Heavy hitters take over APX-West subsea cable project

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Heavy hitters take over APX-West subsea cable project

Telstra, Google, Singtel and others assume control.

A large consortium of heavy hitters including Telstra, Singtel and Google has taken over the planned construction of a subsea cable to be built between Perth and Singapore.

The APX-West cable, which was to have been built by Bevan Slattery's SubPartners, will now be renamed Indigo and run by the consortium instead.

The full membership of the Indigo consortium is AARNet, Google, Indosat Ooredoo, Singtel, SubPartners, and Telstra. 

The Indigo cable will span 9000 kilometres, and have a branching unit connecting Singapore with Indonesia's capital Jakarta. From Perth, it will continue to Sydney under a project previously known as APX-Central.

Telstra said Indigo will feature an "open cable" design, with spectrum sharing technology.

This will enable members of the consortium to own spectrum on the cable, allowing them to upgrade capacity when technological advancements become available.

With two fibre pairs, Indigo will use coherent technology that modulates the laser light amplitude as well as its phase, and transmits over multiple polarisations.

This will give Indigo an initial minimum capacity of 18 Tbps, SubPartners said.

Like other projects vying to build on the Perth-Singapore route, the APX cable project has struggled for capital, after being in motion since 2013.

Originally, SubPartners intended to build, own and operate the cable, with the total cost for the project believed to be over US$100 million.

By 2016 the APX-West project model was reworked, and the cable design scaled down from four fibre pairs to two, and the initial capacity of 32 Tbps downgraded to 20 Tbps.

APX-West in that format was to be completed in 2018.

Nokia-owned Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks will now build Indigo, and the cable is scheduled for completion by the middle of 2019.

Indigo will compete against Vocus' 4600 kilometre Australia Singapore Cable that will also land in Perth. 

ASC is designed with four fibre pairs, for an initial design capacity of 40 Tbps. Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks will also build ASC, with construction starting this year, and a completion date of August 2018.

The design of the ASC will include a branching unit that will allow the connection of a spur to an existing Vocus cable landing at Port Hedland, Western Australia, and a trunk to Anyer in Indonesia.

Vocus also said ASC will have increased cable armouring in the Sea of Java, for better protection against cable cuts and damage.

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