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Ship shortage means Maple Leaf drops underwater plan

Fergus Innes Crosslake Fibre.jpg

Maple Leaf Fibre, the planned inter-city Canadian link between Toronto and Montréal, has dropped its plan for an underwater segment and will be entirely terrestrial for the whole length.

The project, a joint venture with Canada’s Crosslake Fibre, was to have been terrestrial between Kingston, Ontario and Montréal, and at the bottom of Lake Ontario westwards from Kingston to Toronto.

But now a shortage of cable-laying vessels means the whole of the Maple Leaf Fibre will be terrestrial, all the way from Toronto via Kingston to Montréal.

Fergus Innes (pictured), chief commercial officer of Toronto-based Crosslake, told Capacity: “Vessel availability [is] one of the reasons we have pivoted from a subsea design to a full terrestrial build on our Maple Leaf Fibre project.”

The project has been in the works for at least four years, since Crosslake partnered with Montréal company Metro Optic, along with Utilities Kingston.

But Crosslake – whose first project was across Lake Ontario between Canada and the US – turned its attention instead to Europe, first to a plan to link Ireland to northern France, which was dropped, and then to build the first England-France cable for two decades. It completed that project in late 2021.

Crosslake and Metro Optic announced in February 2022 that they have integrated their networks and service offering to provide turnkey infrastructure and low latency fibre solutions to large data users in North America, reaching Montréal, Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago, Washington DC and New York.

But the companies were still planning as late as February to install the Toronto-Kingston section of the Maple Leaf Fibre on the bed of Lake Ontario.

Now though, a shortage of cable-laying ships has changes Crosslake’s minds. For more on how supply chain problems are hitting many fibre infrastructure investments, see day two of the ITW Daily, which Capacity is publishing on paper at International Telecoms Week.

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