NEXT subsea cable will be fastest between US and APAC: Southern Cross

The Southern Cross NEXT submarine cable will provide the fastest speeds and lowest latency out of all US-APAC subsea cables, according to Southern Cross Cable Network.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor
(Image: Southern Cross Cable Network)

Southern Cross Cable Network has announced that it will commence construction of its $350 million submarine cable after completing a seafloor survey and discovering a more efficient route.

According to Southern Cross, eight customers have already signed intent to use the cable, including the Pacific islands of Fiji, Samoa, Tokelau, and Kiribati, with a request for proposal process now under way for cable suppliers ahead of vendors being selected at the end of 2017.

The Southern Cross NEXT cable's new route, which traverses Wallis and Fortuna waters rather than the previously planned Tongan waters, will "deliver the fastest connection between the shores of Australia, New Zealand, and US", Southern Cross Cable Network CEO Anthony Briscoe said.

Briscoe pointed towards widely used apps including Snapchat and Facebook as being delivered to APAC users via subsea cables.

"For the overwhelming majority of internet delivery, our connections are made to various websites and apps from abroad by a series of 'pipes' that rest on seabeds across the globe ... people don't realise that delivering a submarine cable is among the most critical infrastructure projects on the planet," Briscoe said.

During the survey, which commenced with the aid of marine surveyor EGS in February, more than 15,000km of seabed from Hermosa Beach, California, to Clovelly, New South Wales, was mapped so as to determine the fastest and safest route for the cable by avoiding obstacles including trenches, seamounts, and shipwrecks.

"The survey found a slightly faster route than first anticipated, shaving further latency off what was already set to be the lowest-latency connection between Australia, New Zealand and the United States," the companies said.

This third cable is expected to provide an additional 60Tbps capacity to the existing 20Tbps on the two present Southern Cross cables, and to be ready for service by the end of 2019.

Telecommunications carriers and consortiums have been racing to build out subsea cable capacity across the Asia-Pacific region, driven by the rapid increase in data usage globally, including Superloop's Indigo subsea cable system; the Trident Subsea Cable; Vocus Communications' Australia Singapore Cable (ASC) and North West Cable System (NWCS); the Hawaiki cable; the Asia-Pacific Gateway (APG); the FASTER cable; and Superloop's Hong Kong cable.

The Indigo system connecting Sydney, Perth, Singapore, and Jakarta is being build by SubPartners, Superloop, Google, Singtel, Telstra, AARNet, Indosat Ooredoo, and Alcatel Submarine Networks, spanning around 9,000km with two fibre pairs and a design capacity of 18Tbps, and is expected to be completed by mid-2019.

The 28Tbps two-pair fibre-optic, 1,070-kilometre Trident subsea cable will connect Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia, with the entire cable to be completed by the second quarter of 2018. It utilises 100Gbps coherent dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) technology, which is upgradeable to 400Gbps.

Originally a 50-50 joint-venture deal between Vocus and Nextgen Networks, the 4,600km ASC cable will also connect Perth with Singapore and Indonesia, with completion set for August 2018 at a cost of $170 million. A deal signed between Vocus and Nextgen Networks in November 2015 pinned the cost of the cable at around $120 million.

Vocus subsequently purchased Nextgen Networks for AU$700 million in June, with Vocus and Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks in December signing an agreement to build the ASC, which is designed to carry 40Tbps at a minimum.

Trident, Indigo, and the ASC are all aimed at replacing the slower-speed SMW3 cable, which currently carries data traffic between Australia and Singapore.

Vocus also owns the NWCS following its purchase of Nextgen Networks, which was activated by Nextgen Group and Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks in September last year. The $139 million 2,100km fibre-optic submarine cable connects Darwin and Port Headland, and has been integrated into Nextgen's 17,000km land-based transmission network and Metronode's datacentres across Australia, also connecting to offshore oil and gas facilities.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, the 30Tbps, 14,000km Hawaiki cable -- which finally commenced construction in April last year -- will connect Australia and New Zealand to Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States, with the option to extend to several South Pacific islands along the route via optical add/drop multiplexing nodes, by mid-2018.

The 10,000km FASTER subsea cable system will also connect the west coast of the United States with Asia, landing in Japan and consisting of six fibre pairs and making use of 10Gbps wave technology.

NEC also recently announced the completion of the 54Tbps APG subsea cable between China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore.

The 10,900km fibre-optic submarine cable is owned by a consortium of telecommunications carriers including China's China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile; Japan's NTT Communications; South Korea's KT Corporation and LG Uplus; Singapore's StarHub; Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom; Thailand's CAT; Malaysia's Global Transit Communications; and Vietnam's Viettel and VNPT.

In May, NEC then demonstrated speeds of 50.9Tbps across subsea cables of up to 11,000km on a single optical fibre through the use of C+L-band erbium-doped optical fibre amplifiers, amounting to speeds of 570 petabits per second-kilometre.

Australia's incumbent telco Telstra acquired a 36,000km cable network system connecting China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines as part of purchasing Pacnet for $697 million in December 2014, and in May also announced the Bay of Bengal Gateway (BBG) 8,000km 100Gbps submarine cable system, made up of three fibre pairs, which will connect Singapore, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

Asia-Pacific fibre infrastructure company Superloop has also completed construction of its 1,728 fibre core Hong Kong subsea cable TKO Express, which connected Chai Wan on Hong Kong Island and Tseung Kwan O (TKO) Industrial Estate -- Hong Kong's new major hub for technology, datacentre, financial, and media companies, as well as submarine cable landing stations -- on the mainland.

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