Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks (ASN), now part of Nokia, will implement two major upgrades on transpacific and transatlantic routes to further enhance global connectivity for broadband content and applications, as well as for bandwidth-intensive cloud computing services.
The upgrades will add terabits of capacity on each route bringing more scalability and redundancy to the delivery of high-speed, low-latency services over resilient high-capacity systems.
On the transpacific route, ASN will upgrade a new cable system which will connect major cities along the West Coast of the United States to two coastal locations in Japan and Taiwan.
On the transatlantic route, ASN will upgrade a submarine cable system linking the United Kingdom to the USA over a distance of 6,500 km.
Both upgrades will be implemented with ASN’s latest technology, the 1620 SOFTNODE, which offers the best spectral efficiency on the market on both new and legacy systems with third generation coherent technology at bit rates up to 400 gigabits-per-second.
Philippe Piron, President of Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks said: “Achieving the maximum capacity out of an existing submarine network asset remains critical for telecom and webscale operators as they need to meet increasing end-user requirements for capacity, speed and reliability. ASN’s SOFTNODE provides state-of the-art technology to address these needs with the greatest possible flexibility on existing and new systems, combining technological and economic benefits”.
Source: Alcatel Press Release
The fact that the cable systems to be upgraded in this announcement are not named indicates a certain sensitivity of at least one of the cable owners to publicity. Furthermore, the only yet-to-be-built transpacific system that has two landings in Japan and one in Taiwan is Google's FASTER cable system
As for the existing transatlantic system also mentioned in this announcement, the only cable which fits the description in terms of cable length is either the north or south cable of the TGN-Atlantic system owned by Tata Communications.
Figure 2 - FASTER Cable Map
Assuming that both of the above-mentioned deductions are correct, in addition to this being the first announcement of a 400G upgrade by any systems supplier, there are some other surprising aspects worth mentioning.
FASTER is being built by NEC and is due to be ready for service by the end of June this year. The fact that Google has chosen to upgrade to 400 Gbit/s using another systems supplier's technology indicates that NEC is not far enough down its technology road map to meet Google's requirements.
It is also unusual for a system to be upgraded before it has reached its ready-for-service date. In this case, the reason is that we are on the cusp of the next generation of submarine system technology. Google, with its insatiable appetite for capacity on the major routes, must have got comfortable with ASN's ability to deliver 400G at a lower cost per bit and decided to alter the system design accordingly.
As for TGN Atlantic, an existing cable commissioned in 2001 with 10 Gbit/s wavelengths, the system has been upgrade to 40G in 2011 and 100G in 2013. It is slightly surprising therefore that there is still sufficient spectral efficiency to be gained that would allow a cable this old to be upgraded to 400G. Moreover, this is a bullish investment by Tata at a time where, generally speaking, the traditional carriers are losing ground to the content providers in terms of market share. It may be that Tata's decision is driven by demand from content providers looking to diversify their transatlantic routes.
Figure 3 - TGN-Atlantic Cable Map
Julian Rawle, Author
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