Fiber ring races under Pacific

March 1, 1997

Fiber ring races under Pacific

ben harrison

Deploying more bandwidth than all existing trans pacific submarine cables combined, the recently completed $1.24 billion TPC-5 fiber-ring network spans more than 24,000 km between the United States and Japan. More than double the length of the 9850-km TPC-4 system, TPC-5 is also four times faster, with the ability to transmit 5 Gbits/sec over one fiber pair--a capacity equal to that needed to transmit 320,000 simultaneous telephone calls.

TPC-5 is considered to be the first undersea fiber cable network in the Pacific to feature a closed loop rather than a point-to-point system, thus providing added restoration capabilities (see Fig. 1, page 12). In the event of network disruption, service can be restored by shifting voice, data, and video signals to the spare fiber on the network.

AT&T in the United States and Kokusai Denshin Denwa in Japan built the TCP-5 network. AT&T has invested $366 million in the project and has 29% ownership. William B. Carter, president of AT&T Submarine Systems Inc., says, "TCP-5 offers high capacity and route diversity for communications reliability across the Pacific."

MCI Corp., Washington, DC, is the third-largest investor in the network and the second-largest investor from the United States. MCI is already using the southern half of the ring, completed one year ago between the United States mainland, Hawaii, Guam, and Japan.

"MCI`s market share in Asia has increased faster than the industry," claims Seth Blumenfeld, president of MCI International. "The inauguration of TPC-5 is expected to help satisfy circuit demand and allows additional broadband services with correspondent Asian administrations."

According to John Gerdelman, president of network MCI services, "Through this advanced technology and its ability to serve the diverse needs of the Pacific Rim, TPC-5 serves as a huge information pipeline." He points out that TPC-5 enables MCI to meet the rapidly growing demand for bandwidth between the United States and the Pacific Rim countries.

In addition to providing circuits between the United States mainland and Hawaii, Guam, and Japan, MCI will use the TPC-5 network to interconnect with circuits it owns in other Pacific Rim fiber-optic cable systems to provide services to other countries beyond Japan, such as China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, The Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and Australia.

Another Pacific network

Although the TCP-5 network is completed, the Pacific Rim remains a fertile area for planned and ongoing undersea fiber networks. For example, MCI is also involved with the Asia Pacific Cable Network (apcn), which cut over in January. MCI is the largest U.S. investor in apcn and will use the network for interconnectivity with the TPC-5 cable network.

Fifty-one carriers from 19 countries are taking part in apcn. Each link in the network has a design capacity of two fiber pairs (one for service and another for restoration), each pair with a capacity of 60,480 basic circuits capable of handling more than 240,000 simultaneous voice conversations.

The TPC-5 and apcn networks feature a fault-tolerant, self-healing Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) technology that operates in a manner similar to Synchronous Optical Network (Sonet) technology, which is used to protect networks within the mainland United States. SDH/Sonet technology can restore network outages in 300 milliseconds.

The fiber system is designed so that traffic travels in both directions simultaneously. In case of a network outage, SDH technology detects the problem and immediately reroutes the traffic by sending it in the opposite direction, thus restoring the network connection.

The TPC-5 network not only provides millisecond-restoration capabilities for the live traffic it carries, but also serves as an emergency-restoration system for many other existing undersea network cables in the Pacific Ocean.

Steve Liddell, president of MFS Asia- Pacific for MFS Communications, pointed out at a Kessler Marketing Intelligence (KMI) Corp. conference on fiber-optic submarine systems, held recently in Hong Kong, that his company has four Asia- Pacific cable routes. They include TCP-5 routes from the United States to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia.

According to Tom Soja, senior analyst at KMI Corp., Newport, RI, the Asia-Pacific region is a fiber hot spot. At a recent KMI conference in Newport, Soja reported that the Pacific Rim region will have the strongest growth of the more highly developed regions--more than 20% per year--to become the largest regional fiber market just before the turn of the century (see Fig. 2).

By the year 2000, the Pacific Rim will be a market of 23.8 million fiber-km, Soja predicted. He also noted China has surged ahead with a massive effort to modernize and upgrade its telecommunications infrastructure and has already surpassed the U.K. market.

Korea is also planning a major push in telecommunications, which will vault it to the fifth-largest market for cable by 2001. Combined with Japan and China, these three countries alone will account for 30% of the world`s fiber deployment in 2000, Soja observed. q

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