Ocean Networks plots Caribbean Express submarine cable between U.S. and Panama

Feb. 22, 2021
In addition to landings at West Palm Beach, FL, and Balboa, Panama, Caribbean Express also will provide connections to Cancun, Mexico, and Cartagena, Colombia.

Ocean Networks, Inc. (ONI) has revealed plans for the Caribbean Express (CX) Project, which will see construction of an 18-fiber-pair submarine cable system between Florida and Panama. In addition to landings at West Palm Beach, FL, and Balboa, Panama, Caribbean Express also will provide connections to Cancun, Mexico, and Cartagena, Colombia. The submarine network will be designed for future connectivity to other countries as well. Ocean Networks says it plans to spend $300 million on the effort, with funding help from Commenda Inc., an Atlanta-based merchant bank.

Ocean Networks says work on route development has already begun, including market analysis, permit and environmental studies, and securing landing party agreements. The company expects to issue RFQs next month to selected system suppliers, with the awarded contracts in force (CIF) by July 2021. A target design capacity was not released, although the company said the submarine cable will leverage space-division multiplexing (SDM). Ocean Networks expects Caribbean Express to be ready for service (RFS) in early 2024.

Caribbean Express will be the only submarine cable system that can offer new dedicated dark fiber pair IRUs in the Caribbean market, Ocean Networks asserts (although Seaborn Networks has given thought to serving this market as well; see “Revamped Seaborn plots slightly altered submarine network course”). As such, the company said that partnerships with local governments may be formed who would leverage the branching units reserved for connections to their respective countries. The company added it also has received expressions of interest from potential corporate customers.

“The consumer demand for a new submarine cable system between Central America and the U.S. is enormous. Traffic is nearly doubling every two years,” said John R. Runningen, a founder and principal of Commenda. “As a result, ONI has already received significant subscriber interest from large IT and telecom customers who are anxious to expand their presence in these new and under-served consumer markets.”

Atlanta-based Ocean Networks is a privately held telecom development and service company that develops submarine cable systems for carriers, content providers, governments, as well as research and education groups. Its subsidiary Submarine Cable Salvage repurposes out-of-service submarine networks for ocean science. Ocean Networks said it currently owns more than 8,000 km of submarine cable systems globally.

"We are excited about launching this new submarine cable digital superhighway across the Caribbean.” commented Robert Hildebrecht, Ocean Networks’ CFO. “We selected Commenda to raise the balance of the capital for this project based on the experience of their team and their successful track record in advising rapidly growing companies like ONI. With the support of Commenda and the experience of the ONI team, we fully expect the Caribbean Express cable system to be completed on schedule and under budget”.

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