WFI, Level 3 to link to Europe undersea

Aug. 1, 1999

Two companies currently building fiber-optic networks in the United States announced intentions to link to Europe via their own undersea transatlantic cables. Tyco Submarine Systems Ltd. (Morristown, NJ) landed contracts from Worldwide Fiber Inc. (WFI--Denver) and Level 3 Communications (Omaha, NE), each in excess of $600 million, to install high-speed, large-capacity transoceanic cables.

WFI is building "Hibernia," intended to be the first in-service transatlantic subsea ring-network structure. Hibernia is deploying 32 wavelengths of 10 Gbits/sec per fiber pair, boasting a planned wet-plant-ready capacity on each segment of 1.28 Tbits/sec. The 12,200-km cable, with landing points in Canada, Scotland, Ireland, England, and the United States, will sport the latest in dense wavelength-division multiplexing technology. Hibernia will be constructed as a self-healing Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) ring network, offering an initial capacity of 160 Gbits/sec, scalable to a final capacity of 1.28 Tbits/sec. The undersea plant will use a 4-fiber repeatered system technology.

"We'll consume some of the capacity for our own needs," says Scott Lyons, vice president at WFI. "The remaining capacity will be made available for purchase by other carriers and service providers. We also plan to have a presence in Europe, either through new builds or by agreements and partnerships with existing European carriers."

WFI is currently developing an 11,000-mi North American fiber-optic communications infrastructure and has 2700 mi already deployed. The company expects to deploy an additional 4500 route-mi by the end of 1999. Hibernia is scheduled for completion in January 2001.

Level 3 announced the construction of its own 1.28 Tbit/ sec Internet cable system to link its U.S. and European networks, both currently under construction. The 16,000-mi U.S. network will connect 50 local U.S. city networks. In Europe, Level 3's 3500-mi intercity network will connect 15 local city networks, with a total of 21 city networks planned for financial centers across Europe and the Pacific Rim. The system is expected to be in service by September 2000.

Part of Level 3's business plan involves prefunding the project via the purchase of significant amounts of capacity on the network, but the company may require additional funding depending on the eventual architecture, the amount of pre-construction sales, and ownership. The planned cable will run from Long Island, NY, to Cornwall, UK, and could eventually cost as much as $800 million.

With Global Crossing Ltd.'s recent announcement of Atlantic Crossing 2 (AC-2), at least three new undersea connections are scheduled between the United States and Europe in the next few years. At press time, Tyco had not been awarded the Global Crossing contract, but was among those being considered.