Cable Line Operational in Vietnam

Brazil-US Undersea Cable (Monet) Suffers Delays BRIEF-Xtera Communications Files for Voluntary Petition for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection - Court Filing

Cameroon: BrazilCameroon Undersea Cable Tackles Data Demand Chile to Relaunch Southern Fiber Project

Cinia Signs Deal to Build Hanko Branch Line Cloud Networking Provider GTT Communications to Acquire Hibernia Networks

Construction Complete on SEA-MEWE 5 Cable Cyclone Vardah Damages Submarine Cables to Eastern India

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Groundbreaking Ceremony of Hawaiki Cable Landing Station in Mangawhai Heads Hengtong and Huawei Deliver Avassa Submarine Cable Project

Huawei Contracted to Install Solomon’s Internet Cable

Huawei Marine Networks Successfully Deliver Avassa Submarine Cable Project

Huawei Marine Partners with Tele Greenland to Deploy 100G Submarine Network in the Arctic

Infinera Powers Cloud Scale Networks with New DTN-X Platforms Internet Problems for Submarine Cable Glitch (Bangladesh) Jersey Submarine Cables Restored

John Reid Confirmed as CEO of Cable and Wireless

JT Says First Damaged Submarine Cable is Repaired

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MCT Submarine Cable Landing Station Deployed in Cambodia

MCT Submarine Cable System Deployment Starts in Malaysia Mirait Selected by Hawaiki Cable for Terrestrial Cable Duct

NEC Completes Asia Pacific Gateway Submarine Cable

New Cable Project to Deliver Faster, More Resilient Internet to Northern Fiji

Ooredoo and Huawei Marine Inaugurate National Submarine Cable in Maldives

OTMT Announces the Sale of Middle East and North Africa Submarine Cable Samoa in Talks With Tahiti, American Samoa in Efforts to Boost Internet Capabilities Seaborn Networks Launches New Lowest Latency Route Between Carteret and Sao Paulo

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Sh15bn Deal to Link Kenya-Mauritius with Cable

Ship’s Anchor Severs Jersey’s Undersea Internet Cables

Southern Cross Launches ‘Elastic’ Transoceanic Bandwidth Services with Ciena

SK Telecom Selects Coriant 100G Submarine Solution to Build New Undersea Link

Sparkle Buys Capacity on Flag Atlantic-1, SEA-MEWE-5 Submarine Networks

Stage 1 of 28Tbps Trident subsea cable to go live in April


This Week in Submarine Telecoms November 14-18 This Week in Submarine Telecoms November 28-December 2 UPDATE Xtera Communications Files for Chapter 11, Seeks Sale

Vietnam’s Notorious Internet Cable Leaves Surfers Adrift at Sea Vocus Executes Binding Agreement (“Contract-inForce”) with Alcatel Submarine Networks to Construct the Australia Singapore Cable

TE SubCom and Ciena Partner to Deliver Enhanced Open Submarine Cable Networks

This Week in Submarine Telecoms December 12-16 This Week in Submarine Telecoms December 19-23 This Week in Submarine Telecoms December 5-9 7

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ne year ago, 2016 was viewed as a potential breath of life to a somewhat stagnant submarine cable industry still recovering from the crash of the early 2000s. Expectations were high, as several key inter-regional systems were planned and developing nations continued to clamor for their own connectivity. However, as with most aspects of life, things didn’t go quite as planned. Less than one-third of systems planned for the year made it into service, and only half even made it to the install phase. It was not the truly busy and prosperous year that was hoped for, but it was still a step forward for the world of submarine fiber. Welcome to SubTel Forum’s annual Global Outlook issue. This month, we’ll take a brief look at how the industry performed around the world last year, and see what 2017 might bring. The data used in this article is obtained from the public domain and is tracked by the ever evolving STF Analytics database, where products like the Almanac, Cable Map, Online Cable Map and Industry Report find their roots. Our last Global Outlook edition reported 22 systems planned to be ready for service in 2016, 14 systems for 2017 and five systems for 2018. One year later, these numbers look very different. Only six systems


KMS of Cable Added per Year 2015-2018 180000 160000 140000 120000 100000 80000 60000 40000 20000 0



went live in 2016, 2017 saw a significant increase to 30 planned systems and 2018 has seen an increase to 13 systems planned. A few systems planned for 2016 simply slipped their RFS date to 2017, while several other systems simply died outright. While 2017 has seen a swell of planned systems since this time last year, a few of these are carryovers from 2016 that were not able to finish their commissioning and acceptance phase in time. A handful of others have slipped their RFS dates multiple times, and remain highly questionable as viable projects. Naturally, with a reduction in the number of systems that were supposed to enter service for 2016, a decrease in the total kilometers of

Systems Announced RFS 2015-2018

Source: STF Analytics

35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0



Source: STF Analytics





cable added is expected. At the start of 2016, over 130 thousand kilometers of cable were planned to be added. Unfortunately, when all was said and done, only 47,600 kilometers of cable were laid across the world for the entirety of 2016. This huge decline is a result of the uncertainty the industry has been experiencing around the world for the past several years, causing projects to go into limbo or outright dying due to their business cases completely falling apart. Overall, 2016 saw the industry struggle to hit a third of its expected mark. The sharp contrast between beginning of year expectations and end of year realities has unfortunately become something of a recurring theme for the submarine cable industry. So, while planned kilometers of cable added for 2017 has more than doubled from 70 thousand kilometers to nearly 160 thousand, it is important to temper expectations based on recent industry performance. However, one potential bright spot in all the uncertainty is that new routes are being explored in earnest with potentially strong business cases — especially for mid-Atlantic routes between Europe and the United States. As has been the trend for several years running, the bulk of planned system activity is occurring in the 11


Planned Systems per Region 2016-2018 Transpacific, 5

Americas, 9

Transatlantic, 5 Indian Ocean Pan-East Asian, 3 EMEA, 4

Source: STF Analytics

Pacific Ocean. Growth along Transpacific routes has been spurred by a significantly increased desire for lower latency between Asia, Australia and the United States. AustralAsia continues to experience explosive growth driven by emerging markets in the South Pacific, and despite the current economic woes of China. The EMEA and Indian Ocean Pan-East Asian regions continue to see muted growth, largely due to increasing political and economic

AustralAsia, 19

instability in Europe and the Middle East along with the potential over-saturation of African telecommunications markets. Transatlantic growth is primarily being driven by a desire to connect South America directly to Europe and Africa, alongside new interest in routes from Europe to the mid-Atlantic coast of the USA — specifically to connect to datacenters in Dulles, Virginia. The Americas region is characterized by replacing older systems in the

Caribbean and increased demand for connectivity between the United States and Brazil. A new trend was observed this past year as data center and cloud services providers have begun to change from capacity purchasers to cable system owners. These companies have massive bandwidth requirements, with route needs that do not always line up with current infrastructure routing. The new ownership paradigm could greatly change the way cables are developed, and why. This comes at a good time for the submarine cable industry, as these companies and the services they provide are in very high demand. They will not be going away any time soon, and are likely to weather any coming economic storm. Of course, the first real test of a system’s viability is whether it is contract-in-force. As of the new year, 42% of all systems planned for 2017 and 2018 are contract-in-force. This CIF rate has held steady throughout the year, being only slightly below last July’s CIF rate of 48 percent.

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with on that subject. What happens when that hunger is sated?


Yes 42% No 58%

Source: STF Analytics

However, looking at 2017 by itself shows a CIF rate of only 46 percent, which is a sign that many systems planned for 2017 are having trouble with financing. With more than a third of systems planned for 2017 expected to be RFS in the first quarter of the year, expect this CIF rate to drop sharply. Overall, the industry had a slightly better than average year compared to the last 5. While not all the systems planned for this past

year made it into service, nearly half hit at least the installation milestone by year’s end — signifying a healthy amount of business. The next 2 years bring familiar promises of heightened activity, but history has given the industry cause to be skeptical of such claims. The one bright spot seems to be the rise of cloud services providers as system owners, and their hunger for bandwidth. But there is one question the industry needs to concern itself

Kieran Clark is an Analyst for Submarine Telecoms Forum. He joined the company in 2013 as a Broadcast Technician to provide support for live event video streaming. In 2014, Kieran was promoted to Analyst and is currently responsible for the research and maintenance that supports the SubTel Forum International Submarine Cable Database; his analysis is featured in almost the entire array of SubTel Forum publications. He has 4+ years of live production experience and has worked alongside some of the premier organizations in video web streaming.

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At the beginning of 2016 I wrote apiece for SubTel Forum about the different options or fashions for financing subsea cable projects and how the market and external environment influenced those choices over the years. In the last two years, we have seen radical changes in the industry which continue to this writing, some perhaps have accelerated towards becoming almost a norm, at least in some parts of the world. In this article, I am only discussing intercontinental/trans-oceanic systems since the scale of cost and even more so complexity makes them stand clearly apart from short, often domestic, unrepeated systems. I thought the best way of addressing the situation today was to review my views and comments and look to add a few new factors that have developed during the year. I have never been a huge fan of the word predictions since it seems at once to imply a degree of mathematical certainty in one sense but in another an almost mystical crystal ball or star gazing philosophical approach. Besides its often easy getting a prediction right, the tricky bit is the timeline axis and a year is not very long, even though 2016 has been a year of change in many ways and not just in our industry. Indeed, some of those wider political shifts may yet have an impact on our own world beneath the waves. Of course, I am only one of many who have spent a large part of their career in this industry, as I am retired I can voice opinions freely. After a lot of years’ experience with different versions of industry models I think I have a valid opinion, but as I said there are others with equally valid opinions which may differ. So, looking back with all the advantages of hindsight what did I think was likely or important a year ago. To avoid repeating myself I have précised the longer questions and in some cases where there are similar issues combined them (as in


A&B below). For the more straightforward ones I have returned to the words I used last year, in either case the question/opinion from a year ago is expressed thus.

Reviewing Last Year

How would the practice of the Neo carriers/Super techs/Big Data of buying fibre pairs close to cost in new private systems impact the long-term viability of those systems. This practice has continued throughout 2016 but of course we haven’t got anywhere close to the ‘long term ‘ for these models. What we have seen perhaps is Neos partnering with each other on new builds and one instance of a private system which had sold a substantial proportion of its capacity in the form of fibre pair sales at cost being sold to a third-party investor for a very substantial premium over

asset value alone. A radical change from the dotcom bust era when systems and networks were sold for cents on the dollar. One has to wonder what opportunity is left for sales and revenue growth when a system has sold a substantial portion of its capacity ‘at cost’ to a NEO or global DC operator That has not happened to any new system, yet, but the underlying risks are still there. Will the Hibernia sale be replicated, can the new owners recover their investment costs and make a profit, time will tell? So, still too early to answer this question.

Network resilience and Cooperation by the Neo carriers 2016 saw no slow down at all in investments in cable systems by the Neo carriers . Sub cable investments area very small part of their overall expansion build out and they have moved quickly to try and replicate their domestic multi path networks



internationally both to supplement their existing inter node networks and to serve new and often ever bigger data centres. Also, these parties have learned very quickly, that for them at least access to subsea cable capacity is not the competitive advantage or competitive weapon their predecessors as the heavy hitters of the industry ,the big carriers, often saw them. While there may have been an element of that around the time Google got a head start on the others with the Unity system they have gone in for co-operation to help with resilience and restoration. Most significantly in 2016 some have joined together in a shared ownership approach on new projects in both the Atlantic and Pacific. In both these cases while it appears from the outside the NEO’s took the lead role they have partnered with more established owners/carriers where that is valuable for operation


experience or with access to and management of landing facilities. So, in these cases there is absolutely no doubt that the new kids on the block have matured very quickly and realised that in this area cooperation is more valuable than competition. Perhaps this is because unlike the era of the dominant carriers, like ATT of the day and BT where control of access and getting the lowest cost to compete the NEOs do not see cable capacity as a zero-sum game. Back in the 1990s if a legacy carrier could prevent a Mercury or WorldCom from getting cable capacity that translated directly into retaining or winning business. Those practices resulted in some serious and often burdensome regulatory demands and rules and getting approval for a new build almost certainly meant giving your competitors equal access to your capacity. That is no longer true since growing the networks benefits all the NEOs

rather than only some; now there are chain or catalyst effects between them. As an example consider buying Christmas gifts on line- A friend could email you or send you a tweet about a gift suggestion, you can research it on Google, buy it from Amazon and they can thank you on your Facebook page -everyone’s a winner it seems. As the year, has gone on the NEOs have only enhanced their position as the key decision makers and sponsors for almost all new major projects either through continued investment in large amounts of capacity or through direct investment and ownership of new systems. And so, to a specific question I posed last year; will the NEOs go down the route that the likes of Gemini took over a decade earlier? Their answer, through their actions, is a very clear yes, if we need it and if there is nothing we like the look of out there we will build it ourselves.


If we build it ourselves it goes where we want it to and provides the latency and connectivity optimised for our network so it’s a strong argument for developing projects from the outset to match or extend your existing network rather than adapting a third party development idea.

Do the NEOs exhibit excessive market power in the subsea segment. Certainly not on a global basis since in Asia the traditional carriers are still actively involved but an argument could be made that if they were looked at as a group, and they are not homogenous companies, then no Atlantic system is going to get financed without participation from at least one and probably two of the group. Will they try and spin off cable ownership and management into

subsidiaries that if necessary can be regulated without it impacting on their diverse main businesses. As far as I know that has not happened but then there does not seem to be any instance of US regulatory pressure on them and at present why should they be? They are enablers for new systems and therefore a more competitive supply of capacity and as stated earlier they are not seeking to exclude their competitors or smaller entities.

Will NEOs be comfortable that their multibillion dollar enterprises and service delivery functions depend on companies not even one hundredth of their size Once again perhaps this is a question for the longer term. Certainly, the NEOs have continued to invest in private venture systems in terms of fibre pair or capacity ownership. BRUSA from US-Brazil and

Hawaiki in the Pacific being good examples. But keeping a cable operational for 10-15 years without much opportunity for new capacity sales is a challenge these systems still face as neither are even operational yet. On the other side of this coin will the former titans lose interest in cable to such a degree that they will seek a ‘cell tower solution; selling off assets and leasing back what they need via venture funds or specialized asset management companies. Perhaps no longer being directly involved in construction and operation of assets that for years were at the core of their business. Well, 2016 has seen no sign whatsoever of the likes of ATT, Verizon, BT, T Systems etc. getting back into the subsea arena. Not universally the case as Orange remains



active with African projects, Telefonica and TI-Sparkle continue to invest and the big Asian carriers have, in my opinion very wisely, ensured they continue to control most optical data transport in their areas of operation. As far as I am aware there have not been extensive efforts to treat cables and cable capacity as infrastructure that you need to have but do not need to own. That seems slightly surprising to me but one party did try it, Telefonica and their planned ownership vehicle subsidiary, due to be the subject of an IPO last year did not succeed allegedly because the money markets could not find a way to value the subsea cable capacity which was being bundled into the TELXIUS venture along with the original and established cell tower element. Does that mean the concept cannot work, I do not think so, but perhaps the ideas of combining two quite different types if asset in one package proved too complex for the markets. Will the EU be concerned that on their most important trade path, the Atlantic all cables and all that capacity is controlled almost entirely by American companies with all the questions that raises both in a telecoms context and wider political ones There was no hint whatsoever of anything like this happening in 2016 but then the EU had bigger issues to deal with (and don’t get me started down that road). Generally, more cables mean more competition and more competition is usually thought of as a good thing, so that might be the EU view, but I think it is more likely they haven’t been aware of the shift from mutual US_EU owned systems to purely US owned systems. With inevitable changes in the transatlantic trade dynamic because of Britain’s economic death wish and Americas adoption of Alternative Politics perhaps cables will be brought into the equation. 18

Maybe I will write to my MEP (Member of European parliament) about it while I still have one. Was I accurate with a forward looking view from a year ago? I think for the most part the cable world has accelerated down the path it seemed to be taking a year ago, and on other potentially negative issues no major regulatory concern has yet manifested itself -as I said earlier some of these questions are for the long term.. However, unlike the Smart phone segment of the all-encompassing word Telecommunications, with its insect like life cycle, a submarine cables operational life extends far into any business definition of the long term.

Whats New Since Early 2016 While I have reviewed a series of pathways up to this point I cannot finish there. Our industry is impacted by technical change, commercial trends and international politics and relationships and they never stand still. So perhaps I should make mention of some issues that have arisen in the last year outside my original perspective and suggest what they might be and how they might impact our industry.

Demand Growing or Slowing?

2016 has seen continued increases in organic demand fuelled by more and more Cloud based ap-

plications and storage resources, the use of Facebook and You tube etc. continue to grow as well We are also seeing the early adoption phase of the internet of things although it is perhaps debatable how intentionally dependent that will be. In fact, that’s one of the good illustrators of the problems of forecasting subsea capacity demand as no one really knows the rate of take up of new features or new derivations or the multiplier effect of big users storing the same data in multiple locations. So, on that front one can only see continued strong growth in demand but……. Cold War déjà vu perhaps, despite Donald and Vladimir seemingly getting on at this

point there seems plenty of opportunity to disagree. Will this put further pressure on the uncertainty of east west terrestrial routings through the former USSR countries and thus increasing demand for subsea connectivity between the Indian Ocean region and Europe and the Americas via the South Atlantic or will it merely slow down development and demand Transpacific trade slowdown must be considered likely as offshoring and outsourcing become less economic and less acceptable to business because of political pressure. There is a lot of capacity both


in the water and contracted and until US-Asia Pac trade relationships become clearer why build yet more systems The Trump presidency platform suggests a more America First inward looking approach and translating that to lesser dependence on overseas outsourcing and manufacturing; offshoring as it is called. To get America back to work that must be cut back dramatically Inevitably resulting in a general anti-Globalisation trend. Less international commerce means less international communication and that could mean less demand for international connectivity

These external factors could if pressed hard enough by the politicians could very negatively impact many of the issues that currently drive growth international communications , alternatively perhaps the world is already too addicted to instant global communication that winding the clock backwards proves just too difficult

The Rise of the Data Centre; Junctions on the Digital Highway

Data centres are not new of course but in recent years they have grown and grown and now challenge major carrier facilities or carrier hotels as the critical nodes in a communications network. Some DC operators, Equinix being a market leader and prime example, have now started to show strong interest in positioning themselves as the interconnection point of choice for subsea cables and as a landing party. With modern systems not requiring substantial landing station facilities as such, data centres are logical open access interconnection points. Consequently, it is an excellent business opportunity for the data centre operators to provide these critical connectivity functions for new ca19


bles doing away with colocation and related costly elements of the network as well increasing connectivity opportunities That trend will surely continue and extend worldwide as DC operators outside the USA take up these opportunities and offer these services to new system developers. Additionally multinationals like Equinix can provide connectivity at both ends of a major route, in my opinion positioning themselves to take over much of the current international bandwidth business of the traditional carriers

Supplier Dynamics; One Seems to be Leading the Way

On the surface 2016 has not seen much change in the hardware supply side of the industry, there were four main manufacturers then and still are; although Huawei is making a real effort to get a transoceanic system with SAC Angola-Brazil and NEC winning a contract in the same part of the world to expand from its Asian heartland. That doesn’t really tell the true story since changes have impacted both the second level providers, optical upgrade spe-


cialists and the Prime Contractors/ IntegratorsThe upgrade market has shrunk as systems reach saturation point for expansion and diversity requirements mean that a new system while more expensive than an upgrade becomes an essential choice for diversity and resilience. There has been at least one casualty of this shrinking market in Xtera filing for Chapter 11 during the year. That leaves the traditional big 2 Tyco and ASN and I would have said at the beginning of 2016 that they were very evenly matched in terms of technology market positioning and commercial acumen but I am not sure this is still the case. TES have got a strong position with most of the Neo carriers, perhaps it is US thing, perhaps they have built on early experience with them. TES have a stable team and a sound basic cable and installation product. Their alliance with Ciena must benefit both parties not just through R&D cost savings but by delivering an integrated optimised solution right from initial delivery with a clear pathway for expansion. How well this works in practice remains to be seen but at a time when

a radical change in the optical engineering element of the cable design is being introduced with the addition of C+L Band technology then the additional experience of Ciena must be a plus for TES. On the other hand, ASN, who remain part of the Nokia Group after their intended IPO offer did not materialise are going through the disruption common in a M&A implementation phase and are rumoured to be making some significant personnel changes. While this is a typical scenario its wisdom in the subsea cable supplier industry where experience and personal relationships with customers is extremely important in both the operations and marketing areas seems to me questionable. This is not a time for ASN, whose recent strengths have been more in the consortium project than more modern open cable /private sponsor segment, to be making changes that see them lose ground against a competitor who is already strong in the newer and more rapidly developing market segment and one cannot see that many new consortium projects developing in the future. Time will tell, but a year ago, I would have rated the two main

suppliers as even contenders. Now I would say that’s shifted in TES favour and that is trend likely to continue in the short term.

Valuing Subsea Cable Systems; Priceless or Valueless

2016 saw two very different interpretations of the value of subsea cable systems. ‘No cables no internet’ never translated itself into making subsea systems a strong value proposition when it came to earning money and making a profit. I am certainly not going to revisit the trials and tribulations the industry suffered because of this disconnect between project costs and revenue derived. However, in an apparent continuation of that view the proposed TELXIUS IPO foundered when Telefonica added submarine cable assets to the tried and true Cell Tower formula and the market didn’t support it as they found it too hard to value the submarine cable assets. That’s probably a nice way of saying we cannot attribute substantial revenues to something and therefore we are not interested. On the other hand, as mentioned earlier Hibernia was sold for a very substantial sum, close to $1Bn. Hibernia has a limited portfolio of assets, it addresses some niche markets very effectively but it is limited in scope and scale for growth, probably why it was up for sale in the first place. However new owners obviously see value and growth potential in the company and as such one could use the transaction figures to try and make a determination of the value of cable capacity and related facilities which must be radically different from the valuation of any of the TELXIUS assets in the same field. It will be interesting to see how Hibernia delivers value for its new owners going forwarding highly competitive market with often extreme pricing pressures .

In Conclusion How did I do with my expectations or views from early 2016. Ranking myself I would say not badly but certainly not one hundred percent accurate. I am sure 2017 will see further acceleration in the pattern of change and indeed the spread of change to wider areas of the subsea market. The new masters of our universe are different creatures from their predecessors, as if to emphasise their global natures there is no reference in the name or history to nationality. Their predecessors policy and activities in the subsea market often reflected national political issues but this has not been true for Google, Facebook Amazon, etc. They invest in THEIR global networks not seek to dominate THE Global network . But for the first time in some years there is the potential for geo power politics and related trade issues to act as a brake on demand not a stimulant and even shape future network builds and the NEOs much further removed from the state than the big carriers ever were will have to deal with these issues for the first time.. Despite all that it is reasonable to assume our small but fascinating niche in the ever more connected world will continue to grow at least moderately as more applications generate both increased organic demand and demand for increased security and resilience from the IP networks we now all depend on, unless…………..? Well, unless the real model of the way forward for projects needing a global operation, digital hi-tech, massive high bandwidth connectivity s is Amazons airborne hovering warehouses*- not a submarine cable in sight!



John Tibbles has spent over 30 years managing globally based investments in cable systems for some of the worlds major subsea network operators and owners involving strategic planning, partnerships and consortia management , buying and selling in the wholesale space and managing supplier relationships. He has been actively involved as a panelist, presenter and member of many industry bodies including SubOptic, PTC, ICPC as well as contributing to media articles on the industry. Now retired from daily involvement he owns JTIC consulting ( providing consulting services for the submarine cable sector and the broader international carrier business



The Power of Submarine Information Transmission



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ack in 2010, under the auspices of the IEEE, the Reliability of Global Undersea Cable Communications Infrastructure (ROGUCCI) report was issued. It was an in-depth study into submarine cable networks that snake along our oceans’ seabed to interconnect continental landmasses. Two of the findings in this report struck me as incredibly intriguing, and worrisome at the same time. The first finding was that “nearly 100 percent of the world’s inter-continental electronic communications traffic is carried by the undersea cable infrastructure.” The second finding was that “there is no plan B,” meaning there’s simply no network alternative to the undersea cable network for providing high-speed broadband connectivity between continents that we’ve come to rely on each and every day for both business and personal reasons. Now, the actual probability of a global failure may be quite low, but it’s also not zero, especially on a more limited regional scale. These two findings together pretty much sum it up – submarine cables are critical infrastructure – albeit with little public fanfare, until something goes awry and soon becomes front page news around the world. A global failure of the submarine network would be utterly catastrophic to international security and the economic stability of financial markets around the world, given they’re so intertwined these days. Just think about it: if intra-continental terrestrial networks were disconnected from the rest of the world resulting in “islands” of connectivity, the entire global digital economy and associated financial markets would grind to a complete standstill with devastating consequences for continents, countries, and most importantly, us! The ROGUCCI report raised a rather poignant point in that it’s “unclear if civilization can recover to its previous condition from the failure of a technology that has been so rapidly adopted with-

out a backup plan…” kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? New rules enacted by the US-based Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reinforce these realities, and very real-world concerns.

New FCC Rules for Submarine Cable Networks

The new FCC rules are intended to promote a more far reliable submarine cable communications infrastructure by requiring “submarine cable licensees to report significant outages to the FCC to help safeguard this critical communications infrastructure and promote reliable communications for businesses and

consumers,” which were announced in June of 2016. The US has approximately 60 submarine cables that connect the nation to the rest of the world. These cables are the basis for the global Internet, especially when you consider that the world’s major Internet Content Providers (ICPs) are primarily US-based and operate mammoth local data centers. The FCC (rightfully) sees the submarine cables as critical to the American economic and national security. The FCC’s beef is that in the past, licensees have only reported outages to the FCC on a voluntary and often inconsistent basis such that when they do receive notification about outages that have occurred, it was often perceived as too


limited to be of any use. Although these new rules represent a noble cause with all the right intentions intended to safeguard the over “US$10 trillion worth of transactional value” carried by the submarine cable network each day, there are those who have voiced concerns over the FCC’s action. Why? Well, let’s dive in and review the new FCC rules and their implications, both good and bad. Per the FCC news release, “The new outage reporting rules will enable the FCC to monitor the operational status of submarine cables and assist the agency in ensuring the reliability of this communications infrastructure. The rules require submarine cable licensees to report major outages to the agency’s Network Outage Reporting System (NORS),” which I personally think is a good thing, especially since “other communications providers – including wireline, wireless, and satellite – already report outages to NORS.” According to the FCC, accurate reporting has allowed them to “analyze outage trends, spot systemic issues, and work with providers to develop solutions to make communications more resilient and reliable,” which could be applied to one of the most critical parts of the global Internet – the submarine cable network. These rules seem to have their heart in the right place, so why would anyone disagree with them? One of the examples cited by the FCC as to why these new rules are required is when the submarine cable serving the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands failed due to a typhoon that swept through the American territory in July of 2015. The resulting three-week outage led to significant problems for the tens of thousands of residents related to Internet, banking, credit card transactions, ATM withdrawals, healthcare, and inbound/outbound airline flights being delayed or cancelled. Most importantly, especially during a natural disaster such as a typhoon where emergencies are highly likely, 25


residents were unable to make calls to 911 for first responder services. How did this happen? Because the submarine cable licensee didn’t have a “Plan B” in place, such as a redundant protection path for the critical communication services mentioned above. What likely irked the FCC was that they were apparently not even notified of the complete loss of communications to island residents. Although the FCC acknowledges that such wide-scale outages are quite rare, they are precisely the ones that are the intended target of the new rules, and I’m sure any affected citizens would wholeheartedly agree. The FCC believes it must focus on outages affecting consumers by incentivizing network operators to incorporate redundant protection paths into their networks while also cutting through regulatory red tape that makes it harder for service


providers to deploy, maintain, and repair submarine cables. This not only helps citizens remain connected but also promotes economic and national security interests.

A Haystack of Paperwork?

However, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai believes that “today the FCC does none of this.” His concern is that if the FCC mandates that network operators file outage reports, even when an outage is not actually experienced by end users, such as during a protection switch that quickly reroutes traffic around a faulted submarine cable, it will lead to a “haystack of paperwork that will only make it more difficult for us to find any needles.” Wouldn’t these rules ultimately penalize network operators who already have or will deploy redundant protection paths by requiring them to file multiple

reports every time they use the protection paths, regardless of whether or not the end user was affected? Ajit thinks so, stating the FCC has decided “to divert resources away from critical repair and restoration efforts and toward needless paperwork.” Although the FCC’s heart is in the right place by trying to improve submarine cable network resilience and service availability, it’s clear that there’s still some room for improvement per Ajit, which led to his official dissent. Although the submarine cable network that stitches together continental landmasses are viewed as critical infrastructure, they’re also highly vulnerable to a variety of threats such as natural disasters (ex. typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis), naval vessels (fishing trawlers, anchors), sea life (SHARK! Actually no, but that’s a topic for another blog), and of course, those who

purposely harm submarine cables. Even though the FCC has monitored submarine cable outages in the past, the voluntary and ad hoc nature of the system led to non-standardized reporting that wasn’t particularly useful. Some outages and disruptions went unreported, such as the example mentioned above, leaving the FCC unable to identify how to prevent such outages in the future through a variety of recommendations, regulations, and best practices.

Too Big to Fail?

As undersea cables are upgraded using the latest in Submarine Line Terminating Equipment (SLTE) technologies that scale to multiple terabits per second capacities, have they become too big to fail? I definitely think so, but I also think they’ve been too big to fail since the dawn of the global Internet and digital economy. Monumental information-carrying increases have just exacerbated the risk of having them fail. It’s a bad day when 100 gigabits per second of total traffic is lost; it’s an incredibly miserable day when tens of terabits per second of total traffic is lost. I haven’t worked out the math, but that’s a boatload of selfies that your friends cannot enjoy. I mean, how else will they see the new pair of shoes that you just bought or the meal you’re eating? Oh, the horror! Seriously though, the impact of a loss of communications due to a submarine cable network disaster to a country or region can be profound, and is definitely no laughing matter. Our utter network dependence has ensured that we cannot live with wide-scale outages for any length of time, ever again. I think the new FCC rules are a step in the right direction, particularly related to the reporting of actual outages in a timely, consistent, and standardized manner. However, mandating network operators to also report on any and all protection

switches, even those that actually avoid outages by rerouting traffic to alternate available paths, could prove cumbersome unless the reporting mechanism is tied into the network operating system and automatically sends required reports to the FCC autonomously. Time will tell how this ultimately pans out, but I think discussion to safeguard the global submarine cable network is a worthy and important endeavor – we all should. I’d be remiss not to mention the International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC) that’s comprised of more than 150 members in over 60 countries with the stated vision of being the “premier international submarine cable authority by providing industry leadership and guidance on issues related to submarine cable security and reliability.” This is achieved via “the sharing of information for the common interest of all seabed users” that “represents all who operate, maintain, and work in every aspect of both the telecommunication and power cable industry.” The international committee was founded in 1958, almost a century after the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cables were deployed, and has been helping to safeguard the submarine cable industry for decades via recommendations, videos, publications, as well as liaising with other groups and governments of similar interest related to submarine cable networks around the world. Although the ICPC does an admirable job in improving the reliability of submarine cables around the world, the reality is that submarine cable faults and outages will occur nonetheless. It’s next to impossible to completely avoid natural disasters or prevent manmade faults, whether accidental (“oops, I dropped my anchor and unknowingly dragged it for 10 kilometers”) or (almost) intentional (“I know submarine cables are in these waters, but I’ll trawl for fish anyway”).


This is where intelligent networking technology comes into play where service providers can hope for the best but plan for the worst. Network outages can be avoided by implementing automated (not manual!) mesh protection capabilities that autonomously bypass network faults and switch traffic to alternative submarine and/or terrestrial network paths. This isn’t actually new and has already been implemented around the world, especially across Southeast Asia submarine networks that are at a significantly high risk of earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, and naval vessel activity. For example, when the massive Japan Tōhoku earthquake of 9.0 magnitude struck on March 11 of 2011, coupled with a tsunami, several submarine cables were damaged or outright cut. This could have led to wide-scale loss of communications – at the worst possible time – if it weren’t for intelligent mesh protection that was in place, spurred on by regional outages in 2006 and 2009 near Taiwan. What is new however is that as submarine cables are upgraded to terabit per second capacities, the available protection paths, overland and undersea, must also be upgraded to similar capacities, including the switches themselves that reroute the traffic. If not, outages will still occur. Are terabit submarine cables networks too big to fail? I think so, the FCC thinks so, and I think most end users would also agree. Brian Lavallée is the Director of Portfolio Marketing with global responsibility for Ciena’s Packet and Submarine networking solutions. Brian has over 20 years of telecommunications experience with past roles in Product Line Management, Systems Engineering, Research & Development, and Manufacturing.








fter thirty years of successful events, SubOptic Association is restructuring to improve and expand the services it provides to the subsea cable industry. In addition to the renowned SubOptic conferences it organizes - the next to be held in New Orleans in spring 2019 - the association is enlarging the scope of its activities and services, while opening membership to all participants in the sector, with the aim of becoming the industry’s global trade association. SubOptic is also in the process of changing the way it organizes the conferences. In the past, we relied on a member company of the association to volunteer for the task. Now, we are bringing in a professional Event Management organization, Submarine Telecoms Forum, wellknown as one of the premier news sources of the industry, to take re-

sponsibility for managing the logistics of the conference. The new role of the Host, which for SubOptic 2019 is Ciena, will be that of lead sponsor, rather than conference organizer. SubOptic Association will still retain complete editorial and program development responsibility. Meanwhile, in May 2017 the Association inaugurates an exciting new era, opening membership for the first time to the entire subsea community. I invite the whole range of organizations active in the subsea communications sector to participate in the first General Meeting of the remodeled organization, planned to take place in Chicago during ITW 2017. On that occasion members will elect a new 8-person Executive Committee to take over from the interim executive that I have the honor of chairing. We need your involvement to make the re-

modeled Association an effective catalyst for the industry. We expect to have the draft Constitution, together with terms of membership, ready to publish by the end of February, at which time the community will be invited to join the new SubOptic Association. Please visit our redesigned website – - and stay tuned for more information, including the proposed new Constitution, your invitation to join the Association, and the General Meeting meeting details – we’ll be keeping you posted! .



SubOptic Membership - Benefits and How to Participate


ubOptic Association is uniquely placed to fill the need for an effective, broad-based global trade body to advance its interests. Strengthened by its event management partnership with Submarine Telecoms Forum, and by a solid new constitution, SubOptic now has a broader set of objectives: supporting the subsea community through new activities involving education, advocacy, online resources and working groups. In the words of the new Constitution, our purpose will be: “to promote the interests of organizations involved in submarine telecommunications cable technology, installation, operations and activities, by providing a forum for the discussion of ideas, the exchange of non-competitive information, and the advancement and raising of awareness of issues relevant to the industry”.


But achieving these ambitious goals depends on attracting active and committed members from across the industry. So we’re counting on your support!

How Members can Contribute as Volunteers

»» become an Association member (of course!) »» vote at General Meetings »» Serve on the Executive Committee or a Sub-committee – network with industry leaders »» Be a conference sponsor or Host »» Serve as conference Program Chair or Papers Chair »» Propose a new Sub-committee, project or event »» Write for the website and post on social media »» Develop policies and represent the Association with policy-makers, other industry sectors Help attract new members, to build a broad-based association that represents a substantial proportion of the sector.

How You Can Expect to Benefit from Membership »» receive Conference admissions at discounted registration rates »» access Member-only materials »» Better networking through access to member directory, social media (and of course the Conference) »» stay informed about industry news and information »» obtain professional training and education via education partnerships »» Have your views heard, made known, and acted on through: • cooperation with other industry bodies on matters of common concern • studies and reports • promotion of the image of the sector and its economic and social importance • representation of the sector’s interests with policy-makers


SubOptic PARTNERS WITH SUBSEA INDUSTRY LEADERS AND ANNOUNCES LOCATION FOR 2019 CONFERENCE Ciena named official Host and SubTel Forum selected to manage event LONDON - Jan. 15, 2017 - SubOptic is pleased to announce that the Executive Committee has chosen New Orleans as the venue for its next event, SubOptic 2019, with Ciena, a global network strategy and technology company, as the Host. North America was a natural choice following SubOptic’s tradition of venue rotation across the globe; previously Dubai in 2016, Paris in 2013, Yokohama in 2010 and Baltimore in 2007. “I am delighted that for SubOptic 2019 the Executive Committee has selected New Orleans, a world-class destination for our world-renowned industry event”, said Yves Ruggeri, SubOptic President. “New Orleans will be rolling out the southern hospitality to welcome SubOptic 2019 participants and partners to this vibrant, diverse and historic seaport.” SubOptic is also pleased to announce that Submarine Telecoms Forum, Inc. (SubTel Forum), one of the premier news sources for the submarine fibre industry, will manage the organisation and staging of SubOptic 2019, with SubOptic retaining programme build responsibility and editorial control. The partnership with SubTel Forum reflects a new approach that will produce the best conference experience yet for future participants. It will allow SubOptic to concentrate on building a programme that provides

maximum value to attendees, supported by a host who provides deep market insights and expertise, as well as a professional event manager with experience in this field handling logistics for the event. Concurrently, SubOptic is widening the scope of its activities and services in 2017 by becoming a membership-based trade association for the undersea cable sector to better serve the interests of the industry it represents. “Ciena is honoured to serve as host of SubOptic 2019, the leading global industry forum for the undersea communications sector. In joining forces with SubOptic and SubTel Forum, we are committed to delivering an event that brings together experts and professionals across the submarine networking community toward making greater advancements in this critical technology arena,” said Anthony McLachlan Vice President and General Manager, Submarine, Ciena. “SubTel Forum is honoured to manage SubOptic, an event I’ve personally attended each year since it was held in 1993 in Versailles,” said Submarine Telecoms Forum Publisher and President Wayne Nielsen. “We are looking forward to continuing its thirty-year tradition in the spirit and high standards the association and its members deserve.” Further details of SubOptic 2019, and of the new Association, were presented during PTC ‘17, held in Hawaii, on the 15-18th January 2017.

About SubOptic

SubOptic ( is a non-profit international organisation

active in the undersea communications industry. It is best known for the conference it organises, the longest running and most comprehensive in the world covering this industry, and widely considered as the global summit of the submarine cable community. Hosted by Ciena, SubOptic 2019 will be the tenth in the series and will be held in New Orleans on April 8-11, 2019.

About Ciena

Ciena (NYSE: CIEN) is a network strategy and technology company. Ciena translates best-in-class technology into value through a high-touch, consultative business model – with a relentless drive to create exceptional experiences measured by outcomes. For updates on Ciena, follow Twitter @Ciena,LinkedIn, the  Ciena Insights blog, or visit www.

About Submarine Telecoms Forum, Inc.

Submarine Telecom Forum, Inc. ( is a media company located in the United States that serves thousands of readers in over 100 countries. The Company publishes an independent commercial bi-monthly e-magazine and complimentary digital and print publications that discuss and analyse the submarine telecommunications cable industry. Its operating divisions provide data-driven business intelligence services, organise and manage conferences, and offer print and digital resources.





he submarine cable industry is typically spoken of in terms of terabits per second, cross sectional capacity and, yes, simple dollars. It’s easy to forget that, at its core, submarine cable deployment is a maritime mission and the crews aboard world-class cable ships have enormous responsibilities on top of the already complex task of reliably laying cable to precise specifications. On September 17, 2016, the crew of the C.S. Dependable, a transoceanic vessel owned and operated by TE SubCom, served a reminder that most cable ships carry immensely skilled and brave sea farers along with their multitudes of optical fiber. That afternoon, the crew participated in a remarkable water rescue, saving 14 of the 16 members of the Indian fishing boat F.V. Datta Sai which sank at high seas with no personal floatation devices and no VHF radio.

A Chance Encounter The C.S. Dependable had already been at work in the Arabian Sea off the Maharashtra Coast near Mumbai, India installing an undersea system. The ship was in transit from one work site to another on September 17th when, around noon, a crew member spotted debris in the water. Shortly after, the crew discovered small groups of men treading water and clinging to pieces of a recently destroyed vessel. What happened next was a textbook display of seamanship, preparedness and human decency. “What’s remarkable is that none of the crew really needed to be told what to do. They reacted in a very business-like manner and knew where they should be and how they should help,” said Captain Yann Durieux, Master, C.S. Dependable, TE SubCom. “We knew straight away that this was going to be a difficult


and dangerous situation, but no one hesitated, panicked or questioned what we were doing. All the credit to the guys.” Slowly, over the course of an interminable 90 minutes, a very complicated rescue mission took place. Captain Durieux had to carefully maneuver the ship in 2.5 knots of surface current to keep the men in the water away from the ship’s thrusters. This required constant and clear communication with personnel on deck keeping the captain appraised of the survivors’ relative positions.

Dynamic Positioning takes on New Meaning

Like most of SubCom’s fleet, the C.S. Dependable is equipped with a DP2 dynamic positioning system that coordinates engines, bow thrusters, rudders and propellers to keep the vessel in position. DP2 lets



the crew work within a 500m safety zone without drifting too far out of position. SubCom vessels frequently use DP2 to hold within a meter of their intended positions for long periods of time. To rescue the crew of the F.V. Datta Sai, Captain Durieux utilized the DP2 system in manual mode to create a controlled drift. The ship’s cameras, normally used to ensure that cable is smoothly deployed without interference from the ship, were instead used by Captain Durieux to spot men in the water and keep them clear of the C.S. Dependable’s thrusters. “We do drill for water rescues, and we are prepared for emergencies of all kinds,” noted Capt. Durieux. “Still, this was a prolonged rescue event involving multiple people who were in the midst of drowning. It required courage and ingenuity to get those men on board,


but we were also very fortunate to have the type of precise positioning technology that we have. Our being aboard a highly-equipped cable vessel played a huge part in the rescue.”

The Scene on Board

All hands were truly on deck as the C.S. Dependable’s crew spread out on weather decks, the bow, stern, gangways and bridge. Some served as lookouts calling out survivor sightings and others threw liferings into the water as the captain moved the ship toward each survivor and security team members secured in harnesses pulled men out of the water, including one man who had his 11-yeard old child clinging to his back. The ship’s medic created a triage center on the main deck of the ship where he evaluated the rescued fishermen and immediately

began treating them for hypothermia and dehydration. The fishermen spoke only limited English and a pad of paper was used to communicate through drawings and symbols. Despite the language barrier, the scene was orderly and systematic. C.S. Dependable crew members volunteered their own mattresses, clothes, socks, food and water to the exhausted men. These random acts of kindness became contagious, as crew members scrambled to assist wherever they could. “This is a situation where your sense of decency and community kicks in pretty quickly,” said Capt. Durieux. “Our crew is made up of people who’ve spent lifetimes at sea and understand that it could just as easily be themselves in that water. There’s a maritime code, of course, but I think the crew went beyond that and just displayed their humanity.”


Getting them Home Though details are scarce, it became apparent that the F.V. Datta Sai had been overwhelmed in rough seas and that its crew had been in the water for more than eight hours before the C.S. Dependable spotted them. Originally it was thought that the entire fishing crew had been safely rescued, but it was later determined that two hands were unaccounted for. After six hours on board the C.S. Dependable, Indian Coast Guard vessels arrived on scene. While fighting intermittent heavy squalls, the captain and the C.S. Dependable crew then had to execute another challenging mission of transferring the fishermen to the Coast Guard

vessel. Over the course of that proerational excellence and good seacess, it was learned that the Coast manship are all inherent to our misGuard vessel reportedly recovered sion. Our job is a tough one, but it’s one additional survivor and one degreat to know that you have calm, James K. Herron ceased fisherman. knowledgeable and proud shipManaging Director Marine Operations TE SubCom, LLC. Fleet Operations Center “It was difficult knowing that mates to back you.” 1001 E. McComas St. Baltimore, MD 21230 the entire crew of the ship wasn’t rescued, but I’m proud that we did Jim is the Manageverything that we could for our feling Director of Malow seafarers,” said Capt. Durieux. rine Operations for “This situation could have turned TE SubCom. He is out very differently, but because responsible for the SubCom prioritizes the hiring and daily operations of retention of experienced sailors, I SubCom’s Cable Maintenance Adminbelieve each member of our crew istration, Cable Ship Fleet, SubmersJim is the Managing Director of Marine Operations for TE SubCom. He is responsible the daily operations of SubCom’s Maintenance Administration, Cable Ship is heavily invested in eachfor other’s ibles,Cableand Marine facilities worldFleet, Submersibles, and Marine facilities worldwide. Jim has over twenty five years of experience in the Submarine Cable industry, ten of these as Managing Director. His success, whether it’s deploying a wide. Jim has over twenty five years career includes seven years as a Cable ship Deck/Engineering Officer. Jim is a licensed Master Mariner, Marine Engineer, and has an M.B.A. from Johns Hopkins University, in cable system or anything else that ofengineering experience in the Submarine Cable addition to a B.E. in electrical from SUNY Maritime College, class of 1991. might happen on board. The crew industry, ten of these as Managing felt empowered to do the right thing Director. because they knew that safety, op35


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We understand that every undersea communications system is unique, which is why SubCom is prepared for just about anything, anywhere. What’s SubCom capable of? Plenty...








100 PERCENT - Since 1999 -






- Since 2013 -







Virginia Beach is now the biggest digital port in the Mid-Atlantic.


irginia Beach, Virginia’s most populous city, attracts millions of visitors from around the world every year because of its strategic location at the heart of the U.S. East Coast along the Atlantic Ocean, just 3.5 hours from Washington, D.C. The world’s leading technology companies also recognize Virginia Beach as something more than a vacation resort. There is an amazing business story that has drawn strong interest from a diverse range of companies from here and abroad. It is no longer a secret that Virginia Beach offers an extremely sophisticated, cost-effective opportunity for forward-thinking businesses. The Virginia Beach MSA has long been known for two world-class assets: the largest military community in the U.S., and the Port of Virginia, a key gateway for global commerce.

With 50-foot channels, six marine terminals and the largest container cranes in the world, the Port of Virginia connects global businesses to customers anywhere. Virginia Beach is now a digital port, shipping data at the highest rates possible around the world. Companies are eager to stake a claim in Virginia Beach after announcements by Telefonica, Microsoft and Facebook to bring transatlantic fiber cables, the first in the Mid-Atlantic, to Virginia Beach in 2017 and 2018. MAREA, owned by Microsoft, Facebook and Telefonica, will bring the first ultra-high-speed data cable from Bilbao, Spain to Virginia Beach in the fourth quarter 2017. BRUSA, owned by Telefonica, will bring the second cable from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Virginia Beach in the first quarter of 2018. Additional cables are being planned, and additional announcements are pending.


Virginia Beach is plugged in and ready to go with a world-class telecommunications system complete with a data center and development park with available sites, certified power requirements, available fiber access hubs and permits in place – which makes communicating globally easy and reliable. This is all in addition to a low cost of doing business and a highly skilled workforce. The city’s infrastructure and economic potential have been ranked in the top 10 for mid-sized cities in the Western Hemisphere. In addition to being the newest cable landing site destination on the East Coast, Virginia Beach boasts a robust broadband infrastructure that is being upgraded to support the next generation of telecommunication systems. A regional backbone will soon connect the area’s major government and education facilities and enable greatly expand-



ed commercial and residential access to ultra-high-speed networks. For years, the Virginia Beach leadership have focused on making the city attractive by keeping taxes and regulations low and by providing creative economic incentives based on companies’ needs. There is only one local taxing authority, and the business license fee for new non-manufacturers coming to Virginia Beach is capped at only $50 per each of their first two taxable years. Manufacturers pay no tax


on equipment used in the production process. Grants are available to eligible companies to assist with their growth. The living is easy in Virginia Beach, and the city works hard to make life and business easy for our international business arrivals. Thanks to the heavy volume of global trade that takes place here, businesses have access to some of the best international business law and immigration attorneys in the U.S. Also, most banks are experienced in

conducting international financial transactions. Virginia Beach is making headlines, and we invite you to get on board. For more information, visit, call Rob Hudome at (757) 385-6464 or email




WELCOME TO THE ONLY TRANSATLANTIC CABLE LANDING LOCATION IN THE CENTER OF THE EAST COAST. When the MAREA subsea cable, announced by Microsoft, Facebook and Teléfonica, comes online here to link the US and Spain in 2017, it will be the highest-capacity and highest-speed cable ever to cross the Atlantic. A second cable, linking the US with Brazil, will come online in 2018. It’s becoming a business-as-usual story in Virginia Beach, because this digital port city is moving oceans of data already. And now our world-class telecom system is primed for growth, boasting a data center and development park with available sites, certified power requirements, fiber-access hubs and streamlined permitting process. To learn how you can plug in, contact Rob Hudome at 757-385-6464 or

+1.800.989.4567 (US) • +49.2159.5324268 (Europe)





n last year’s Atlantic Infrastructure Analysis SemanticNet concluded that a network design across the Atlantic should utilize three or four paths. Today with two new cables built the Atlantic is another step closer to gradually changing the physical infrastructure between Europe and North America. Still for some, diversity is becoming a more important driver for new cable projects which are more south and physically diverse from the high populated New York – London route. These are the kind of new systems which will increase the resilience of the Atlantic route between Europe and the United States. The Atlantic Infrastructure Analysis 2017 focuses on the current infrastructure (figure 1), possible infrastructure strategies available and a look into the requirements of the future.


Submarine cable systems have to face the harsh environment of the ocean - from ship anchors and landslides to undersea earthquakes. Although mostly designed with additional protection in shallow water areas and close to shore, anchors

dropped by supertankers riding out storms can still damage the fiber optics inside the cables. The time to repair a cable will remain an important consideration. In general, terrestrial network outages can be resolved in a matter of days or even just a few hours after being reported. However, repairing undersea cables can take a few days or even weeks. This can be delayed even further in case of multiple cable breaks, storms or the limited availability of repair ships. Chances are that cable systems will fail, which makes engineering a network with redundancy in mind even more important. Redundancy and mitigation of threats can be achieved by using capacity leased from the owners of three or four different cables to help ensure that services will be robust and built on multiple underlying links - so that if one goes down, users could still rely on sufficient bandwidth available. The challenge is to analyze and select those cables each following a separate unique path or have the least amount of intersections, in order to minimize the probability of a complete network outage.

Figure 1: Northern Atlantic Submarine Cables


Cable Crossings

There can be a multitude of considerations during the selection of cable paths across the Atlantic, such as price, latency and diversity. Some may consider the number in which a certain cable crosses others to be a risk to the network resilience, reliability and availability. This year’s analysis has been updated to include more data of the USA segments of each transatlantic cable and is based on public data from KIS-ORCA, NASCA, NOAA and SubtelForum. The focus has been on systems between Europe and North America which crosses any other active fiber-optic submarine cable system which is either on the transatlantic route or crossing a transatlantic cable system along its route. Possible crossings in deep sea has not been included. Although each operator has documented the position and crossings of their systems, there is yet to become available a public resource to supply an overall view. Graph 1 shows the number of identified cable crossings per transatlantic system. There is an average of 14 crossings per cable. AC-1



North, TAT-14 North, Apollo North and Yellow have the most crossings with other active cable systems. Apollo North and Yellow seem to follow a similar route and cross other cables such as TGN Atlantic and Hibernia South and AC-1 South and North. TAT-14 North and AC-1 North most notably have many crossings with regional systems in the North Sea as well as intersect with each other three times. Lastly, Hibernia Express and Aqua Comm’s AEC seem to have the lowest amount of cable crossings. Based on the course of both systems and known paths of older transatlantic systems Hibernia Express is most likely to cross Hibernia North and South, AC-1 North, TGN Atlantic and TAT-14 North, while AEC intersects with Hibernia South, FA-1 North, CB-1, TAT-14 North, AC-1 North as well as with Hibernia Express. On both sides of the Atlantic there are some regions which have a high number of cable crossings. In the USA there is a region (39°30’0.00”N 71°30’0.00”W) vis44

Graph 1: Identified cable crossings between transatlantic cable systems

ible on NASCA chart 12300 where five different cables cross each other eight times. Three of these cables are AC-1 South, Apollo North and Yellow. Any transatlantic cable system such as FA-1, AC-1, Apollo North and Yellow will also cross with the CB-1 cable (39°00’0.00”N 69°30’0.00”W). On the other side of the Atlantic eight cables have been installed through a relatively small corridor near the United Kingdom. KIS-ORCA’s Interactive Map shows that these systems intersect with each other multiple times.


The crossings between transatlantic systems and tight corridors developed over the years questions the degree of diversity. Figure 2 gives a schematic representation of the various landing regions of the current transatlantic systems. Cables with landing stations in Shirley, Brookhaven and Bellport share a common region and land close to each other near Mastic Beach, mak-

ing it a single point of entry for nearly every cable connecting to Long Island. Besides the FA-1 system which is located closer to New York city, AC-1, Apollo North, Yellow and AEC all land in this corridor. The same situation is true for TAT-14, TGN Atlantic (South) and Apollo South, all with landfalls near Manasquan and Wall Township. In Europe the cable landing stations are somewhat more diverse. With the exception of Bude, UK no more than two transatlantic cables are connected to the same landing region. Ultimately the amount of diversity required will depend on the designs of the infrastructure and service level agreements. In some instances, a redundant strategy may be sufficient to only utilize two distinct routes, e.g. Hibernia Express (New York-London) and FA-1 South (New York-Paris). In other cases three or even four diverse paths might be necessary.


Figure 2: Diversity diagram

Spare capacity The industry is nearing the Shannon limit in which Physics constrains optical technology in the amount of power able to transmit across a certain channel. No other quantum leap in technology is expected in this field and the market Figure 3: Pre 2016

can no longer assume to make the progress it did before. An increase in channel bit rate will no longer mean an increase in capacity. This will force system developers and suppliers to find new ways to efficiently deploy more systems or increase the total cable capacity by broadening the repeater bandwidth

or implement alternative transmission techniques. STF Analytics’ Industry Report 2016 shows a lit capacity of 17.6 percent. While there is a large amount of spare capacity, a large buffer is required on cable systems to accommodate sudden spikes in demand such as reroute of traffic during cable faults. Over the years, transatlantic cables have performed reliably and it seems that the lifespan may be in excess of the previously assumed 25 years. Whether it is realistically possible to extend the lifespan of a system will likely have an impact on future upgrades and the possible increase in risk, even though a system is capable of utilizing the latest technology. Upgrades will also depend on the commercial viability to upgrade existing equipment.

New York – London

In the previous analysis ESnet’s 100G extension project in 2014 was mentioned as an example. The organization selected the Yellow, TGN, Apollo South and Hibernia North cables (figure 3) as part of their new research network to connect with



Figure 4: New possible New York – London strategy

other NREN’s in Europe. Respectively, each cable has eighteen, thirteen, fourteen or twelve crossings with other systems in the Atlantic. Based on the Diversity diagram in figure 2 Apollo South, Hibernia North and Yellow provide for three diverse routes across the Atlantic. While the US segment of the TGN system does share a common region with Apollo South it does provide for diversity between its CLS in Brean, UK versus Yellow’s landing station in Bude, UK. Alternatively, replacing Yellow with the FA-1 North cable could provide for more diversity between landing stations as well as lower the amount of cable crossings with other systems to fourteen (down from eighteen). With Hibernia Express and AEC ready for service more alternatives are available to buy and enable the use of 100G and future technologies which will be crucial in the further commoditization of the Atlantic capacity market. The design in figure 4 utilizes both systems in a strategy to connect New York and London. AEC is interesting as a replacement for the Hibernia Atlantic North cable, while Hibernia Express can replace any 46

system landing south-west of the UK as well as provides for the lowest latency across the Atlantic. Both systems may not have changed the general network strategy in the Atlantic as a whole, but do provide for replenishment of capacity of older systems in the near future. Apollo South is required in order to provide for the much needed diversity through France and avoid any possible crossings with other cable systems and backhaul networks on Long Island (e.g. AEC) or the UK (e.g. Hibernia Express). FA-1 South, although providing a less diverse path, may be considered as an alternative for Apollo’s southern cable. The fourth path could be supplied by either FA-1 North, Yellow, TGN or Apollo North. These systems can provide for redundancy, but not diversity. In any scenario one of these systems is sharing their landing region with either Apollo South or AEC and may increase the number of cable crossings in the design and be less preferred for those looking for more reliability.

Ashburn - Europe

With most cable stations either based on Long Island or in New Jersey, New York has become the main hub for transatlantic cable systems over the years. Although considered to be of importance and despite the number of cable landfalls, New York is not the center of the USA’s Internet. As a hub Ashburn is known as The bullseye of America’s Internet and the main location to interconnect with other domestic and international Internet businesses. With more than 15 data centers in Ashburn and more than 60 data centers in the state of Virginia this region houses facilities owned by companies such as Equinix, Microsoft, Amazon and Level 3. Compared to New York City Ashburn is as equally important to network operators, but in order to connect with datacenters in the region New York needs to be used as a transit hub. Currently any cable system with a cable landing station in New Jersey (figure 5) is ideally placed to connect to any data center in Virginia. TGN Atlantic could be used when a more direct path from the UK is required. Consortium members with access to TAT-14 could also utilize


Figure 5: Possible cables to Ashburn.

its southern cable in Tuckerton. For those looking to bypass both New York and London, Apollo South currently provides for the shortest, direct path to mainland Europe.

The Future: Diversity & Virginia Beach

Traffic between the USA and Europe is primarily routed through New York and London. Some consider this to be single points of failure in the Atlantic infrastructure. Graph 2: STF Analytics Industry Report 2016

The adoption of Cloud services and forecasted growth in capacity usage increases the importance of having a transatlantic infrastructure which is robust and resilient. It is important for any stakeholder to expand and reinforce the security and resiliency of their critical infrastructure. Over the last few years the trend towards private ownership has become stronger, mostly driven by the need of cloud and data center providers. SubtelForum Magazine’s Industry Report 2016 foresees a

continuation of this trend to extend well into the future. As a result, STF Analytics forecasts the development of a significant number of systems for 2016 to 2018 driven by these companies. Throughout the last few years European Internet Hubs such as London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris have become increasingly more important. They have made Europe the second most important Internet gateway in the world today. Just as London and New York, Paris has become Europe’s interconnection point when it comes to fiber optic cable systems from the East and Africa e.g. SMW, ACE and EIG and terrestrial backhaul networks to Frankfurt, Amsterdam and London. Each day tens of Terabits of capacity is traversing the Parisian Internet hub, making it Europe’s third largest data traffic exchange point. More than three years ago SemanticNet initiated the “Fibre Atlantic”-concept – an open-access, independent, diverse fiber optic submarine cable system between Bordeaux, France and Virginia Beach (figure 6). The main objective is to develop cable systems which can provide for more diversity (see 47


Figure 6: Virginia to Europe transatlantic cable

figure 2) across the Atlantic, do tential to become an alternate route not intersect with any other transwith multiple systems, equal to New atlantic cable system, bypass New York – London. York and London and offer direct Marea will be the first kind of interconnection services between cable across the Atlantic based on datacenters in Ashburn and mainthe concept of diversity. The quesland Europe. tion is whether the deployment of Considering the growth of Inthese multi Terabit systems will be ternet hubs such as Ashburn and enough to deliver the capacity needParis, new systems offering direct ed for the future. Considering the access with onward connectivity capacity requirements of OTTs and to New York, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and London will become more important. Even though there are cables in the direction of both Ashburn and mainland Europe, there is not yet a fully diverse cable between Virginia Beach and the European mainland, a market Graph 3: Price benchmark New-York – Lonwith the po48

don / Virginia Beach – mainland Europe

other private networks a Lit capacity beyond 100 Terabits or more will be easily achievable in a matter of a few years. New systems might even be required if faster provisioning of new capacity is needed in order to keep up with demand and provide for sufficient headroom at the same time. From an economical point of view the Virginia – Europe route


will also provide for cheaper capacity. Because of the route less protection is required and deployment costs are lower. Compared to Hibernia Express’ and AEC’s $ 300 million systems the Fibre Atlantic concept brings down the build costs below $10 per 10Gb of capacity per kilometer. This will enable content providers to get cheaper capacity by building own systems and swapping transatlantic capacity with stakeholders in other regions. With IRU’s currently priced at $ 115,000 prices could potentially drop 15-25% p.a. between 2017 and 2020. This trend will open up opportunities for smaller internet businesses and service providers to snatch up transatlantic capacity at lower price points.


This year’s analysis shows that New York – London remains the dominant route in the Atlantic. The deployment of Express and AEC offers the opportunity to create better infrastructure on the NY-London route as well as start replenishing capacity from older systems.

While the Atlantic is well equipped to provide for capacity some stakeholders will shift their focus on diversity as a more important driver for new cable projects. There will be a spur of significant interest in creating more diversity to further improve the Atlantic’s infrastructure with new cables away from the highly populated New York – London route. This will help to improve resilience and create new possibilities for OTTs, Carriers, Services Providers and NRENs to build meshed networks offering sufficient capacity, reliability and resiliency. Hubert Souisa is the founder and CEO of SemanticNet. He earned his bachelor degree in computer science and engineering at the Hague University and has worked for multiple organizations in the Netherlands, including Dutch based dark fiber and carrier Ethernet provider Eurofiber and the Dutch government. Supported by a strong team of industry specialists, SemanticNet is developing global Internet infrastructures in or-

der to increase overall connectivity, resiliency and availability. Horst Etzkorn is COO of SemanticNet. Mr Etzkorn holds a Ph.D in Fiber Optics and has more than 30 years of telecommunications industry experience spanning sub-sea and terrestrial fiber optic long-haul DWDM networks, voice switching and IP networks. He was previously Head of SIEMENS Submarine Cable Systems which, among others, encompassed the implementation of PLDT’s DFON Inter-Island Submarine Cable System in the Philippines, and the pre-sales activities and tender works, including the integration of the repeatered segments delivered by TE SubCom, for the Arcos1 submarine cable system in the Caribbean. Subsequently, Horst worked as a consultant for Portugal Telecom’s Azores Inter-Island Submarine Cable System installed under his responsibility during his tenure at Siemens, implementing an advanced, non-corrosive shore-end protection scheme at the landing points of all 7 islands of the ring system. 49




n-time Delivery is Paramount. A smooth project implementation for on-time project delivery by the contracted date is most important for those who are in charge of laying submarine cable. The background is obviously how to minimize the construction period (e.g. lead time of the project), that will maximize the effectiveness of cable infrastructure investments from customer’s point of view. There is a new trend to pursue effective implementation by new customers, who are not traditional telecom businesses, but act as a part of a customer consortium and it is most likely to demand successful project implementation, especially in terms of keeping delivery time. Most of the submarine cable projects are contracted among several Purchasers and a Suppler under turn-key basis agreement. Then, as a normal practice, that project team headed by a designated project manager is established on the supplier side. In this paper, I will Marine

attempt to discuss the relation between “Effectiveness of Implementation” and “Qualification of a Project Manager” based on my 17-year experience being in charge of building submarine cable project. What are the conditions for a “Successful Project”? Definitely, if a project conforms to the Purchaser’s technical requirement and achieves a ready for service (RFS) date as per supply contract, everyone agrees that it is a “Successful Project”. However, we sometimes see projects which do not perfectly meet Purchaser’s requirements, or does not meet initially targeted RFS date. Then, can we immediately categorize such a project as an “Unsuccessful Project”? During the complex submarine cable project implementation, various things happen which prevent smooth implementation, and if such things are reasonable enough to be justified to the project stakeholders (mainly they are Purchasers), we can regard the project is “Successful” as


well. In other words, a project is successful when all stakeholders have a consensus on the project implementation, being fully explained and convinced that all the processes are reasonable. So how can a project be brought as such? Firstly, it definitely requires highly skilled supplier’s capability. And it is also important that it relies on the ability of supplier’s project manager. Here we will discuss about necessary skills for supplier’s project manager and how to contribute to the project implementation using such skills. Before entering detail discussions, we shall review the structure of a submarine cable project. As everyone is aware, a submarine cable project has a very complex structure, consist of quite large areas to be covered, such as permit acquisition, marine (desktop study, route survey and load & lay), system & product design, manufacturing, OSP (outside plant) & CLS (cable landing station) preparation, dry plant in-


Wet Plant

Dry Plant

Cable Landing Station





stallation and test, training services and commissioning, etc.. Submarine cable project implementation takes place with various processes moving in parallel with multiple elements such as marine, cable, submersible plant, terminal station equipment etc. This is the outstanding characteristics and also challenge of a submarine cable implementation project, how to synchronize these elements in the most effective manner. Please refer to figure1 to understand the typical process and element. I would like you to take note that some or whole parts of an element are sometimes taken by Purchaser as their scope of work (SoW). The demarcation of the SoW depends on the project, which is defined in supply agreement between customer and supplier.


Now we talk about the project manager. The most essential roles of the project manager are to make decisions in various aspect of the project. Because of the typical nature of the turn-key supply of submarine cable system, supplier implements the project in the order of Design ~ Manufacturing ~ Installation ~ Commissioning, however these processes usually overlap in a short delivery time. Because of this, small deviation of any single process may affect the whole project schedule. Therefore, the project manager must be prepared to encounter situations where he must make decisions frequently throughout the whole implementation. An important qualification of a project manager is that he should be skilled with various experience and knowledge about the project implementation in order to provide judgement

to conduct the project in right direction in timely manner. But sometimes a project manager may be young. In such case he can overcome the lack of experience by acquiring the right information in making decision with the assistance from his project staffs who are dedicated and in charge with similar project. An essential capability for project implementation is “planning�. Especially, critical path analysis is the most important qualification for project implementation. Critical path is the series of the works which dominates the entire project schedule. If any work on the critical path is delayed, it directly means delay to the completion of the project. We know each project will have a unique critical path from their different nature. To give you typical examples, a transoceanic submarine



Project Manager


Wet Plant

Dry Plant


system requires longer cable therefore manufacturing and load & lay of the cable shall become the critical path. On the contrary, even if the cable is short but requires a long cable burial section, or cable armoring and burial, then this could be the critical path. Other examples are, a project with multiple landing countries and cable that passes through many territorial water or EEZ, it would have a criticality in applications and approval for Permit in Principle (PiP) prior to cable laying. Project manager should understand and recognize the criticality of each element and must share them with the project members. By the way, criticality of the project will depend on resources, namely capacity of manufacturing, capability of cable laying vessel, capability of installation / testing team etc. Also he must know the predictive potential risk on each element. Typical examples of the most simple but important risk are weather risk in cable laying, permit risk, logistic risk such as custom clearance, etc.

System Design


Talking about the risk, capability of risk management is one of the most important qualifications of a project manager. As described above, in a complex submarine cable project, if any one of the processes should stop, it would influence the entire process and the impact could be very huge and significant in keeping to the overall project schedule. Risk management is another essential provision in implementing a submarine cable project. Without knowing the expected capability of the assigned resource, it is impossible to make an assessment over the impact to the project and/or to establish a contingency plan when such resources are missing or do not provide expected performance. Therefore, the project manager shall acknowledge the entire project flow and assign a contingency duration and contingency plan for each process to conduct the project. In order to achieve such objective, the project manager shall be furnished with broad experience and knowledge, and capable to appropriately share them not only with supplier’s


project team but also with the Purchaser’s project team. The project implementation schedule is called a “plan of work (POW)”. The POW shall serve as the baseline of the implementation, which is sometimes mentioned as Mile Stones. Keeping to the project baseline is the most fundamental project management method to deliver the project on the planned time flame. A skilled project manager can stick to such baseline POW even if various project risks should appear, if he deeply knows how to plan and how to manage the risk. In fact, there is a significant relation between the risk management and planning. For the successful completion of the project, the project manager establishes an overall plan of work and arranges resources such as survey vessel, factory line, engineers and cable ships. The project manager can hedge risk and come up with a contingency plan in each process and element at the timing of initial planning to minimize the



influence even if the risk is raised during implementation. With such deep study and knowledge to the project plan of work, even under the worst scenario to change the project POW, the project manager can smoothly keep conducting the project involving stakeholders such as Purchasers, subcontractors, and project members. We have been discussing only about the project manager, however it is obvious a project cannot be implemented by a single project manager. We must not forget the project team supporting the project manager throughout and at various aspect of the project. Figure2 below shows NEC’s typical Project Management organization. The Project Manager is at the top of the organization as an interface to Purchasers, supported by a team consist of specific submarine system components such as System Design, Marine, Wet Plant, Dry Plant, Quality Assurance, Testing, and Permitting. Even supported by the team, the project manager‘s role in the team is still very important, especially unifying and leading the project team, being deeply trusted by his team members. By the way, we tend to consider that a submarine cable project is implemented by the supplier; however, such recognition is incorrect. Not only the supplier side, but also the purchaser side has lots of matters, such as constructing the cable landing station and preparation of outside plant, timely acceptance of the product and system design, dispatch of representative, and Permit acquisition and EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) which are the most critical tasks of the project. Thanks to support and help by the project manager on the Purchaser side, a supplier can implement the project in a very smooth manner by completely synchronizing the project activities regardless of which parties’ scope a task may be. 54

I would like to emphasize that there are significant difficulties in obtaining permit-in-principle (PIP) from the related Governmental entity when installing a cable, and also having consensus agreement from Purchasers’ consortium members about the direction of the project. These jobs are definitely required and are key factors to achieve a successful project delivery, mainly done by the project manager on Purchaser’s side. As discussed, project managers from both supplier and purchaser have their own specific roles and responsibilities, which need to be fulfilled for a successful implementation of any submarine cable project. However, in addition to the above, there is another factor which significantly increases the possibility of a successful completion. It is a tiny and simple matter, but sometimes difficult to achieve. That is, project managers from both side to trust each other, cooperate with each other beyond their own position to complete the project. The more the trust, and more the strong bond, the higher possibility of success will be. When we encounter good result(s) during submarine cable project implementation, it always appears that a very good relationship between supplier’s project manager and Purchaser’s project manager was there. Submarine cable project is absolutely a business. Two project managers from supplier and Purchaser are in charge of the project representing their own company, therefore it is natural they protect benefit of their own company. From such point of view, it seems impossible for the two project managers to cooperate. However, we need to be reminded that a successful delivery of the project is the objective. From this point of view, cooperation upon mutual understanding is quite natural and absolutely possible.

Everybody wants a happy ending. Everybody can achieve a happy ending with a successful closing of the project, if they desire and aim, and keeping in mind of mutual cooperation and trust. When a good relationship is established between these two leaders, the project is implemented most effectively and a win-win relation will be brought.

Mikinori Niino is the Senior Project Manager, Submarine Network Division, for NEC Corporation in Tokyo, Japan. He joined NEC in 1993, starting as marketing in network service. In 1999, he moved to the submarine division, and then started working in project management area. He learned project management throughout implementation of APCN2 (2000-2002), EAC2 (2000-2002), TIS (2002-2003), DSCN (2006), etc. Being appointed as a project manager, he achieved numerous projects in Asian waters, resolving complications in permitting and related marine operations and cable manufacturing.



Telecoms consulting of submarine cable systems for regional and trans-oceanic applications 55






ll deep sea optical cables today have a central tube package housing the optical fibers, surrounded by a strength member constituting a vault protecting the central tube package. This paper tells the story of the development of these specific key parts of our optical systems and illustrates how the loose tube package was not straightforward, and how the wire structure in the western industry today originates from the development of ropes in the mid-19th century.

Structure of the submarine cable today

Without even considering the extra armoring needed close to the shore, there are many constraints weighing on the deep sea Light Weight optical cable: It must sustain mechanical longitudinal strength, chemical corrosion, water ingress in normal operation or after a cut. In addition, the optical fibers must be protected against water and hydrogen, and hosted loosely, despite the hostile and high pressure environment. The structure of the Light Weight submarine cable converged to two main solutions as depicted in Figure 1. The left side of Figure 1 is the structure selected in USA and Europe (TE Subcom and Alcatel-Lucent first), followed by others later, called “western” below, and the right side is the structure selected by the Japanese industry (NEC/OCC

today). The central optical package is a loose housing for all suppliers with variants of composition – for example. plastic or stainless steel tube, this latest solution also offering a hydrogen barrier. This tube looks like a natural choice today, but a few decades ago it was far from obvious to package thousands of kilometers of fibers inside a tiny tube. Then, for the western solution, this tube is surrounded by a cable vault made of 24 wires of 3 different sizes arranged together in “parallel lay strand” to be in close contact between each other transversally and longitudinally as well (sometimes called the Warrington arrangement). This central strength member is enclosed by a thin layer of copper that transports the power feeding current and keeps the wires together. This multi-wire structure is perfectly circular, but it also leaves very little space for water ingress and above all, it constitutes a vault protecting the central tube cavity

against the pressure of the deep sea. One can understand that the production of this structure was a big challenge. Any small defect of wire crossings in the structure could result in a fault in deep water. The alternative to this wire structure is the solution adopted by the Japanese industry where the central housing for the optical fibers and the protective vault are made at the same time by a 3-segment (C section) steel pipe, surrounded by an extra layer of wires, maintained by a copper layer as well, as shown on the right side of Figure 1.

The optical package of the optical submarine cable

When the pioneering work demonstrating the use of optical fibers as a telecommunications medium was done in 1966 by Charles Kao (later awarded the Nobel Prize) and his team, optical fibers were soon produced using high purity sil-

Polyethylene Optical fibers Filling jelly Steel wires Optical housing Conductor tube Figure 1: Structure of the Light Weight optical submarine cable



Optical fiber


Grease jelly


Tube Strength member


Strength member Rod with groves

Optical fiber Elastomer


Nylon Elastomer

Optical fiber Strength member

D Tube


Figure 2: Early solutions proposed for the optical package in 1986 A: present tube - B: AT&T – C: KDD – D: FT/Alcatel

ica glass and within a decade or so had been shown to be the ideal medium to replace the coaxial cables for long distance transmission. The submarine cable industry endorsed the challenge to bridge transoceanic distances with this new technology (Reference 1) that offered also the solution to overcome the competition with satellite for long distance high capacity communications. The protection of the fragile silica optical guide against various mechanical constraints was a key target. The fiber itself being protected by two layers of polymer coatings after drawing, the first one being very soft and the second harder, then the challenge was to insert this coated fiber inside a robust cable structure. The first solutions elaborated by the different suppliers are well described in the proceedings of the first SubOptic convention that took place in Versailles in 1986 (Reference 2). None of the initial solutions proposed the loose tube which became common later! The shared view was that the optical package of the cable had to constitute an extra fiber coating to avoid the fibers touching each other and that a strength member was needed at the center of the optical package. The solution invented by the US teams 58

was an encapsulation of the fibers with a polymer (Hytrel), while the Europeans introduced a slotted core structure where the fibers had their individual slot filled with grease. The Japanese industry invented an encapsulated structure in which the optical fibers were inserted in a similar way to the US design. The particularity of the Japanese solution was that the optical package was manufactured by the fiber suppliers. Figure 2 illustrates these diverse solutions. With the accumulation of experience and improvements in manufacturing, the polymer matrix was finally abandoned completely by the 1990s/early 2000s, as well as the central strength member. Despite the softness of the elastomer, the polymer induced uncontrolled stress, especially on sensitive large core fibers. It was also realized that the risk induced by fibers touching each other was not a real one, and the US teams moved to a loose plastic tube filled with grease. The Japanese teams converged to a single tube as well. The French team had adopted before the others the grease-filled fiber environment to “encapsulate” the fibers and limit the water entry. While the slotted core optical package may have been

the better technical solution initially, the French transitioned to the more cost effective simple tube in the early 1990s as well. By the early 2000s, all the cable suppliers had thus adopted the loose structure filled with grease and where the coated fibers were laid with a controlled slack. The difference between cable manufacturers remained in the nature of the optical fiber housing itself. The US design is based on a plastic tube, very simple to extrude, but permeable to hydrogen. The French team developed a technique to build a stainless-steel tube by laser welding, formed around the fibers, and the Japanese teams kept the thick tube in 3 steel segments constituting a circular pipe for which special care was needed for the permeability to hydrogen and even water. The central strength member of the optical fiber housing was also abandoned.

The iron vault around the optical package

Having a 1 atmosphere pressure tube cavity in the center of a cable that is itself under the water pressure as high as 100 atmospheres requires a strong mechanical protection. This is achieved through a vault effect: the tube lays in the center of the strength member made of steel strands. One can understand that when a single layer of steel strands is used, it does not constitute an efficient vault effect: if it becomes slightly oval, it collapses and flattens under pressure (or if it is grappled for repair). Several layers of densely packed steel strands are needed to constitute a stable vault. The tentative solutions of the submarine cable industry were also presented in the first SubOptic convention in 1986 as illustrated in Figure 3. One can observe that the KDD Japanese team adopted a physical vault directly made of a thick tube assembled in 3-segment steel

C-shells, which has been kept in later designs. The OCC Japanese team developed a clever strength member based on Seale strand structure (see text below). The English STC developed a torsionally balanced solution that was not parallel lay, not densely packed, and thus missed the vault effect. The copper layer was internal, thus not used to keep the wires together. This attempt was shortly abandoned. The US and French teams adopted independently the Warrington solution made of 24 strands (for US) and 36 strands (for French) with 3 different strand diameters, densely packed and perfectly circular, wrapped with a copper layer that also transports the feeding current. This structure is the only strand structure kept in the western industry today, and that new competition worldwide target to achieve. The answer to the enigma of simultaneous adoption of the Warrington solution by the US industry and the French industry is simply that the optical cable inherited this structure directly from the central strength member coaxial cable first introduced in 1962! This is a surprise since the vault effect is not needed for coaxial cables where the central strand is not a fragile optical tube, but a central metal wire.



Steel wire


Steel wire


3-divided steel C-segment


Copper Steel wire

Steel wire




Steel wire (counterclockwise)

Figure 3 : The early inner strength member of the optical cables A: AT&T and FT/Alcatel - B: KDD – C: OCC – D: STC

tremendous technology leap was achieved after ten years of development from 1952 to 1962. At this time, a new cable and the lumped bidirectional repeater were both developed, led by AT&T under the name of the SD system, a 1 inch coaxial cable introduced in the Atlantic for TAT-4 and also in the Pacific for TPC-1, cables which entered service in 1964-65. The evolution of the cable was the first major one

since the ancestral telegraphic cable replacement by the coaxial cable in the 1950s. The strength member inside the central conductor was the solution maximizing the size of the coaxial cable and thus its bandwidth, in a given cable diameter, and directly optimizing its cost. In addition, the “skin effect” locating the current at the surface of the central conductor at high frequencies made the conductor envelope ideal. The

The central strength member coaxial cable generation

The surprise is that the vault effect is an unexpected technical consequence of the central strength member structure of the last coaxial cable generation as shown below. Details are in Reference 3. In the 1950s, the improvement of the coaxial cable was needed to increase the reach and bandwidth of submarine communications, after TAT-1 entered service in 1956. Further challenges had to be faced in the 1960s to answer the threat from the first satellite solutions. A

Structure of the Armorless « SD » Coaxial Cable Figure 4: SD coaxial cable drawing with central strength member



highly densely packed Warrington scheme offered by chance, and for free, the best vault effect!

Origin of the Warrington cable structure

Basic 1+6 strand

Seale strand

Warrington Strand

Filler strand

Figure 5: Cable structures invented in the second half 19th century

reduction of torsional stiffness by the central member offers many advantages as described in Reference 3, and outside the present scope. Figure 4 shows the SD cable structure with the 24 + 1 strand Warrington structure with an extra additional outer layer, as described in Reference 4. The next generations of coaxial systems called SF and SG (1.5 and 1.7 inch cables) were developed respectively in 1968 and 1976, jointly by the UK, French and US, and the Warrington scheme was kept, just slightly enlarged proportionally for SG, the last generation

of coaxial cable used for TAT-6 and TAT-7 in the Atlantic. The same cable was manufactured with their local names by European and US manufacturers under license, thus the products were the same on both sides of the Atlantic. When the industry transitioned from coaxial solutions to optical solutions in the 1980s, the cable had to host the optical package. All the development teams tried to find a better solution, but the central wire of the coaxial Warrington structure was finally replaced by the optical unit for the simple reason that the

Drawing of 3 wires Strand structure by Roebling


Figure 6: drawing of the three strand structure by John Roebling around 1870

The next question is where submarine cable developers did find this complex structure made of 3 different wire diameters that needs tight tolerance? One finds the source of all the rope structures in an industrial fight that took place mid-19th century far away from the domain of submarine cables. The introduction of iron in the industry created a revolution linked to the replacement of textile ropes by iron ropes (i.e. in mines or for suspended bridges). While the French were successful for the rigid iron structures (Eiffel tower…), the UK and US were leaders in the invention of cable structures for flexible constructions, with competitive patent fights, especially against Seale’s patent. All the clever cable structures of today were invented in a short period. They were all inherited from the hexagonal dense shape, but then the variants were targeting stability, compactness, and circular shape. One can see the successful examples in Figure5. The advantage of each can be found in Reference 5. They are all the “parallel lay strand” (strand layers have the same pitch and stay in contact along the cable), but the 3 wire strands (Warrington) structure may have been invented by John Roebling several years before the official invention date of the parallel lay strand by Tom Seale in 1884. See on Figure 6 the drawing of John Roebling done around 1870. This structure was not very suitable for cable-car service because the alternately small-sized outer wires invariably wore out first, but it is one of the most stable, the most densely packed, and it has a perfectly circular outer diameter. Thus, since the submarine coaxial central

strength member exhibits very limited friction, it was recognized as the best choice for the SD submarine cable for many good reasons, 100 years after the structure discovery. It was then kept for the next (SF and SG) coaxial cables, and later for modern optical cables! Another enigma (that I let open to the reader) is that while the UK (BT) team was in charge of the last SG coaxial cable development, the UK (STC) team missed using the know-how for their first optical cable. There is also another enigma in this story: The cable structure is called Warrington while it is the name of a town in the UK where cable factories existed at the time, but there is no proof that a Warrington structure was ever manufactured in Warrington. It should more honestly be called Roebling’s structure…


With a helicopter view, the submarine optical cable deployed today for the major markets is inherited simply from the coaxial cable introduced in years 1960 where the central wire of the central strength member is replaced by a tube unit containing the fibers. The devil being in the detail, the process to lay the fibers inside the tube and the tolerance to reliably produce the so called Warrington vault with 3 strand diameters is achieved by a very small handful of factories worldwide and is definitely an in-

dustrial barrier that slows entry of new competitors. The author is grateful to Pierre Gaillard and Laurie Doyle for his useful help to solve some of the enigmas encountered in this back reflection.


1. Undersea Fiber Communication Systems, Ed.2, José Chesnoy ed., Elsevier/Academic Press ISBN: 978-0-12-804269-4 (book) 2. Proceedings of Suboptic 1986, Versailles, France 3. Du Morse à l’Internet, R.Salvador, G.Fouchard, Y.Rolland, A.P.Leclerc, Edition Association des Amis des Câbles Sous Marins, 2006 (book) 4. M.W.Bowker, W.G.Nutt and M.Riley, The Bell System Technical Journal, July 1964 5. A Short History of Wire Rope, by Dipl.-Ing. Roland Verreet, 2004 PR GmbH, Aachen 6. Undersea Lightwave Communications, Peter Runge and Patrick Trischitta ed., IEE Press, ISBN: 0-87942-201-7


the advent of amplified submarine cables in the company. After several positions in R&D and sales, he became CTO of Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks until the end of 2014. He was member of several Suboptic Program Committees, then chaired the program committee for SubOptic 2004, and was nominated Bell Labs Fellow in 2010. José Chesnoy is the editor of the reference book “Undersea Fiber Communication Systems” (Elsevier/ Academic Press) having a new revised edition just published end 2015.

José Chesnoy (jose., PhD, is an independent expert in the field of submarine cable technology. After Ecole Polytechnique and a first a 10 years academic career in the French CNRS, he joined Alcatel’s research organization in 1989, leading


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ello readers, and Happy New Year! You’ve probably noticed a few changes with SubTel Forum lately, for starters a new website and format to the magazine. Recapping my words from last issue, we’re rolling out a brand-new look and feel for 2017. The changes are wide sweeping, you’ll notice that the 2017 Wall Map is bigger and easier to read, the Magazine has a new size format, making the content more readable, and the website is now streamlined for easier access to our publications. Last issue, I laid out our vision for the future of SubTel Forum: we’re creating specialized departments with their own unique websites to better present our publications to you, our readers. For instance, when reading up on old issues of the Magazine, our typical user isn’t interested in tripping over advertising pricing and such.


In trying to simplify the user experience, we realized that we’re no longer just a humble magazine publishing company, that also has a handful of other publications. We’ve grown into a full-blown news media publisher that spans print, digital and video mediums. With that thought driving our plan for the next 15 years, I am very proud to present you the new face of SubTel Forum! We are rolling out new formats and websites over the next few weeks, please stay tuned for the latest updates and releases from our great minds in the design department. Loyally yours,

Kristian Nielsen literally grew up in the business since his first ‘romp’ on a BTM cableship in Southampton at age 5. He has been with Submarine Telecoms Forum for a little over 6 years; he is the originator of many products, such as the Submarine Cable Map, STF Today Live Video Stream, and the STF Cable Database. In 2013, Kristian was appointed Vice President and is now responsible for the vision, sales, and over-all direction and sales of SubTel Forum.





Conferences Submarine Telecoms Forum, Inc. 21495 Ridgetop Circle, Suite 201 Sterling, Virginia 20166, USA ISSN No. 1948-3031 PRESIDENT & PUBLISHER: Wayne Nielsen VICE PRESIDENT: Kristian Nielsen


CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS: José Chesnoy, Kieran Clark, Horst Etzkorn, James Herron, Rob Hudome, Brian Lavallée, Mikinori Niino, Hubert Souisa, John Tibbles Contributions are welcomed. Please forward to the Managing Editor at

Submarine Telecoms Forum magazine is published bimonthly by Submarine Telecoms Forum, Inc., and is an independent commercial publication, serving as a freely accessible forum for professionals in industries connected with submarine optical fiber technologies and techniques. Submarine Telecoms Forum may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form, in whole or in part, without the permission of the publishers. Liability: while every care is taken in preparation of this publication, the publishers cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the information herein, or any errors which may occur in advertising or editorial content, or any consequence arising from any errors or omissions, and the editor reserves the right to edit any advertising or editorial material submitted for publication. Copyright © 2017 Submarine Telecoms Forum, Inc.


PTC 2017 15-18 January 2017 Honolulu, Hawaii USA Website ICPC Plenary 25-27 April 2017 Montevideo, Uruguay Website


Global Outlook March:

Finance & Legal May:

Subsea Capacity July:

Regional Systems September:

Offshore Energy November:

System Upgrades



cancelled by iPhone last fall and it’s one of the best things I ever did. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t miss that device from time to time, because every time I have to drive somewhere unfamiliar, or wait around for a few minutes with nothing to do, I wish I had Steve Jobs’ greatest creation in my pocket. And whenever I attempt to make a call and have to press seven buttons before I can get a dial tone, I wonder if I’ve done something terrible. But there are a few advantages to not having a smart phone. First and foremost, I save an unbelievable amount of time every day. I was walking around the farm, checking email and interacting on Facebook the whole time. Now that I can’t do that anymore I save about 2 hours per day on my chore time! That one factor alone makes throwing the blasted thing into the fires of Mount Doom worthwhile, but wait, there’s more. I write for an hour every morning before I start my other work for the day. I want you to get an ac-

curate picture of what I’m talking about, so picture me staggering out of bed in the darkness, lighting up the wood stove while it’s so cold that I can see my breath, pouring a cup of hot coffee, and writing a novel about Native American monsters or government conspiracies or people living on a starship. I just had a new book (THE BLEAK DECEMBER) release last month. The only reason I have time to write and farm and manage this little old magazine is because I’m not constantly staring into an iPhone. So, what’s the downside? So far, the biggest difficulty I’ve experienced is that I no longer have GPS at my fingertips. I’ll tell you the truth, I get lost all the time, and I had come to rely on Siri to get me out of trouble quite a bit. I could certainly purchase a GPS for my truck, but I haven’t done that yet, so driving into the city isn’t much fun. Other than that... I don’t really see a downside. I have an iPad, so I can connect to the internet easily enough if I’m within range of a wifi


connection, and I haven’t received a text in three months. All-in-all, I’d call life without a smart phone a win. Now if I could just figure out what to do with all this extra free time... Kevin G. Summers is the Editor of Submarine Telecoms Forum and has been supporting the submarine fibre optic cable industry in various roles since 2007. Outside of the office, he is an author of fiction whose works include ISOLATION WARD 4, LEGENDARIUM, THE MAN WHO SHOT JOHN WILKES BOOTH, and THE BLEAK DECEMBER.




Profile for Submarine Telelecoms Forum

Submarine Telecoms Forum #92  

Submarine Telecoms Forum magazine is a free, bimonthly trade journal focused on the submarine cable industry. The magazine has seen continuo...

Submarine Telecoms Forum #92  

Submarine Telecoms Forum magazine is a free, bimonthly trade journal focused on the submarine cable industry. The magazine has seen continuo...

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