What may seem a simple exercise of putting a cable on the ocean floor and connecting it at a couple of locations certainly is not the reality when you dive into the amazing technology and planning that is embedded within the Vocus ASC.
We took the opportunity recently to chat with Mathew Shields to gain some insights into the technology employed in the undersea fibre optic cable system which connects Vocus’ Australian terrestrial network with landings in Christmas Island and Indonesia to its final landing point in Singapore.
Mathew shared that the initial planning for the new cable system was underpinned by a resolute commitment to deliver the most innovative cable possible, with top-shelf equipment and support infrastructure redundancy built-in to ensure that Vocus and its customers would not have to suffer the challenges of other cable systems. He was also very keen to put in place the lessons learned from other cable systems which played a great part in the design approach of the Vocus ASC.
“When we were tasked with the design approach for the ASC, we had to factor a very high-level of availability for the technology, the physical elements, right down to how we power the 47 repeaters along the 4,600km path,” said Mathew.
“The demands on any new system needs to not only factor customer requirements on commissioning, but has to be able to deliver robust and effective service activation and assurance”
Redundancy Before Even Touching The Cable
The Vocus ASC is a highly advanced system where the commitment to maximum performance and uptime starts at the cable landing stations at each end of the system, which were carefully selected to be located at latest generation data centres.
In both Perth and Singapore, the landing points are within very highly specified data centres. They are very secure with diverse power and connectivity. And then over the top of this, we added in our own independent, redundant power backup.”
“We have endeavoured to ensure a high level of redundancy and back up built-in to the cable system design, short of actually building two cables. It sounds over the top, but its important to be able to offer customers a high degree of confidence in your service so that you can be competitive and deliver value over the long term,” said Mathew.
On the electronics front, the smarts keep coming. The Vocus ASC is a four-fibre pair system, capable of delivering a total of 40Tbps end to end Perth to Singapore plus up to an additional 30T of capacity on the Singapore to Indonesia branch. Employing the latest generation dense wave division multiplex (DWDM) technology and an ultra-low-loss and large effective area silica core fibre which is optimised for high-bit-rate repeatered submarine systems.
On the repeater front, the focus on optimum resiliency and redundancy continues. The 47 repeaters on the system are latest generation units employing duplicated pump lasers and up to 40nm total bandwidth with minimum 25-year life. Commitment to quality in the manufacture of the undersea plant and all of the equipment used on the ASC is second to none and comparable to the quality standards and approach used in the space industry..
“When you’ve got equipment up to 6km deep in the ocean, you need to be assured that the equipment is of the highest quality. It’s not like you can pop over and check it every few months,” said Mathew.
Clever Thinking Resulting In Smart Solutions
Powering each repeater unit has utilised a clever approach to the Power Feed Equipment design.
“We applied some clever thinking to ensure that if the power feed was compromised at one end of the system, we can automatically re-configure the power feed to power the entire system from the other end.
But it doesn’t stop there. From a delivery standpoint, the optical technology selected to deliver services allows the option to upgrade the system in future to meet increasing capacity needs.
The fibres themselves are connected with latest technology terminal equipment providing the full range of software configurable interfaces for services to customers, including options for 10Gig Ethernet and 100Gig Ethernet connections.
A Cable With A Customer Focus
All in all, the cable, which is well on track for service, is certainly a testament to the skills and experience of the Vocus team who have very carefully designed a system which meets not only the demands of Vocus, but the many customers who want fast, secure, reliable and low-latency connections into, and from Asia, now and into the future.