DWDM specialist Infinera (NASDAQ:INFN, news, filings) announced on Friday that its submarine solutions have been deployed on a 6000+ km transatlantic route for a major global telecommunications provider. In all, the deployment offers 1.76Tbps over a single fiber pair. Infinera’s gear uses a 25Ghz channel grid, whereas other deployments use a 50Ghz grid. That allows them to fit more 10Gbps wavelengths onto a single fiber. Infinera has seen pretty good success in the submarine market given that they entered it less than a year ago. The provider itself is unnamed but we can take a stab at it via the process of elimination.
C&W’s Apollo, Tata, and Reliance aren’t in need of such an upgrade right now as far as I know, and Hibernia doesn’t fit the profile. TAT-14 is a consortium and doesn’t seem to fit. That leaves perhaps Global Crossing’s AC-2 and Level 3’s Yellow, which are actually two halves of the same system. Both have been upgraded incrementally over the past few years, and both companies have to balance traffic growth, their own cables, and buying transatlantic capacity from rivals. The Infinera solution seems like it would appeal to either. But it is Level 3 that unexpectedly surged as Infinera’s top customer last quarter despite rumors they lost some of their terrestrial business with the carrier to Huawei. Additionall, Level 3 tends not to talk about upgrades to their submarine capacity in much detail whereas Global Crossing does and, well, hasn’t in this case so far. So one leg of Level 3’s Yellow cable system (6400km) would be my educated guess, though it’s certainly not definitive.
There has still been no world on new transatlantic cables being laid any time soon, unlike in the Pacific and around Africa where the cable laying business is booming. Instead we will see more upgrades like this, designed to squeeze every last drop of capacity out of existing infrastructure until the economics will support new cables. I do wonder though if the surge of interest in low latency connectivity might prompt someone to design a new route that cuts off a few hundred kilometers somehow.
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