Undersea fiber to carry 10 Gbits/sec

Undersea fiber to carry 10 Gbits/sec

BEN HARRISOn

MFS Communications Co. Inc., Omaha, NE, and Cable & Wireless plc in the United Kingdom are constructing a $500 million undersea fiber-optic cable system linking London and New York (see Lightwave, December 1996, page 3). Slated for completion in 1998, this fiber system is aimed at meeting the explosive growth in demand for broadband services such as multimedia, the Internet and intranets, and voice and data communications.

According to market-research firm Kessler Marketing Intelligence Corp. in Newport, RI, transatlantic data transmission has been growing at nearly 85% per year over the past three to four years.

A contract worth French Fr. $2 billion (US$392 million) has been signed with Alcatel Submarine Networks in Paris to build the undersea cable portion and other cable-system elements. Alcatel says that the contract is the first to be awarded to a single supplier for system design, manufacture, and installation of two separate transoceanic cables. The company also says the contract includes the commissioning of key elements of the land segment and the end-to-end network management system.

The undersea cables will implement Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) transmission technology. The fully redundant system electronics will provide a 10-Gbit/sec capacity. This end-to-end fiber-cable system will offer resilient, diversely routed services and feature self-healing marine and land-based networks with dual routing supported by a single management system.

The transatlantic cable system is expected to be in service in less than 15 months, which Alcatel calls an "unprecedented" contract-to-service delivery time.

Cable & Wireless Marine is completing the oceanic survey work and is likely to be the principal installer for approximately 12,000 km of looped cables. The system will be landed and operated at a U.S. terminal by MFS; the U.K. terminal will be handled by Cable & Wireless.

Commenting on the build, Colin Williams, president and chief executive of MFS International, says, "Customers will be able to buy capacity to meet current and future bandwidth-intensive needs, particularly the Internet. Until now, this demand has been inefficiently met by cable systems optimized for voice traffic. In contrast, the undersea system is designed from the start to carry Internet and other data traffic, as well as voice communications."

Steve Liddell, president of MFS Asia- Pacific, explains that the company wants to control its capacity cost, availability, and optimization for the business market, not only for voice services, but also for data traffic for both Internet and intranet use. Speaking at the 1996 KMI Symposium of Fiberoptic Submarine Systems, held in Hong Kong, he said MFS is active in 28 worldwide undersea fiber builds.

Undersea data transmission

Thomas A. Soja, conference chair and a senior analyst for KMI Corp., underscores the growth in transatlantic data transmission. "If these trends were to continue, then data bandwidth would well exceed voice bandwidth by as much as a factor of three times by the year 2000, outstripping available capacity on all of the transatlantic cables combined," Soja declares.

KMI data also indicates that the Internet is a driving force in development of submarine systems (see figure). Soja explains that KMI has conducted an analysis to determine the growth rate in nonvoice traffic that would be required to exhaust available capacity on transatlantic cables through the TAT-13 undersea system by the year 2000.

As of 1993, Soja says there were about 5.6 Gbits/sec of capacity supplied across the Atlantic Ocean, and by the end of 1996, the level is expected to rise to 35.6 Gbits/sec.

Soja points out that if nonvoice bandwidth demand grows at the rate of 85% per year though the year 2000, then the combination of voice and nonvoice demand will consume all available capacity. If transatlantic nonvoice bandwidth demand with a compound annual growth rate (cagr) of 85% keeps pace with projected Internet growth, which has a cagr of 91%, then more capacity will be required by 2001. If the trend is extended to 2003, then demand is expected to outstrip capacity on the 100-Gbit/sec TAT-14 undersea system as well. q

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