The plans for a cable through the Arctic Ocean took a dramatic new turn today. Quintillion Subsea Holdings, which has been building a cable system along the Alaska coast, has purchased the assets of Arctic Fibre, which had been planning a cable system stretching from Japan to the UK through the Northwest Passage.
The first phase of the new overall cable system will be Quintillium's currently planned system between the Alaskan ports of Prudhoe Bay and Nome, with spurs to Barrow, Wainwright, Point Hope, and Kotzebue. Construction on that part is already underway with bandwidth expected to reach the communities by early 2017. They also have plans for a terrestrial link from Prudhoe Bay down to Fairbanks where the system would hook up to existing fiber networks down into the rest of North America.
The phases after that are further off of course. Phase two would see a submarine link between Nome and Japan, while phase three would do the heavy, very cold lifting of connecting to London through the Arctic and down past Greenland. In the past, Arctic Fibre had rather more detailed plans for hooking up spots along the Canadian Arctic along the way and a relationship with the Canadian government, but those aren't described on Quintillion's website yet. I suspect they aren't off the table though, but rather that the new entity still has to work out those relationships in lieu of the old ones.
Of course, the hardest part for a system like this is the funding, and that's anything but certain on a project that takes this much imagination. But consolidating these two efforts makes plenty of sense given the combined technical and financial hurdles ahead for anyone building submarine cable systems in the Arctic.
The majority owner of Quintillion is New York-based Cooper Investment Partners, while the former owners of Arctic Fibre now have an ownership stake as well and Arctic Fibre CEO Michael Cunningham has joined the Quintillion board.