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Will there be a glut of submarine cable capacity?

25 April 2012
 
There has been a boom in submarine cable construction globally, according to the latest data from TeleGeography’s Global Bandwidth Research Service. In 2010 and 2011, 19 systems costing an aggregate $3.7 billion (€2.8 billion) were launched, and the pace of growth is increasing. Throughout 2012 and 2013, 33 new submarine cable systems are expected to be deployed at a projected total cost of $5.5 billion.

Indian carrier Tata Communications says that with the recent launch of the Tata Global Network - Eurasia (TGN-EA) cable, it now owns the first fibre-optic cable network to circle the globe. TGN-EA reached completion with the launch of the TGN-Gulf subsea cable system that will connect the Gulf to Mumbai, India, and onward to the rest of the Tata Global Network (TGN). A second Middle Eastern system – Gulf Bridge International – also came online in Q1 2012. 

Other major projects to begin service this year include the West African Cable System (WACS) and the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) network, spanning the entire West African coast and extending to Europe. New construction in Asia will link Japan to Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines: the Asia Submarine-cable Express is due to be deployed in Q3 2012; and the Southeast Asia Japan Cable is scheduled for Q3 2013. In Latin America, the America Movil-1 cable will be deployed in Q4 2012.
 
In light of the tremendous untapped potential capacity on many existing submarine cables, it may seem surprising that new cable construction continues around the world, says TeleGeography. “Capacity constraints are not driving most new cable projects,” said TeleGeography analyst Tim Stronge. “Operators are deploying new systems for a variety of reasons, including physical route diversity, latency reduction, strategic advantage, and the lure of relatively high price margins on some routes.”
 
Additional submarine cables have been proposed for construction beyond 2013, including several trans-Arctic systems and four cables between South America and Africa. However, Stronge believes that while a few of these systems may be built, it’s likely that others will fall by the wayside, joining the long list of projects that never launched, due to a lack of funding or carrier support.
 
 [Caption] Submarine Cable Construction Costs by Region, 2010-2013. Source: TeleGeography
 
By Pauline Rigby