Crosslake Fibre starts England to France subsea journey

Crosslake Fibre starts England to France subsea journey

Fergus Innes Crosslake Fibre.jpg

Crosslake Fibre’s new connection across the English channel began its journey from England to France this morning.

The unrepeatered 192-fibre cable is the first cross-channel subsea cable since Circe South, which went into service in 1999.

Cable ship Telecom Intrepid brought the cable along the coast from Southampton and landed the UK end on Brighton beach at 09:03 this morning.

“Great news!” said Fergus Innes (pictured), senior VP of Crosslake Fibre, a Canadian company that in 2019 laid a Toronto-New York cable with a link across Lake Ontario.

Now the Telecom Intrepid will take the cable across the sea to land at Veules-les-Roses on the French coast, 15km west of Dieppe.

Crosslake and its partners had hoped to begin the process on four days ago, but strong west winds along the Brighton coast created metre-high breaking waves all along the shore. That meant the operation had to be delayed – to the dismay of a number of partners and customers who gathered on Monday morning to watch the landing.

Until now the capacity across the English Channel from France to the UK has been dominated by Eurotunnel, the direct rail crossing that hosts fibre connections. A month ago Colt won a 25-year franchise from the company that owns the tunnel. In July Zayo announced plans for the Zeus cable to link the UK with the Netherlands, due to be ready for service in early 2022. This month euNetworks put into service Scylla, a cable connecting the east coast of England to the Netherlands. 

The new Crosslake system, CrossChannel Fibre, “has unique strengths that existing systems don’t have”, said Ed McCormack, a consultant to Ciena, which supplied equipment to the project.

Following the landing in Brighton, the cable will be buried 2m down and directly connected to Crosslake’s existing network, already laid to an Equinix data centre in Slough, west of London, said Gavin Tully, managing partner at Pioneer Consulting, which project-managed the whole operation.

On the French side, Crosslake’s fibre terminates at Equinix and Interxion data centres to the north-west of Paris.

Between the two, on the seabed, “we have to literally navigate a [World War Two] minefield as well as lots of debris, including the remains of an old pier”, Tully added.

The old West Pier used to run into the sea just a few hundred metres from this morning’s landing point in Brighton. In closed in 1975 and since then storms and fire have left a few remains above the water, but a lot more below.

During the cable-laying, Crosslake has negotiated a 500m exclusion zone east and west of the cable route – and the deal, said one person close to the project, included paying off members of the local fishing community for fish they wouldn’t catch during the operation.

Crosslake expects the cable ship to land on the French coast in the second week in October, said Innes. “We’ll be ready to carry traffic by the end of October, but official contracts will run from 1 December.”

The company has designed the channel crossing “very like a terrestrial network”, said Innes, with the Brighton to Veules-les-Roses stretch “the longest span in the system”.

Crosslake originally planned to connect Ireland to France in its first European venture, following the UK’s vote in 2016 to leave the European Union. But it changed course to connect the UK and France, said a number of executives in Brighton this week.

For its next project, Crosslake plans to return to its homeland, with a scheme to connect Toronto to Montréal. The Maple Leaf Fibre will run from Toronto to Kingston, Ontario, along the bed of Lake Ontario and then from there to Montréal terrestrially.



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