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EllaLink Cable Providing Fast, Sustainable Connection Across Atlantic Ocean

--News Direct--

Workers install the EllaLink fiber optic cable at the South American landing site in Fortaleza, Brazil.

WSPs first transatlantic fiber optic cable system, connecting South America to Europe is now providing the first system that directly connects these two continents, bypassing the U.S. telecom infrastructure.

Installation of the EllaLink Fiber Optic Cable System was completed earlier this year and became operational on April 30. The nearly 5,800-mile cable system is connecting the European Scientific Community with South America, landing in Brazil. From Brazil it connects to the terrestrial network – an academic network that reaches across the continent and ends in the Antofagasta Observatory in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

WSP USA worked with the supply contractor, Alcatel Submarine Networks, to ensure a secure, speedy internet connection with minimal environmental impact.

“Having worked on just about every submarine cable ever laid in Latin America and the Caribbean, WSP has an unparalleled track record in securing purchaser permits in the region,” said Maria Mato, global telecom lead at WSP USA. “The team is helping inform and steer national regulations in countries where the cables are landing for the first time.”

EllaLink was created to improve the diversity of the global cable network. With landing sites in Fortaleza, Brazil and Sines, Portugal – and with a detour through North America no longer required – the direct fiber optic cable will reduce round-trip time latency between Europe and Brazil by 50 percent. It creates an infrastructure that provides an initial 72Tbps of capacity over four direct fiber pairs, connecting data centers using major POPs on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Additional landings included Madeira and Cabo Verde.

“One of the key benefits is the capability to provide internet access to underdeveloped countries, many that still only have internet in the larger urban areas but not throughout the country,” Mato said. “This connection will be crucial for financial development of these regions to enter global markets, to improve education, and as a modern ‘human right’ as determined by the United Nations.”

Environmental Impact

The development of fiber optic cables in the 1990s was a breakthrough in long-distance digital communications, replacing the original coaxial cables and reducing the environmental impact of these global connections.

“Since then, the number of submarine cables crisscrossing our oceans has multiplied, and trans-continental digital traffic has soared,” Mato said. “Unlike power cables, fiber optic cables do not emit EMF waves. The environmental impacts of fiber optic cables, once installed, are negligible.”

In many locations where cables had previously landed, the work was often completed prior to the existence of environmental authorities and regulations. With these considerations now standard, WSP has been instrumental in representing its clients to address and resolve critical environmental matters during these negotiations.

Although there are international conventions that allow for telecommunications to have the “right of innocent passage” — allowing subsea cables to traverse exclusive economic zones, or EEZs, in territorial waters — the installers still need to acquire all the permits required for a cable to lay in the sea bed of that country, securing federal, state and municipal permits for each landing site under each country’s jurisdiction.

“In 2000, when Alcatel was laying the first fiber optic cable around Latin America, connecting the continent to the U.S. and to Asia, fiber optics were a nascent industry for which regulatory frameworks hadn’t been formalized,” Mato said. “WSP clients have never missed a permit, and that’s important when the standby charges for these cable laying vessels can mount up to $150,000 a day if they have to wait for authorization.”

Through negotiations, WSP helped save Alcatel about $8 million, and cemented WSP’s reputation as the go-to supplier in the region for these subsea environmental services.

To further ensure that the EllaLink project did not have negative environmental or economic impacts, WSP routinely reached out to fishing communities and indigenous populations to address their concerns with the project, emerging as a trusted messenger when those issues were taken seriously and resolved.

In 2019 and again in 2020, the telecom industry’s Global Carrier Awards recognized the EllaLink project as the Best SubSea Project of the Year.

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