The first ever submarine cable – laid in the English Channel in 1851 – heralded a new era of communication. And nearly 170 years later the world’s oceans are now crisscrossed by hundreds of thousands of kilometres of cable – long enough to get to the moon and back, and with plenty to spare, Shalini Lagrutta reports.
The impact that a submarine cable can have on a community today can be just as significant as it was back in the late 1800s. The island nation of Palau, for example, is soon to be connected to the SEA-US trans-Pacific cable, which will link Indonesia to California via a number of stops in the Pacific, and it will provide Palau with its first ever direct fibre connection to the rest of the world.
As soon as a cable connection is made, the volume of data traffic that it will need to handle will immediately start to grow. Therefore, new landing stations that terminate undersea cables and connect them to land-based networks are increasingly being built with the option to expand them into fully fledged data centres – not simply to absorb the additional data load that pre-existing facilities were never designed to cope with, but also to provide the additional space required to be able to offer new data-based services. This in turn provides the companies involved in financing cable projects the opportunity to maximise the returns on their investments – a vital goal given that undersea cable projects are typically extremely capital intensive.
This growing need for additional scalable space in cable landing stations has consequently created the need for the construction method of these buildings to evolve. Traditional brick and mortar construction simply doesn’t provide the speed, quality and flexibility needed in these scenarios. Prefabricated facilities, on the other hand, are the perfect fit. They can be fully built and tested in an efficient factory environment before being shipped to site for final installation – a particularly valuable characteristic given that coastal environments are not the easiest places to build high-tech facilities from scratch. And they can be simply and quickly expanded module-by-module, adding white space for data racks when needed without interrupting ongoing operations.
BSCC’s new cable landing station in Palau is an eCentre facility. Flexenclosure has a long history of pioneering the deployment of turnkey prefabricated data centres in some of the most inhospitable parts of the planet, and eCentre cable landing stations have been specifically designed and ruggedised for the submarine cable industry.
As such, they bring all the benefits of a modular prefabricated data centre into the cable landing station environment, including open contiguous white space (for unlimited rack configuration flexibility); no ceiling height limitations (important given cable landing stations’ requirement for a specific bend radius); the flexibility to choose between a raised floor and/or false ceiling; and unlimited flexibility on the location and number of power distribution and cable management layers. Related civil works are low-cost and fast to complete; the facilities can be expanded horizontally or – where available real estate is limited – vertically; they can be Uptime Institute Tier-certified; and they can be built to accommodate permanent staff or to be unmanned 24/7.
Flexenclosure is also delivering two new eCentre cable landing stations for Samoa Submarine Cable Company (SSCC). The eCentres will terminate the new TUI-Samoa submarine cable, connecting Samoa, Fiji, and Wallis and Futuna – an initiative that will (as with SEA-US in Palau) reduce the current dependence on satellite communications and accelerate the launch of innovative new services.