AT&T, NTT Join Subsea Consortium

The growing demand for global bandwidth has led AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT) to join the Trans-Pacific Express (TPE) consortium that is building a new submarine cable link between Asia and North America. (See AT&T Joins Subsea Group and NTT Joins Subsea Group.)

The TPE project was first announced in December 2006, when China Telecom Corp. Ltd. (NYSE: CHA), China Netcom Corp. Ltd. (NYSE: CN; Hong Kong: 0906), China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU), Korean incumbent KT Corp. , Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd. (NYSE: CHT), and Verizon Enterprise Solutions formed the consortium and detailed a $500 million investment. (See Carriers to Connect China With $500M Cable.)

That project and another new transpacific cable announced in April 2007, the Asia-America Gateway, were responses to growing international capacity requirements and the need for a greater number of alternative subsea routes between major markets: Parts of the Asia/Pacific were badly affected by cable cuts in December 2005, highlighting the need for greater submarine cable redundancy. (See Earthquake Cuts Cables Near Taiwan and Carriers Plan $500M Transpacific Link.)

Now, with construction of TPE's cable already well underway, the subsea cable is being extended to Japan. While the initial cable, which boasts potential transmission capacity of up to 5.12 Tbit/s (terabits per second) is due to become operational in August this year, with landing points located in China, South Korea, Taiwan, and the U.S., the additional link to Shinmaruyama (near Tokyo) in Japan will not be ready until March 2009. An additional direct connection from Shinmaruyama to the West Coast of the U.S. will follow in 2010, though the latter is still subject to regulatory approval. (See map below.)

AT&T's involvement is part of the international expansion plan announced earlier this month. The operator says it already owns or leases capacity on 70 subsea cables around the world, and is already part of the Asia-America Gateway project. (See AT&T's $1B Global Capex Pledge.)

The new TPE extension to Japan is just one of a number of new subsea cable connections being built around the world as operators prepare for the impact of video traffic and move to protect themselves against breaks in connectivity: The recent spate of cable cuts in the Middle East was a reminder of how fragile current international links can be, and the impact that such breaches can have. (See Carriers Repairing Middle East Cables, Fourth Subsea Cable Down in Middle East, Third Cable Outage Hits Middle East, Subsea Cable Outage Hits Mideast, India, and Cable Cut Conspiracy.)

Other recent subsea cable announcements of note include:

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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