Southern Cross Cable plots new trans-Pacific route

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Southern Cross Cable plots new trans-Pacific route

Project NEXT to provide 60 Tbps by 2020.

The Southern Cross Cable Network (SCCN) is looking at building a new circuit between Sydney, Auckland and Los Angeles to supplement its existing figure-eight circuit.

Chief executive Anthony Briscoe told customers at a meeting in Sydney last week that the Southern Cross NEXT cable will be a high-capacity route, designed to provide over 60 terabits per second capacity.

Briscoe said Southern Cross NEXT's design and route mean it will be "the lowest latency path to the United States by some considerable margin", but provided no data as to the expected packet delay.

While Project NEXT is still subject to financing and permit applications with national telco regulators in the countries where the cable will land, SCCN expects the route expansion to come into effect before 2020. 

SCCN currently offers approximately 140 millisecond round trip times for TCP internet traffic between Sydney and Los Angeles via Auckland. The cable has a lit capacity of 5.8 Tbps, and the company said technology trials show this can be expanded to between 14 and 24 Tbps.

The two-cable protected capacity SCCN was fully ready for transmission in January 2001 and cost US$1.3 billion to build. It is half-owned by New Zealand telco incumbent Spark NZ. Singtel-Optus has a 40 percent stake and United States provider Verizon Business owns the remaining ten percent.

SCCN was originally designed to last to 2015, but this was extended to 2025 through a series of technology upgrades. The cable operators now expect the circuit to remain operational beyond 2030.

Unlike the competing Hawaiki trans-Pacific cable - which is  currently in the planning stage - SCCN's Project NEXT will not build a new system to interconnect within the Pacific Islands, Briscoe said. 

Update 5/9/16 :

SCCN director of sales and marketing Craige Sloots told iTnews the estimated cost for Project NEXT is US$300 million.

“[But] we should be able to save on this as we will be using some existing facilities etc, and typically in final supplier negotiation you can achieve some further price refinement,” Sloots said.

"Construction date hasn't been committed yet, as there are a number of pre-steps that need to be worked through. However we are currently targeting CIF (contract in force) by mid next year, from which all supplier milestones would flow. That would place manufacture sometime early 2018, and RFS (ready for service) late 2018."

Project NEXT will use wide-spectrum fibre optics in either the C or C + L band spectrum, depending on the final capacity planning. Sloots said based on current supplier technology, the cable will accommodate 100 gigabit per second or faster wavelengths.

The latency for the new cable, which will span around 12,600 kilometres, would be 110 to 120 milliseconds round trip, or 55-60 ms each way, Sloots said.

Project NEXT will provide protected capacity, meaning if there’s a break on one segment of the cable, traffic can be routed via other operational parts of the existing SCCN cable.

"Even though it's only a single new route, it will be able to provide protection, as the services offered will be across the 3 routes (i.e. the new SX NEXT route, and the existing two routes), so protected services across any two would be available, or 'resilient' tri-path where a customer spreads services across all 3 routes,” Sloots said.

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