NEC Chosen To Build Asia Direct Cable

The Asia Direct Cable Consortium has selected NEC to build new 9,400-km-long Trans-Asia submarine cable

The ADC project is currently in the manufacturing phase and is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2022.August 6, 2021

Introduction

As ever more people have access to the internet and smartphones, digital traffic continues to increase, both within countries and across national borders. This has also been accelerated by the emergence of new services and capabilities, such as 5G networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), cloud services, and services for streaming high-resolution video content. According to some estimates, global data traffic is increasing at a pace of 1.3 times a year. Correspondingly, the demand for data-transmission capacity to handle that increased traffic continues to grow as well.

It eventually became clear that existing submarine communication cables in Asia would no longer be able to handle the continued increase in data traffic by around 2020 onwards. The system design life of submarine cables is also generally around 25 years. Meanwhile, advances in submarine cable and fiber optic technologies continue to be made.

In this context, the Asia Direct Cable (ADC) Consortium, whose members include leading information infrastructure companies such as CAT, China Telecom, China Unicom, PLDT Inc., Singtel, SoftBank Corp., Tata Communications and Viettel, was launched with the goal of building a high-performance submarine cable connecting China, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Challenges

The construction and laying of the ADC will be a formidable task. First of all, it is expected to measure a massive 9,400 km in total, and where exactly it will be laid out on the sea floor will need to be precisely planned out, taking into account underwater topography and previously recorded obstacles. Submarine repeaters also need to be installed every 60-100 km to amplify and maintain the strength of transmitted signals, thereby ensuring stable transmission even over such a long distance. Furthermore, the cable-laying process is a long and arduous one. It is carried out very deliberately by ship, with the speed and angle being constantly adjusted and crew members remaining onboard for months on end.

In addition, the depth of the sea floor naturally varies, and both very deep and very shallow waters present their own challenges. The submarine cable needs to be able to endure the great pressure of extreme depths, including 8,000-m deep trenches. At the same time, at shallow depths, it needs to be hard enough to withstand being struck by anchors.

Solution

The ADC Consortium has selected NEC for this critical work, recognizing the company’s excellent track record and dependability when it comes to building complex cable systems in challenging marine environments. NEC has over 50 years of experience in optical submarine cables and has constructed some of the largest cable networks in service today. In total, it has laid 300,000 kilometers of cables worldwide, a length that is equivalent to seven and a half times the circumference of the Earth.

As Koji Ishii of SoftBank, ADC MC Chair, put it, “As a leading submarine cable system vendor, NEC has successfully provided many trans-Asia submarine cable systems, making the company the most reliable choice for the ADC supply partner.”

The ADC will feature multiple pairs of high-capacity optical fibers and is designed to carry more than 140 Tbps of traffic enabling high capacity transmission of data across the East and Southeast Asian regions. Upon completion, it will have the highest number of fiber pairs and system transmission capacity of any submarine cable in Asia.

“As the supplier of the ADC Cable, NEC continues to support critical infrastructure in Asia. This advanced optical fiber submarine cable system will provide seamless connectivity to the countries it lands in and the regions it services,” said Atsushi Kuwahara, General Manager, Submarine Network Division, NEC Corporation.

Results

The ADC project is currently in the manufacturing phase and is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2022. Its high capacity will allow it to support increasingly bandwidth-intensive applications driven by technological advancements in 5G, the cloud, IoT and AI. For example, it could facilitate the rapid exchange of large volumes of data or seamless digital experiences in real-time, supporting activities such as international research collaboration or the provision of virtual-reality-enabled remote medicine.

“The ADC system provides the highest cable capacity and necessary diversity for Asia’s key information hubs, which will enable carriers and service providers to better plan their networks and services for a sustainable development,” said ADC MC Co-Chair Chang Weiguo of China Telecom.

The ADC will further promote the expansion of communications networks in East and Southeast Asia, offering faster and more reliable online communications and connecting people across the region like never before. Ultimately, it will not only enhance and enrich people’s lives but also form part of the infrastructural foundation that supports wide-ranging aspects of society.

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