Brazils fiber-optic networks form base for global communications

Nov. 1, 1995

Brazil`s fiber-optic networks form base for global communications


Brazil, the largest telecommunications market in South America, inaugurated a 465-kilometer fiber-optic link this past August, between Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, Brazil`s second-largest industrial center and capital of Minas Gerais state. Brazil`s Communications Minister Sergio Motta officiated at the inauguration.

Now, with deregulation of telecommunications in Brazil, local communications analysts estimate that the public infrastructure network in this country may attract $8 billion to $9 billion of domestic and foreign investments by the end of this decade.

Global growth is also predicted by Dilio Penedo, president of Brazil`s national telecommunications carrier, Embratel. He notes, "Proposals have been published to install a telecommunications management network to completely restructure all of the company`s operations, to place it in line with the globalization of the world`s economy."

The recent inauguration is another step in the first stage of the long-distance fiber-optic program implemented by Embratel. Specifically, two fiber-optic cables were installed in a two-plus-one configuration; both cables are operational but one serves as backup. All cables operate at 565 megabits per second.

The two cables contain 36 fibers each, with a 15,360 voice circuit capacity that will carry telephone traffic between Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, and Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, the country`s capital. "To implement this cable link, Embratel invested $50.7 million and inked an agreement with Brazil`s National Roads Department to use existing installations of federal highways, which helped to reduce the cost of the project," explains Roberto Augusto Pizzi, telecommunications engineer of Embratel`s earth transmission department.

The fiber-optic cables were produced by Northern Telecom, imported from Canada and deployed by Schahin Cury Telecomunicacoes, a Brazilian company. At a second stage of the project, the cables may also carry part of the voice, data, text and image traffic between Fortaleza (capital of Ceara state) and Rio de Janeiro. According to Pizzi, this configuration may be expanded to 2.5-gigabit-per-second capacity by the first quarter of 1997.

Completing the first ring

The Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo 420-km fiber-optic cable link started operations in September 1993 (see Lightwave, November 1993, page 1), so when Embratel completes the Sao Paulo/Belo Horizonte link planned for last month, the first ring of the backbone network will be completed.

For this ring, two 603-km fiber-optic cables each containing 36 fibers produced by Ficap S.A. (a Brazilian company) are scheduled for deployment along the Fernao Dias highway between Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte. The cables are expected to operate at 622 Mbits/sec. Installation was begun in March by NEC of Brazil, and capacity may be expanded to 2.5 Gbits/sec by the first quarter of 1997.

The longest stretch of Brazil`s fiber-optic backbone may be between Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza, with 940 km overland and 2544 km through submarine cables in a festoon system without repeating stations.

This Rio-Fortaleza fiber-optic cable link may double the existing communications capacity between the two cities to 32,000 voice channels. The overland stretch, using National Roads infrastructure of the Sao Mateus to Porto Seguro and Natal to Fortaleza highways, will have two cables containing 18 fibers each, one operating at 2.5 Gbits/sec and the backup at 155 Mbits/sec. This overland stretch was initiated by Alcatel S/A in April and is expected to become operational in June 1996.

The submarine link is divided in two segments. The Rio to Sao Mateus segment, to be inaugurated in November 1996, uses line terminal equipment supplied by NEC and optical amplifiers, preamplifiers and transponders by Pirelli. The second segment, the Porto Seguro to Natal stretch, is expected to operate in December 1996. Both segments will have one cable containing 18 dispersion-shifted fibers operating at 622 Mbits/sec with optical amplifiers stationed every 160 km.

The initial configuration from Rio de Janeiro to Recife is four fiber-optic cables (four operating and one backup) and from Recife to Natal three-plus-one (three operating and one backup). Schahin Cury Telecomunicacoes won this contract in April 1995.

From Salvador (capital of Bahia state) to Fortaleza, a 1120-km optical power ground wire system will be installed along the power transmission lines of Companhia Hidrelectrica of Sao Francisco, the northeastern regional electricity utility.

Proposals for one cable containing 36 fibers to operate at 2.5 Gbits/sec, starting with an initial one-plus-one configuration, are forecast to be delivered to Embratel in October, and for equipment in December 1995.

From Sao Paulo, Embratel intends to install a 734-km fiber-optic link utilizing the infrastructure of the national railroad system, Rede Ferroviaria Federal S/A, and of the Sao Paulo state railroad network, Rede Ferroviaria Paulista, going south to Curitiba (capital of Parana state).

Two fiber-optic cables may be deployed, containing 36 fibers operating at 622 Mbits/sec and 155 Mbits/sec with a projected expansion to 2.5 Gbits/sec. This stretch is expected to become operational in the first quarter of 1997.

Optical ground wire cable

From Curitiba, a 362-km optical ground wire cable is expected to connect Florianopolis (capital of Santa Catarina state) traveling along the power transmission line of Eletrosul, the national electricity utility. This cable may contain 36 fibers, with an initial configuration of one-plus-one, operating at 2.5 Gbits/sec. Embratel expects this system to operate in the first quarter 1997.

The link between Florianopolis and Porto Alegre (capital of Rio Grande of Sul state) may be 488 km long. Also an optical ground wire system, it will contain 36 fibers operating at 2.5 Gbits/sec, along the transmission line of Eletrosul with an initial fiber-optic cable configuration of one-plus-one. Proposals were to be published in October 1995, and contracts are expected to be signed in March 1996. The system is slated to become operational in the third quarter 1997.

International links

With the completion of the Brazilian fiber-optic network from Fortaleza to Florianopolis, linkage is expected to international traffic arriving in Brazil from Europe (Columbus II), the United States and Central America (Americas I) to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay through the Unisur cable, which was inaugurated on November 16, 1994 (see Lightwave, August 1994, page 8). Columbus II, Americas I and the Unisur cable are undersea cables.

Projections made in 1992 estimated that Latin American countries would invest $176 million for public telecommunications in 1993 and more than $250 million in 1994. These values have been greatly surpassed. Latin America invested more than $400 million in 1993 and more than $500 million in 1994. Latin America`s market for fiber-optic cables and optical systems is predicted to continue on this fast track, considering the following projects:

The Unisur cable is expected to be extended overland to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Santiago, Chile, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and crossing the southern cone of Latin America.

One of the most ambitious systems, the Pacific Transit submarine fiber-optic cable, may run from Santiago to New Zealand, and from that country to Australia.

The Pan-American Link, starting in Santiago, may constitute the submarine continental system on the Pacific coast of Latin America, connecting Ecuador, Panama, Mexico, the United States and Canada

The India-Atlantic submarine cable, which is expected to link Brazil to South Africa and, through the Indian Ocean, to the projected cable linking Somalia to Indonesia, and ending in Australia.

Before the Brazilian Congress recently voted by a three-fifths majority to amend the constitution ending the government`s telecommunications monopoly and opening the sector to domestic and foreign competition, Embratel was planning to invest $1 billion to install a nationwide synchronous fiber-optic backbone network. However, this network depends upon the regulatory framework proposed by the Communications Ministry. Investors want to see clear-cut, transparent regulations, and but regulatory approval is expected to take several months.

Meanwhile, Brazil`s Communications Minister Sergio Motta is discussing privatizing some of the 27 state-owned telephone companies. Edmar Bacha, president of Brazil`s National Development Bank, says he expects the telephone companies to be privatized within the next three years. q

Peter H. Wertheim and Dayse Abrantes write from Rio de Janeiro.

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