A Russian fiber optic cable under the Baltic Sea was completely severed last month when a Chinese container ship passed over it, state company Rostelecom said on Tuesday.
Finnish investigators have already said they suspect the vessel, the NewNew Polar Bear, of causing serious damage to the nearby Balticconnector gas pipeline by dragging its anchor over the sea bed during the same voyage.
Two other Baltic telecoms cables were damaged on the same night of October 7th, along the route that the ship was travelling, according to shipping data reviewed by Reuters.
The incidents have highlighted the vulnerability of marine cables and pipelines at a time when security fears are running high because of the Ukraine war. Investigators have yet to establish who was responsible for blowing up Russia’s Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic last year.
A Rostelecom spokesperson, responding to emailed questions from Reuters, said the double armored fiber optic cable, with a thickness of 40.4 mm (1.6 inches), had been cut completely.
Asked if the company believed the Chinese ship had caused the damage, the spokesperson said: “At the time of the damage to the fiber optic cable, the Chinese ship New Polar Bear was at a point with coordinates coinciding with the route of the communication line.”
China has said it is willing to provide necessary information on the incident in accordance with international law. NewNew Shipping, the owner and operator of the NewNew Polar Bear, has previously declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
In a statement earlier on Tuesday, Rostelecom publicly acknowledged the damage to its cable for the first time, describing it as an accident and without mentioning the cause. It said the site of the damage was only 28 km (17 miles) from where the Balticconnector gas pipeline was ruptured soon afterwards.
In total, three Baltic telecoms cables and one pipeline were damaged in the space of less than nine hours.
Data from shipping intelligence firm MarineTraffic, reviewed by Reuters, showed that the New Polar Bear passed over a Swedish-Estonian telecoms cable at 1513 GMT, then over the Russian cable at around 2020 GMT, the Balticconnector at 2220 GMT and a Finland-Estonia telecoms line at 2349 GMT.
Rostelecom said the damage to its cable was recorded at 2030 GMT.
As far back as Oct. 13, President Vladimir Putin dismissed as “complete rubbish” suggestions that Russia might have been to blame for the Balticconnector damage and floated the possibility that a ship’s anchor could have caused it.
On Tuesday, the Kremlin referred further questions to the Communications Ministry, which did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Finnish police announced on Oct. 24 that they had found a ship’s anchor near the broken gas pipeline. They have not concluded whether the damage was caused accidentally or deliberately. Operator Gasgrid has said the pipeline could be out of commission until April or longer.
Rostelecom said a specialised vessel had started repairs on the fiber optic cable on Sunday and that the work was expected to take 10 days, depending on weather conditions.
The cable runs from St Petersburg to Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad. The company said users had not been affected because data was transmitted via terrestrial routes and backup satellite channels.
China seeks to control Asian subsea cable systems; SJC2 delayed, Apricot and Echo avoid South China Sea
Geopolitical tensions arise in Asia over subsea fiber optic cable projects; U.S. intervened to flip SeaMeWe-6 contractor
Nokia today announced it has set two new world records in submarine optical transmission, both of which will shape the next generation of optical networking equipment.
The first sets a new optical speed record for transoceanic distances. Nokia Bell Labs researchers were able to demonstrate an 800-Gbps data rate at a distance of 7865 km using a single wavelength of light. That distance is two times greater than what current state-of-the-art equipment can transmit at the same capacity and is approximately the geographical distance between Seattle and Tokyo. Nokia Bell Labs achieved this milestone at its optical research testbed in Paris-Saclay, France.
The second record was achieved by both Nokia Bell Labs and Nokia subsidiary Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), establishing a net throughput of 41 Tbps over 291 km via a C-band unrepeated transmission system. C-band unrepeated systems are commonly used to connect islands and offshore platforms to each other and the mainland proper. The previous record for these kinds of systems is 35 Tbps over the same distance. Nokia Bell Labs and ASN broke the record at ASN’s research testbed facility, also in Paris-Saclay.
Nokia Bell Labs and ASN presented the scientific findings behind both records on the 4th and 5th of October at the European Conference on Optical Communications (ECOC), held in Glasgow, Scotland.
Making lasers that blink faster:
Nokia Bell Labs and Alcatel Submarine Networks were able to achieve both world records through the innovation of higher-baud-rate technologies. “Baud” measures the number of times per second that an optical laser switches on and off, or “blinks”. Higher baud rates mean higher data throughput and will allow future optical systems to transmit the same capacities per wavelength over far greater distances. In the case of transoceanic systems, these increased baud rates will double the distance at which we could transmit the same amount of capacity, allowing us to efficiently bridge cities on opposite sides of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In the case of C-band unrepeated systems, higher baud would allow service providers connecting islands or off-shore platforms to achieve higher capacities with fewer transceivers and without the addition of new frequency bands.
The research behind these two records will have significant impact on the next generation of submarine optical transmission systems. While future deployments of submarine fiber will take advantage of new fiber technologies like multimode and multicore, the existing undersea fiber networks can take advantage of next-generation higher-baud-rate transceivers to boost their performance and increase their long-term viability.
Sylvain Almonacil, Research Engineer at Nokia Bell Labs, said: “With these higher baud rates, we can directly link most of the world’s continents with 800 Gbps of capacity over individual wavelengths. Previously, these distances were inconceivable for that capacity. Furthermore, we’re not resting on our achievement. This world record is the next step toward next-generation Terabit-per-second submarine transmissions over individual wavelengths.”
Hans Bissessur, Unrepeated Systems Group leader at ASN, said: “These research advances show that that we can achieve better performance over the existing fiber infrastructure. Whether these optical systems are crisscrossing the world or linking the islands of an archipelago, we can extend their lifespans.”
According to TeleGeography, there were an estimated 1.4 million km of submarine cables in service globally at the start of 2023 and that number is rapidly increasing.
Recent highlights include Orange and ASN agreeing in July to construct the new Medusa cable system between multiple locations in North Africa and Southern Europe. In late September, Telecom Egypt agreed to extend Medusa all the way to the Red Sea.
On a slightly smaller scale, early last month, Telecom Italia Sparkle began offering commercial services on a stretch of the Blue cable system, linking Palermo with Genoa to Milan. It is part of the larger Blue and Raman system, being built in partnership with Google. Once completed, the Blue part will connect various locations on the Med – including Greece and Israel in addition to Italy – while the Raman part will connect Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and eventually India.
Resources and additional information:
NEC Corp. announced that the Patara-2 submarine cable system connecting multiple islands across Indonesia is complete and operational. This subsea cable is owned by Telkom Indonesia, the biggest digital telco company in Indonesia, which is strongly committed to accelerating the country’s digitalization.
The Patara-2 is a 100 Gigabit per second (Gbps) x 80 wavelengths (wl) x 2 fiber pairs (fp) optical fiber submarine cable system measuring approximately 1,200 kilometers. In addition to the existing Sulawesi Maluku Papua Cable System (SMPCS) and others in Indonesia provided by NEC, this new cable system enhances connectivity among the cities of Waisai, Manokwari, and Supiori.
NEC’s major supply record in Indonesia and the Patara-2 cable system
“Both the Patara-2 and SMPCS cable systems enable the network in the north of Papua to have a redundant configuration, providing highly reliable communications in Papua,” said Herlan Wijanarko, Director of Network & IT Solutions, Telkom.
“NEC, in cooperation with NEC Indonesia, is honored to provide advanced connectivity among Indonesian cities, and has been involved in a variety of submarine cable projects for Telkom since 1991, including IGG and SMPCS,” said Atsushi Kuwahara, Managing Director, Submarine Network Division, NEC Corporation. “We have laid more than 10 submarine cable systems in the region and are proud to continue contributing to the expansion of Indonesia’s connectivity.”
NEC has been a leading supplier of submarine cable systems for more than 50 years, and has built more than 400,000 km of cable, spanning the earth nearly 10 times. NEC is well-established as a reliable partner in the submarine cable field as a system integrator that provides all aspects of submarine cable operations, including the manufacture and installation of optical submarine cables and repeaters, provision of ocean surveys and route designs, delivery, training and testing. NEC subsidiary OCC Corporation manufactures optical submarine cables capable of withstanding water pressures at ocean depths beyond 8,000 meters.
Also, NEC recently completed a long-distance field trial on the IGG cable system owned by Telkom Indonesia. The trial involved using NEC’s latest XF3200 transponder, which the Japanese cable manufacturer says has the world’s highest level of transmission performance at 800 Gbit/s.
Multimillion-dollar undersea/subsea fiber optic cable projects have become the latest focal point of geopolitical tensions in Asia as China intensifies its highly contested claims over the South China Sea, writes Nikkei Asia’s Singapore correspondent Tsubasa Suruga. These cables are crucial for keeping information flowing throughout the region and across the Pacific. Most countries require builders to get approval if they plan to lay cables in their territorial waters, but not in their exclusive economic zones, which extend 200 nautical miles out from a country’s coast.
China, however, insists that projects within its self-proclaimed “nine-dash line” — an area encompassing virtually the entire South China Sea — need Beijing’s approval. A nonobjection letter must be obtained from China’s People’s Liberation Army before the formal application process can even begin. Beijing imposes the policy even though an international tribunal found in 2016 that the nine-dash line lacked a legal basis.
“It is no secret the whole industry is more confronted by politics,” said Takahisa Ohta, senior director of the submarine network division at NEC, one of the world’s top three suppliers of subsea cables. Some of the companies involved, like Singtel, are looking for ways to diversify their routes.
Tay Yang Hwee, a 30-year industry veteran who heads subsea cable development at the Singaporean telecom provider, said it is “exploring alternate paths” for connecting data hubs, but he admits it is “very difficult” to avoid the South China Sea as a whole.
The Singapore-to-France cable would have been HMN Tech’s biggest such project to date, cementing it as the world’s fastest-rising subsea cable builder, and extending the global reach of the three Chinese telecom firms that had intended to invest in it.
But the U.S. government, concerned about the potential for Chinese spying on these sensitive communications cables, ran a successful campaign to flip the contract to SubCom through incentives and pressure on consortium members. It’s one of at least six private undersea cable deals in the Asia-Pacific region over the past four years where the U.S. government either intervened to keep HMN Tech from winning that business, or forced the rerouting or abandonment of cables that would have directly linked U.S. and Chinese territories.
SubCom had no comment on the SeaMeWe-6 battle, and HMN Tech did not respond to requests for comment. In a statement last year about infrastructure projects, the White House briefly noted that the U.S. government helped SubCom to win the Singapore-to-France cable contract, without giving details. China’s foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment. China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom and Orange did not respond to requests for comment. Microsoft declined to comment.
Undersea cables are central to U.S.-China technology competition. Across the globe, there are more than 400 cables running along the seafloor, carrying over 95% of all international internet traffic, according to TeleGeography, a Washington-based telecommunications research firm. These data conduits, which transmit everything from emails and banking transactions to military secrets, are vulnerable to sabotage attacks and espionage, a U.S. government official and two security analysts told Reuters.
The potential for undersea cables to be drawn into a conflict between China and self-ruled Taiwan was thrown into sharp relief last month. Two communications cables were cut that connected Taiwan with its Matsu islands, which sit close to the Chinese coast. The islands’ 14,000 residents were disconnected from the internet.
Taiwanese authorities said they suspected a Chinese fishing vessel and a Chinese freighter caused the disruption. However, they stopped short of calling it a deliberate act and said there was no direct evidence showing the Chinese ships were to blame. China, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province, has ratcheted up military and political efforts to force the island to accept its dominion.
China seeks to control Asian subsea cable systems; SJC2 delayed, Apricot and Echo avoid South China Sea
Reuters reports that China state-owned telecom firms are developing a $500 million undersea fiber-optic internet cable network that would link Asia, the Middle East and Europe to rival a similar U.S.-backed project, four people involved in the deal told Reuters. The plan is a sign that an intensifying tech war between Beijing and Washington risks tearing the fabric of the internet.
China’s three main carriers – China Telecommunications Corporation (China Telecom), China Mobile Limited and China United Network Communications Group Co Ltd(China Unicom) – are mapping out one of the world’s most advanced and far-reaching subsea cable networks, according to the four people, who have direct knowledge of the plan.
Known as EMA (Europe-Middle East-Asia), the proposed cable would link Hong Kong to China’s island province of Hainan, before snaking its way to Singapore, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France, the four people said. They asked not to be named because they were not allowed to discuss potential trade secrets.
The cable, which would cost approximately $500 million to complete, would be manufactured and laid by China’s HMN Technologies Co Ltd, a fast-growing cable firm whose predecessor company was majority-owned by Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, the people said.
They said HMN Tech, which is majority-owned by Shanghai-listed Hengtong Optic-Electric Co Ltd, would receive subsidies from the Chinese state to build the cable.
China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, HMN Tech, and Hengtong did not respond to requests for comment.
The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement to Reuters that it “has always encouraged Chinese enterprises to carry out foreign investment and cooperation” without commenting directly on the EMA cable project.
News of the planned cable comes in the wake of a Reuters report last month that revealed how the U.S. government, concerned about Beijing eavesdropping on internet data, has successfully thwarted a number of Chinese undersea cable projects abroad over the past four years. Washington has also blocked licenses for planned private subsea cables that would have connected the United States with the Chinese territory of Hong Kong, including projects led by Google LLC, Meta Platforms, Inc and Amazon.com Inc.
Undersea cables carry more than 95% of all international internet traffic. These high-speed conduits for decades have been owned by groups of telecom and tech companies that pool their resources to build these vast networks so that data can move seamlessly around the world.
But these cables, which are vulnerable to spying and sabotage, have become weapons of influence in an escalating competition between the United States and China. The superpowers are battling to dominate the advanced technologies that could determine economic and military supremacy in the decades ahead.
The China-led EMA project is intended to directly rival another cable currently being constructed by U.S. firm SubCom LLC, called SeaMeWe-6 (Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe-6), which will also connect Singapore to France, via Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and half a dozen other countries along the route.
The consortium on the SeaMeWe-6 cable – which originally had included China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom and telecom carriers from several other nations – initially picked HMN Tech to build that cable. But a successful U.S. government pressure campaign flipped the contract to SubCom last year, Reuters reported in March.
The U.S. blitz included giving millions of dollars in training grants to foreign telecom firms in return for them choosing SubCom over HMN Tech. The U.S. Commerce Department also slapped sanctions on HMN Tech in December 2021, alleging the company intended to acquire American technology to help modernize China’s People’s Liberation Army. That move undermined the project’s viability by making it impossible for owners of an HMN-built cable to sell bandwidth to U.S. tech firms, usually their biggest customers.
China Telecom and China Mobile pulled out of the project after SubCom won the contract last year and, along with China Unicom, began planning the EMA cable, the four people involved said. The three state-owned Chinese telecom firms are expected to own more than half of the new network, but they are also striking deals with foreign partners, the people said.
The Chinese carriers this year signed separate memoranda of understanding with four telecoms, the people said: France’s Orange SA, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd (PTCL), Telecom Egypt and Zain Saudi Arabia, a unit of the Kuwaiti firm Mobile Telecommunications Company K.S.C.P.
The Chinese companies have also held talks with Singapore Telecommunications Limited, a state-controlled firm commonly known as Singtel, while other countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East are being approached to join the consortium as well, the people involved said.
Orange declined to comment. Singtel, PTCL, Telecom Egypt and Zain did not respond to requests for comment.
American cable firm SubCom declined to comment on the rival cable. The Department of Justice, which oversees an interagency task force to safeguard U.S. telecommunication networks from espionage and cyberattacks, declined to comment about the EMA cable.
A State Department spokesperson said the U.S. supports a free, open and secure internet. Countries should prioritize security and privacy by “fully excluding untrustworthy vendors” from wireless networks, terrestrial and undersea cables, satellites, cloud services and data centers, the spokesperson said, without mentioning HMN Tech or China. The State Department did not respond to questions about whether it would mount a campaign to persuade foreign telecoms not to participate in the EMA cable project.
The Chinese foreign ministry said in its statement that it was opposed to the United States’ “violation of established international rules” around submarine cable cooperation.
“The U.S. should stop fabricating and spreading rumours about so-called ‘data surveillance activities’ and stop slandering and smearing Chinese companies,” the statement said.
Large undersea cable projects typically take at least three years to move from conception to delivery. The Chinese firms are hoping to finalize contracts by the end of the year and have the EMA cable online by the end of 2025, the people involved said.
The cable would give China strategic gains in its tussle with the United States, one of the people involved in the deal told Reuters.
Firstly, it would create a super-fast new connection between Hong Kong, China and much of the rest of the world, something Washington wants to avoid. Secondly, it gives China’s state-backed telecom carriers greater reach and protection in the event they are excluded from U.S.-backed cables in the future.
“It’s like each side is arming itself with bandwidth,” one telecom executive working on the deal said.
The construction of parallel U.S.- and Chinese-backed cables between Asia and Europe is unprecedented, the four people involved in the project said. It is an early sign that global internet infrastructure, including cables, data centers and mobile phone networks, could become divided over the next decade, two security analysts told Reuters.
Countries could also be forced to choose between using Chinese-approved internet equipment or U.S.-backed networks, entrenching divisions across the world and making tools that fuel the global economy, like online banking and global-positioning satellite systems, slower and less reliable, said Timothy Heath, a defense researcher at the RAND Corporation, a U.S.-based think tank.
“It seems we are headed down a road where there will be a U.S.-led internet and a Chinese-led internet ecosystem,” Heath told Reuters. “The more the U.S. and Chinese disengage from each other in the information technology domain, the more difficult it becomes to carry out global commerce and basic functions.”
Antonia Hmaidi, an analyst at the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies, said the internet works so well because no matter where data needs to travel, it can zip along multiple different routes in the time it takes to read this word.
Hmaidi said if data has to follow routes that are approved in Washington and Beijing, then it will become easier for the United States and China to manipulate and spy on that data; internet users will suffer a degradation of service; and it will become more difficult to interact or do business with people around the world.
“Then suddenly the whole fabric of the internet doesn’t work as it was intended,” Hmaidi said.
The tit-for-tat battle over internet hardware mirrors the conflict taking place over social media apps and search engines created by U.S. and Chinese firms.
The United States and its allies have banned the use of Chinese-owned short video app TikTok from government-owned devices due to national security concerns. Numerous countries have raised fears about the Chinese government gaining access to the data that TikTok collects on its users around the world.
China, meanwhile, already restricts what websites its citizens can see and blocks the apps and networks of many Western technology giants, including Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
SEACOM, Africa’s leading telecommunications and managed services provider, announced that it has launched its services on the Equiano subsea cable, which landed in Cape Town, South Africa, in August 2022. As a result, the company now provides Private Line services, with an impressive latency speed of approximately 110 milliseconds (ms) between South Africa and Europe, making it the fastest direct route between the two continents.
The cable now forms part of SEACOM’s subsea cable ecosystem surrounding Africa, supported by a continent-wide IP-MPLS network. SEACOM fulfilled the necessary equipment and installation requirements with the help of its technology partner, Infinera.
Google announced the Equiano subsea cable in 2019, which is among Africa’s most high-capacity cables. The cable spans 15,000 kilometers from Portugal to South Africa, has twelve fibre pairs, and has a design capacity of 144 Tbps. The cable has a landing station in Melkbosstrand, Cape Town, as well as in other African locations, including Rupert’s Bay, St. Helena; Lome, Togo; Lagos, Nigeria; and Swakopmund, Namibia. Branching units from these stations will further extend connectivity to other African countries.
SEACOM’s Subsea Cable Ecosystem, Image courtesy: SEACOM
The company said, “The launch comes after SEACOM has completed extensive work to support the new connection, including upgrades to its transmission and IP network both locally and internationally. As part of the service available to wholesale and enterprise clients from March, SEACOM will offer an express route from Cape Town to Lisbon. This means clients will enjoy high-speed connectivity without having their data rerouted to other countries during transmission.”
“This launch results from years of project negotiations and planning, driven by a goal to be ready to offer quality service to our customers from day one. The Equiano subsea cable represents a new stage in Africa’s digital transformation, meeting Africa’s growing data requirements, enabling cross-border digital trade, and offering citizens and enterprises new opportunities,” says Prenesh Padayachee, SEACOM’s Group Chief Digital Officer.
“Infinera is delighted to partner with SEACOM to light the Equiano subsea cable with our industry-leading ICE6 800G technology,” said Nick Walden, Infinera Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales. “With the industry’s highest spectral efficiency, ICE6 enables SEACOM to maximise the number of high-speed services they can offer, providing multiple terabits of capacity on this critical subsea link.”
According to a Regional Economic Impact Assessment by Africa Practice, commissioned by Google and published in 2021, the cable will increase South Africa’s GDP by USD 5.8 billion and create 180,000 indirect jobs by 2025.
SEACOM has acquired a full fiber pair with a capacity of 12 Tbps on the Express Route, which results in reduced latency between Africa and Europe. As a result, the SEACOM Express Route provides the quickest and most direct path between Africa and Europe, with the lowest possible latency. This route enables Operators, ISPs, Telcos, Content Providers, and Enterprises with the fastest direct path between Africa and Europe with the lowest latency, connecting to key South African and European data centers.
Several offshore Asian subsea cable systems have been delayed and, in some cases, re-routed because of Chinese efforts to exert control over them. The Financial Times (paywall) reported Tuesday:
China has begun to impede projects to lay and maintain subsea internet cables through the South China Sea, as Beijing seeks to exert more control over the infrastructure transmitting the world’s data.long delays in approvals permitting and stricter Chinese requirements” have driven cable builders to design routes that avoid the South China Sea.
Long approval delays and stricter Chinese requirements, including permits for work conducted outside its internationally recognised territorial waters, have pushed companies to design routes that avoid the South China Sea, according to multiple sources inside the industry.
China has asserted the right to approve cable construction outside its 12-mile exclusive zone, applying its ‘nine dash-line‘ claim that covers almost the entire sea and has been rejected by all its neighbors.
One of the most prominent projects affected is the 10,500 km Singapore-Japan Cable 2 (SJC2), which has been delayed by more than a year because of Chinese objections and lengthy permit issues – despite the fact that China Mobile International is a consortium partner.
Two new cables being built from Singapore to the U.S. via Japan have been redesigned to avoid the South China Sea by circling around Indonesia. The Apricot cable system, backed by Google, Facebook and several Asian telcos, and the Google- and Facebook-invested Echo, are being built on new paths that are much more expensive design because of the additional length and the need for extra sheathing in the shallower waters.
- Apricot subsea cable system is a 12,000-kilometer subsea cable connecting Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines, and Singapore. NTT is responsible for operating and managing three cable landing stations for the Apricot cable system: Minamiboso CLS in Japan, Tuas CLS in Singapore and a cable landing station in Indonesia. PLDT will build new cable landing stations in Luzon and Mindanao as part of the Apricot cable system.
- Echo will run from Eureka, California to Singapore, with a stop-over in Guam, with plans to also land in Indonesia. It will be the first-ever cable to directly connect the U.S. to Singapore with direct fiber pairs over an express route. It will decrease latency for users connecting to applications running the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) regions in the area, home to some of the world’s most vibrant financial and technology centers.
‘Nine-dash-line’ used by China to show the maximum extent of its claimed territorial waters:
Bharti Airtel (“Airtel”) and Meta Platforms, Inc. (“Meta” – previously Facebook) today announced a collaboration to support the growth of India’s digital ecosystem. Airtel and Meta will jointly invest in global connectivity infrastructure and Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) based new-age digital solutions to support the emerging requirements of customers and enterprises in India.
Foundational connectivity infrastructure such as subsea cable systems are crucial for supporting the rising demand for high-speed data and digital services as India prepares to roll out 5G networks later this year. With the constant endeavor to augment the nation’s infrastructure, Airtel will partner with Meta and STC to extend 2Africa Pearls to India.
2Africa is the world’s longest subsea cable system and is expected to provide faster internet connectivity to almost 3 billion people globally. Airtel and Meta will extend the cable to Airtel’s landing station in Mumbai and also pick up dedicated capacity to further strengthen its submarine network portfolio. The 2Africa cable will significantly boost India’s cable capacity and empower global hyper-scalers and businesses to build new integrated solutions and provide a high-quality seamless experience to customers.
Airtel says the 2Africa cable will significantly boost India’s cable capacity and ‘empower global hyper-scalers and businesses to build new integrated solutions and provide a high-quality seamless experience to customers.’
Facebook/Meta announced it was building out a subsea cable extension called 2Africa Pearls last year, and that it would connect Africa, Europe, and Asia. This new bit of cable brings the total length of the 2Africa system to more than 45,000 kms, which is apparently the longest subsea cable system ever deployed. The goal of the wider project is certainly ambitious – with the addition of Pearls we’re told it will provide connectivity to an additional 1.8 billion people – 3 billion in total.
As members of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) Open RAN project group, Airtel and Meta have been pioneers of Open RAN technologies with the shared goal of increasing ecosystem diversity, driving innovation, and cost-efficiency in connectivity networks. Airtel has signed an agreement to help increase operational efficiency of Open RAN and facilitate energy management and automation in radio networks using advanced analytics and AI/ML models. Airtel is currently conducting trials for 4G and 5G Open RAN solutions on select sites in the state of Haryana and will commercially deploy the solution across several locations in India over the next few quarters. Airtel will share its learnings with wider ecosystem partners within the TIP community, including Meta, to help accelerate the deployment of Open RAN based networks across the world.
Businesses in India are rapidly shifting to cloud-based solutions to serve their customers digitally. Airtel IQ, the world’s first network embedded Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) ecosystem, offers cloud communication across voice, messaging and video channels to help enterprises transform their customer engagement and drive profitability by leveraging automation and boosting revenue. Airtel will integrate Meta’s WhatsApp within its CPaaS platform. With this integration, businesses will now be able to use WhatsApp’s rich features and reach to provide an unparalleled omni-channel customer engagement to enterprises.
Vani Venkatesh, CEO – Global Business, Bharti Airtel said: “We, at Airtel, are delighted to deepen our partnership with Meta to serve India’s digitally connected economy by leveraging the technology and infrastructure strengths of both companies. With our contributions to the 2Africa cable and Open RAN, we are investing in crucial and progressive connectivity infrastructure which is needed to support the increasing demand for high-speed data in India. We look forward to working closely with Meta to deliver best-in-class digital experiences to our customers in India.”
Francisco Varela, vice president of mobile partnerships for Meta said: “Subsea cables and open, disaggregated networks continue to play a huge role in the foundational infrastructure needed to support network capacity and fuel innovation. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Airtel to further advance the region’s connectivity infrastructure that will enable a better network experience for people and businesses across India.”
About Bharti Airtel:
Headquartered in India, Airtel is a global communications solutions provider with over 500 Mn customers in 17 countries across South Asia and Africa. The company ranks amongst the top three mobile operators globally and its networks cover over two billion people. Airtel is India’s largest integrated communications solutions provider and the second largest mobile operator in Africa. Airtel’s retail portfolio includes high speed 4G/5G mobile broadband, Airtel Xstream Fiber that promises speeds up to 1 Gbps with convergence across linear and on-demand entertainment, streaming services spanning music and video, digital payments and financial services. For enterprise customers, Airtel offers a gamut of solutions that includes secure connectivity, cloud and data centre services, cyber security, IoT, Ad Tech and cloud based communication. For more details, visit www.airtel.com
Meta builds technologies that help people connect, find communities, and grow businesses. When Facebook launched in 2004, it changed the way people connect. Apps like Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp further empowered billions around the world. Now, Meta is moving beyond 2D screens toward immersive experiences like augmented and virtual reality to help build the next evolution in social technology.
Most telecom professionals, analysts, and media don’t realize how dependent the world is on a limited number of fiber-optic subsea cables that form the internet’s spine and electronically link our continents and islands. Currently 95% of international internet traffic is transmitted by undersea cables. Satellites, in comparison, convey very little internet traffic.
There are still only about 200 cables around the world, each the size of a large hose pipe and capable of data transfers at about 200 terabytes per second. These cables lie on the ocean floor, while nearer to the shore they are buried under the seabed for additional protection. They carry an estimated $10 trillion worth of financial transactions every day and come together at 10 or so international chokepoints, which are particularly vulnerable.
On October 20th, the subsea cable connecting Shetland and the Faroe Islands was damaged with a separate cable linking Shetland with the Scottish mainland also being cut. BT Group, which provides communications services through the cables, said engineers had been working “flat out” to repair the damage – which had primarily impacted mobile and broadband connections.
A BT spokesperson said: “While both cable links are being repaired by subsea engineers, engineers were able to reconnect all services via a temporary solution on Thursday afternoon.”
Although the BBC attributed the Shetland subsea cable damage to a fishing trawler, there is speculation that Moscow may have been the culprit. The Financial Times (and other sources) reported that Russia’s Boris Petrov scientific research ship, was tracked in the vicinity of the Shetland Isles cables when they were cut. Since it’s designated a ‘vessel of interest’ by western navies, there’s every chance the fault could have been an example of Russia’s hybrid warfare.
The FT wrote: “The presence of a Russian underwater research ship, and the recent trio of underwater explosions that severed the Nordstream gas pipeline, make Moscow sabotage far more plausible.
Lord West, the former head of the Royal Navy, told Talk Radio: “In the Shetlands recently, where power was lost a couple of times and I’m sure it was probably a dredger or a trawler did it. “But actually there was a Russian ship of the type that can cause damage to damaged pipelines in that region. And hopefully, we are monitoring very closely making sure we’re seeing what they are doing.”
Alexander Lord, a Europe and Eurasia analyst at Sibylline told Express.co.uk: “I think in the instance of the Shetland Islands I think that’s a really interesting one to watch. Obviously, accidents do happen, and these undersea cables do occasionally get damaged by fishing trawlers, for example.
“But I think it is notable and indeed local officials have noted that it’s highly unusual that two cables were damaged in quick succession and that’s what we’ve seen this week, it is what’s caused some of the problems in Shetland. In terms of the vulnerability of European critical infrastructure, maritime assets, for example, including undersea cables will remain particularly vulnerable, undersea pipelines as well.”
The FT noted that UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wrote a paper in 2017 on the growing sabotage threat to subsea cables. From that paper: “In the digital age of cloud computing, the idea that steel and plastic pipes are integral to our life seems anachronistic,’ wrote Rishi Sunak. ‘But our ability to transmit confidential information, to conduct financial transactions and to communicate internationally all depend upon a global network of physical cables lying under the sea.’ And what if those cables are cut? The threat is nothing short of existential.”
In his 2017 paper, Sunak made several recommendations for fortifying the security of undersea cables. These included incentivising private businesses such as Google and Facebook, which own or finance much of the global cable network, to back up systems and distribute cables more widely. But nothing was done.
The UK has around 60 undersea cables. If several of these were cut or disrupted, the consequences would be disastrous. Now that Sunak is the UK PM, will he invest in protective maritime and submarine capabilities as he recommended in his 2017 paper?
This past January, Admiral Tony Radakin, the head of the British Armed Forces, observed that ‘Russia has grown the capability to put at threat those undersea cables and potentially exploit undersea cables.’ It’s now crunch time for the UK!
C&W Networks, a wholesale telecommunications service provider, announced an agreement with Ciena to upgrade its CFX-1 (Colombia-Florida Express) and EWC (East West Cable) submarine cable networks to deliver advanced broadband and IP services of up to 400Gb/s. These network upgrades will help address the soaring bandwidth needs of C&W Networks’ telco and internet service provider (ISP) customers.
C&W Networks operates the largest submarine multi-ring fiber-optic network in the greater Caribbean, Central American and Andean regions, providing reliable connectivity to approximately 40 countries. The 2400km CFX-1 express cable connects the United States, Jamaica and Colombia with less than 25ms latency, while the 1,700km EWC cable links the British Virgin Islands, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
“Online content, especially streaming video, continues to drive robust demand for data and high-speed connectivity in the regions we serve. The additional capacity we’re turning up on CFX-1 and EWC with Ciena allows us to meet this demand head-on, enriching our service offerings for customers while sustainably and cost-effectively extending the lifespan of these cable systems,” stated Chris Coles, Vice President and General Manager, C&W Networks.
Ciena’s GeoMesh Extreme, which utilizes the 6500 Packet-Optical Platform powered by WaveLogic 5 Extreme coherent optics, delivers C&W Networks’ new increased capacity with scalable service speeds on existing undersea systems. With Ciena’s latest technology, the CFX-1 cable connecting the U.S. with Colombia and Jamaica is transformed to provide a 10-fold capacity increase of over 32Tb/s with 100Gb/s–400Gb/s services.
Visibility and end-to-end management of the cable network is possible with Ciena’s Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) domain controller and Ciena Services provides deployment and reconfiguration services to accelerate time to revenue and ensure project success.
“C&W Networks’ submarine cables cross the ocean to bring the pan-Caribbean region new opportunities and economic growth through connectivity,” said Ian Clarke, Vice President of Global Submarine Solutions, Ciena. “With our GeoMesh Extreme, they’re able to do that while maximizing spectral efficiency and minimizing the cost-, space- and power-per-bit transported, resulting in lower total cost of ownership and greater competitive advantage.”
About C&W Networks
C&W Networks, part of Cable & Wireless Communications, Limited and wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Latin America, Ltd, is a wholesale telecommunications service provider that offers broadband, IP capacity to global, regional and local telecom carriers, TV cable companies, Internet Service Providers and Network Integrators. C&W Networks operates the largest subsea multi-ring fiber-optic network throughout the greater Caribbean, Central American and Andean region along with the most comprehensive fully meshed MPLS network in the region. Connecting approximately 40 markets, the company’s fully protected ringed submarine fiber optic network spans more than 50,000 km. Cable routes include the Caribbean Optical-ring System (ARCOS-1), Colombia-Florida Express (CFX-1), EC-Link cable system, Fibralink, Maya 1, Eastern Caribbean Fiber System (ECFS), Taino-Carib, East-West Cable (EWC), Cayman-Jamaica Fiber System (CJFS), Caribbean-Bermuda U.S (CBUS), Americas II, Gemini Bermuda, Antillas 1, Pacific Caribbean Cable System (PCCS), and Amerigo Vespucci, Alonso De Ojeda, Saba Statia Cable System (SSCS). C&W Networks also operates terrestrial networks in the US and various Caribbean and LATAM markets. For more information, please visit www.cwnetworks.com.
Ciena is a networking systems, services and software company. We provide solutions that help our customers create the Adaptive Network™ in response to the constantly changing demands of their end-users. By delivering best-in-class networking technology through high-touch consultative relationships, we build the world’s most agile networks with automation, openness, and scale. For updates on Ciena, follow us on Twitter @Ciena, LinkedIn, the Ciena Insights blog, or visit www.ciena.com.