Decreasing Ice Helps Deployment of Submarine Cable to Alaska

Officials from the Quintillion Networks said the decreasing ice in the sea helps quicker deployment of the submarine fiber optic cable that connects the communities in arctic Alaska. The Anchorage-based network builder has advantage of the open ocean off the coast of Alaska to lay a 1,200-mile subsea fiber-optic cable that’ll provide faster and more reliable broadband internet connections to northern Alaska and the Interior.

Spokeswoman for Quintillion, Kristina Woolston said, there is less ice off the coast of Alaska and deploying the cable at a submarine level is possible now, where it may not have been five years ago.

Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks (ASN), the undersea cables subsidiary of Alcatel Lucent, which is Nokia Networks now and Quintillion Subsea Holdings LLC have entered into a turnkey contract for the design and construction of a submarine cable system from Prudhoe Bay to Nome in July 2015. ASN has commenced marine route survey and installation activities for the implementation of the system. The system will offer a unique route to bring reliable, affordable high-speed broadband access to the North Slope of Alaska and will bridge the digital divide in an area of Alaska where bandwidth is currently still limited. With a capacity of at least 10 terabits-per-second (Tbit/s) per fiber pair, it will enable the delivery of advanced services, including improved health and education services more cost effectively, and spur economic development by empowering local businesses.

The system will consist of three fiber pairs capable of carrying 100 wavelengths, each of which can support 100 gigabits-per-second of data capacity. Phase 1 will be a 1,850 km segment linking the Alaskan communities of Nome, Kotzebue, Wainwright, Point Hope, Barrow, and Prudhoe Bay and will provide for future extensions to Asia and Europe. Scheduled for completion by the end of 2016, Phase 1 will incorporate advanced routing and burial techniques to protect the cable and enhance the integrity of the system.

The project was originally led by Canadian company Arctic Fibre, but Quintillion acquired the assets of Arctic Fibre last year. Original investors in Arctic Fibre still have an interest in the project. A Quintillion affiliate is also constructing a terrestrial fiber-optic cable between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay, which will provide a fiber link between the Lower 48 and the Arctic. That cable is also scheduled to be operational in early 2017. The terrestrial cable will run both underground and overland along the Dalton Highway.

The Alaska portion of the project is just one standalone piece of a much larger effort to eventually connect Asia and Europe through the Arctic. Phase one of the project is the Alaska portion. Phase two would connect Asia with Alaska – eventually landing in Tokyo – and phase three would tie Alaska with Europe via London. Phases two and three still need to be finalized, and financing is separate for each phase.

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