Xtera upgrades Americas 1 North – Columbus 2B submarine cable system

Dec. 19, 2023
The new system, which includes AT&T as an anchor tenant and deployment partner, will offer up to 1.3 Tbps of fiber pair capacity.

By Gina Rullo

Xtera has completed the eighth upgrade of Americas 1 North – Columbus 2B, a first-generation optically amplified undersea cable system placed into service in 1994.

Initially operational with a single 2.5Gbps wavelength on each fiber pair, Xtera has performed a series of upgrades on the cable system since it first contracted in 2009. Initially, 20G technology was introduced and subsequent upgrades with 100G products.

Leveraging its third-generation 100G+ technology, Xtera has achieved 1.3 Tbps per fiber pair – surpassing the system’s original design capacity by over five hundred times. This capability stems partly from the range of modulation schemes offered by the Nu-Wave Optima platform and from Xtera’s experience of upgrading existing cable systems.

Xtera CEO Keith Henderson emphasized the 14-year collaborative effort between Xtera and AT&T.

“This upgrade underscores the value of Xtera’s ongoing investment in technology, enabling our engineering team to deliver cost-effective and industry-leading solutions,” Henderson said. This is particularly evident in the challenging landscape of upgrading legacy submarine cable systems, where achieving substantial increases in capacity poses complex technical challenges.

A partnership approach

Americas 1 North – Columbus 2B is only one of many submarine cable systems where Xtera provides its technology. The company is also involved in the Trans Americas Fiber System (TAM-1).

In September, initial construction had begun on the new TAM-1 submarine cable system (formerly known as Trans Caribbean Fiber System). TAM-1 is the first cable specifically designed to meet the exploding demand for data in the Trans-Americas region.

Designed for low latency and high-capacity solutions, the TAM-1 system covers over 7,000km and will link Florida with Central America and the wider Caribbean. Ready For Service is planned for 2025. TAM-1 is the first stage of a broader digital infrastructure project, which will be carried out over the next five years, creating a large-scale network across the entire Caribbean Basin, with extensions to Pacific South America.

As the turnkey EPC supplier, Xtera will project manage the construction process, providing repeaters, branching units, and submarine line terminals. Industry partners will provide marine installation services and fiber optic cable.

Besides Xtera and AT&T, Trans America Fiber System has worked with other partners, including Arnos Telecommunications Services, Pioneer Consulting, Terabit Consulting, and Julian Rawle Consulting.

AT&T, acting as the anchor tenant and landing party for the system in all U.S. jurisdictions, has played a pivotal role since the project's conception. Sustainability and environmental responsibility are important principles for Trans Americas Fiber System, AT&T and Xtera, which will be observed throughout system production, construction, and operation.

“Our heritage with undersea cables goes back nearly 70 years, spanning from the first trans-Atlantic telephone cable to today’s submarine-grade, state-of-the-art fiber optic systems,” said Corey Anthony, SVP of network operations for AT&T. “At AT&T, we connect people to greater possibilities and the TAM-1 submarine cable system – the most advanced fiber optic technology available at scale – is all about delivering new connections through reliable, flexible digital infrastructure.

Fostering economic growth

Xtera has considerable expertise in the Caribbean and Americas region.

“With our regional expertise and agile approach, we look forward to delivering the system in 2025,” Henderson said.

TAM-1 will connect the region to drive industry growth and bring broadband to more residents and businesses.

“With TAM-1, we aim to increase access to information and improve the quality of life for the people in the communities we serve,” Trans Americas Fiber System CEO Julio Bran said. “The launch of TAM-1 today comes as the result of an enormous effort from our founding partners Global Telecommunications Investment and LW Subsea Holdings, as well as the confidence placed in us by our anchor tenants and deployment partners AT&T, Xtera and EGS Survey.”

Gina Rullo is a freelance writer. 

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