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Subsea Surge: Infinera Jumps Into the Water

Dan O'Shea
5/20/2014
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May is not quite over yet, but it has already been a busy month in the subsea cable sector.

The prevalent need to upgrade existing submarine cables, many of which are at least 15 years old, has drawn many new vendors into the fray, and they don't need their own cable-laying ships to get in on the action.

For example, Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) has not been chasing the subsea sector for as long as the likes of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and has no plans to invest in its own fleet, but the optical system vendor has been increasingly busy upgrading end points for submarine cable operators as they look to equip their cables with 100G, according to company officials. Just this week, Infinera announced it has completed a deployment of its DTN-X on the Australia Japan Cable. (See Infinera Completes AJC Subsea Upgrade.)

Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) is another system vendor that finds itself very busy in a sector once dominated by turnkey suppliers. Hibernia Networks recently tapped Ciena to provide its GeoMesh gear to upgrade service provisioning capabilities at the end points of its existing trans-Atlantic cable. (See Hibernia Goes Trans-Atlantic With Ciena.)

"When you upgrade your end terminals on these older cables, there is an opportunity to put new vendors on them," says Matt Johnson, senior vice president at Hibernia Networks. "We looked at a number of different vendors for this before we went with Ciena."

Not to be outdone by these young whippersnappers, Alcatel-Lucent, whose long-standing submarine optics group is part of the IP Transport division the vendor is leaning on during its recovery, recently had two major subsea announcements. The first was a 100G upgrade for the Apollo cable linking France, the UK, and the US, and the second was for a new cable project support cloud services and connectivity for the operations of a natural gas utility near Australia. (See Alcatel-Lucent Upgrades Apollo Subsea Cable and Alcatel-Lucent, Australia's Nextgen Team on Subsea Project.)

The move to 100G has been behind many subsea cable upgrade announcements within the last year, but the sector also has begun looking beyond 100G. Earlier this month, Tata Communications Ltd. and Huawei Marine Networks Co. Ltd. announced a successful test of 400G on a submarine cable, which came a month after Ciena tested 200G on the Japan-US cable. (See Tata, Huawei Test 400G on Subsea Cable and Ciena Pushing 200G for Subsea.)

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— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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