First aluminium conductor for subsea optical cable

Created January 23, 2019
Technologies and Products

Alcatel Submarine Networks and Facebook innovation aims at lower cost submarine systems

Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) has announced the commercial availability of aluminium conductor cable for optical fibre submarine systems. This follows an extensive testing and qualification programme to demonstrate aluminium’s suitability for ultra-long haul deep sea transmission systems. The programme included mechanical, electrical, optical and environmental tests performed on deep sea and armoured cables, and the technology was also validated during a sea trial.

According to the partners, the use of aluminium conductors answers the need of operators and content providers to better support the growth of demand, and to reduce submarine cable costs, by introducing an alternative to copper conductor. Copper is one of the most expensive raw materials currently used in repeatered submarine systems.

In addition, the aluminium conductor provides several benefits and advantages compared to copper, including better cost-effectiveness, while maintaining a performance equal to copper, a more stable supply market, which has benefited over the past fifteen years from technology improvements, mainly driven by the oil and gas industry. This has led to the development of new industrial techniques and equipment now available for aluminium processing and welding for long distance applications. Then conductor also offers a potential for higher speed of production to speed-up the delivery of new systems and acts as an enabler to achieve solutions for low direct current resistance with higher numbers of fibre pairs.

“Our efforts are focused on expanding connectivity and increasing the adoption of innovative technologies, without compromising reliability,” said Najam Ahmad, vice president, network engineering at Facebook. “The use of aluminium cable in submarine systems represents an attractive evolution as technology advances and demand increases for more data throughput and higher speeds.”

“The introduction of a new cable variant using aluminium conductor addresses the market demand for more cable capacity at a reasonable cost, while keeping the same level of quality and reliability,” added President and CEO of Alcatel Submarine Networks Philippe Piron (pictured). “After the introduction of loose tube technology in submarine cables 25 years ago, ASN is again the first to bring an innovative improvement to submarine cable design, and continues to show its leadership by anticipating customer demands.”

The new cable variant has already been selected for a major long-distance project and is part of the SDM1 by ASN solution, designed to optimise costs per bit.

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This article was written
by John Williamson

John Williamson is a freelance telecommunications, IT and military communications journalist. He has also written for national and international media, and been a telecoms advisor to the World Bank.