As published in the July issue of SubTel Forum magazine
By Stephen Nielsen
July 20, 2022
Given that the underwater telecommunications industry has a history of over 170 years of continuous development, it may be surprising how vague many concepts are because their actual definition does not cover the industry. What constitutes “Deep Water?” How long does a cable have to be to be “Long distance?” For the purposes of this issue of the Submarine Telecoms Forum’s High Capacity Issue, we posed the question “What is High Capacity Cable” and found that the answer was not so clear cut.
“The definition of high capacity is constantly changing,” said a representative from HMN Tech.
Along with HMN Tech, Hexatronic, Prysmian and NEC answered a question and answer session regarding the current state and future of the high capacity cable manufacturing industry. All four are notable cable manufacturers in the underwater telecommunications industry. There are currently seven major cable manufacturers supplying the underwater telecommunications industry: ASN, Prysmian, Hexatronic, HMN Tech, NEC, Nexans and SubCom.
“Currently, one could argue that any repeating cable containing 16 fiber pairs could be considered high capacity, but that’s a pretty arbitrary number and doesn’t take into account the capacity of each fiber pair,” the answer said. from NEC. “Furthermore, at the current rate of growth in traffic demand, the current notion of ‘high capacity’ will become increasingly mainstream.” Similarly, Prysmian defines high capacity as 48 fiber pairs for non-repeating cables and 16 for repeating cables.
Alternatively, Hexatronic’s response argues that a truly high-capacity cable would be “a submarine cable of 96 fibers or more”. This definition, however, could only apply to cables without a repeater, since current repeater technology can only handle about 24 fiber pairs.
This highlights a large current disparity in what could be considered high capacitance cable in non-repeating vs. repeating cables. HMN Tech can claim a maximum of 1000 fiber pairs in their non-repeating cables while their repeaters reach a maximum of 32 fiber pairs. NEC currently has cables with 24 fiber pairs in production and states that “further improvements to this number are very close to market.” Hexatronic cables can go up to 192 fibers for their non-repeatable systems.
“A high-capacity cable means the cable can meet customers’ current capacity needs and support capacity expansion to best meet growing bandwidth needs over the future life of the cable. 25 years,” said HMN Tech’s response. “Technically, recent demands are well met by advanced technologies, like SDM wet factory solution, and optical fibers with large effective area and low loss.”
Planned capacity worldwide is expected to increase by 110% over the next five years, according to public information included in the Subtel forum database. Along with new cable constructions, older systems are implementing upgrades to increase capacity and extend system life. All of this underscores that innovation and the continued development of cable technology will be essential to meet the ever-increasing demand for capacity and the eventual failure of older systems.
“There does not appear to be a slowdown in subsea capacity demanded by the market,” NEC replied. “Real-time services like augmented reality, virtual reality and the metaverse in general are expected to continue to drive end-user demand, supported by deployments of 5G and gigabit fiber access. Experimental trials of 6G are planned, which will further feed the higher subsea capacity requirements. »
With this in mind, companies were asked about the future of high-capacity cable development. According to Hexatronic, an upcoming invention will be a new type of fiber that will increase capacity without major changes in cable size. Prysmian predicts the advancement of higher fiber densities in cables.
HMN Tech sees this and much more as the industry may need to change with the innovation of new technologies. “First, the 32 fps high fiber count SDM solution will usher in the petabit era and can meet higher capacity requirements with the rise of 5G, data centers and streaming media. ” In addition, they expect the size of single-mode fibers to be reduced and also the sheath diameter of the fibers to be minimized to increase the number of fiber pairs without increasing the cable size.
An increase in automated computer monitoring will be another major step in how standard cable systems are managed. “Intelligent analysis and management NMS wishes to use artificial intelligence algorithms to predict network performance fault trends and perform intelligent fault location functions to help customers predict network faults and prevent faults in advance, ensure the quality of communication services and perform AI-based forecasting maintenance.”
This would be in conjunction with the more flexible network topology and maintenance management: “A variety of BU optical switches, hot-switching function and WSS ROADM enhance network flexibility and robustness. Energy efficiency is key for power-constrained HFC SDMs [high fiber count] system, which requires stronger power supply from PFE and higher working voltage from wet plants, so cable capacity and power efficiency should be balanced to achieve the optimal solution,” HMN Tech responded.
Finally, HMN Tech predicts new developments in SMART cables: DAS technology that uses fibers as “sensors” to detect vibrations. “With the advanced development of technology, various kinds of real sensors, such as acceleration sensor, temperature sensor and pressure sensor can be added inside or outside the RPT to collect information more comprehensive and help us better explore the state of the ocean.”
Beyond the topic of developing technologies to meet capacity demand, the topic of sustainability has been important across all sectors of the subsea telecommunications industry, including cable manufacturers. “For the ICT industry, sustainability means that a communications system is designed, manufactured, operated and operated in a way that minimizes environmental impact and meets sustainable development goals,” HMN Tech responded. Hexatronic’s response agreed that for cable manufacturers, sustainability means low climate impact, a sustainable supply chain and strong business ethics.
That said, according to HMN Tech, cable manufacturers don’t really need to go out of their way to support sustainability: “Compared to other ICT equipment (like data centers), the undersea cable carrying 99 % Internet data is one of the most environmentally friendly digital infrastructure with negligible carbon emissions, according to relative research,” HMN Tech responded. “It is good news for the world that the important Internet trunk meets sustainable development. The submarine cable is expected to become a major recommendable communication system due to its environmental benefits.
So, to ask again: what is high capacity cable? Well, I guess it all depends.
About the Author
Stephen Nielsen is an editor at the Submarine Telecoms Forum and has over 10 years of experience reviewing submarine cable systems. He has previously supported blogging and streaming at various PTC and SubOptic conferences. He is also a 6e A quality English teacher and former finalist for the Society of Professional Journalism’s Mark of Excellence award.
He was previously employed by the Winchester Star newspaper and Capital News Services, and is a US citizen based in Sterling, Virginia, USA.