As with many island regions across the globe, the current network of subsea cables which connects the islands of the Caribbean is technologically inferior. There has in fact been no new pan-regional fiber-optic deployment here in the last decade. Compounding this issue, some of the region’s primary undersea cable links have already exceeded their planned technical lifespan of 20 years.
This poor connectivity coupled with a market monopolized by a single provider has resulted in a high cost for capacity: around twelve times more expensive than trans-Atlantic capacity, six times more expensive than trans-Pacific capacity, and two and a half times more expensive than capacity between the United States and Brazil.
The new Deep Blue Cable, with its high design capacity, low unit cost, low latency, and much improved reliability is thus going to make a huge difference to the region, offering competitive pricing and resilience through alternative supply. Its presence should release Caribbean island-based companies that are locked into decades-old agreements with single supplier and consortium-model cable systems that favour the operator. Additionally, the establishment of more affordable and reliable connectivity throughout the Caribbean will be of interest to international businesses, which might now begin to look more seriously at locating offices or developing support centers in a region which is home to many multi-lingual citizens.
Stephen Scott, company CEO of Deep Blue, told us the Deep Blue Cable will be based on a design of two separate 8 fiber pair systems; a Western system terminating in Naples Florida and an Eastern system terminating in Boca Raton. Each system will offer an initial capacity of 6 Tbps per fibre pair, though it is thought this could be upgraded to 20 Tbps per fiber pair over the life of the system. To ensure the cable remains competitive for some time, it integrates some of the latest technology available in the market, including ROADM (Remote Optical Add Drop Multiplexer) technology, which allows better control over a system with multiple branches. Whereas in the past one would have to fully anticipate the capacity available to every branch, with ROADM technology the capacity routed can be varied remotely depending on the actual demand. This offers the ability to create an economy where the maximum capacity can be driven through a single fiber pair before having to light further pairs.
Meanwhile, SLTE technology from Ciena will allow for seamless integration between the submarine and terrestrial sections of the system. Although still under development, the plans thus far are for a cable that spans nearly 12,000 km with landing points in 12 markets throughout the region, these being the Cayman Islands, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, British Virgin Islands, Trinidad & Tobago, and Turks & Caicos Islands.
There will also be dual diverse landings in the U.S. (including the first landing of a cable on the Gulf Coast of Florida). In all there are more than 40 landings planned in the Caribbean, mainland U.S. and South America, making this project one of the most complex cable projects ever undertaken. Asked what the main challenges have been in the project, Stephen told us “All new submarine cable systems, however small, are challenging. After all every landing and every cable segment should be considered a project in its own right.”
The Caribbean is of course also an area prone to natural disaster, and this does present certain key risks. Deep Blue have been mindful of this, routing around tectonic fault lines to mitigate disruption, and also burying more than 50% of the cable. Critical to managing risk and ensuring overall success of the project, Stephen continued, “is building a first-class team and a great working relationship with our construction partner, TE SubCom”.
To date, Deep Blue has completed all terrestrial cable landing surveys and planning. A significant amount of the permit and license planning has also been completed and Deep Blue recently incorporated a subsidiary in the US to support FCC license application.
The project is intended to be RFS in December 2019.
This article is part of a series of 15 interviews with leading cable project owners around the world, which we’ve compiled into the ebook “Submarine Networks Projects 2017”. Download a free copy of it here.
If you’d like to meet these cable owners and operators together with other leaders from the industry, you should join us at Submarine Networks World 2018, which takes place 24 – 26 September in Singapore. Firmly established as the must-attend annual meeting for industry players from all around the world, preparations are already underway for another year of inspiring ideas, extensive networking and lively debates, with a conference programme covering key industry issues ranging from New Demand Drivers to Marine Operations, as well as a brand new Innovation Zone featuring presentations on the latest R&D projects.
Keen to learn more? Get in touch with the team: