When the PPC-1 cable system was completed in October 2009, PIPE Networks and SubCom accomplished what many in the industry doubted could be done: installing a 6,900 km undersea cable system connecting Sydney and Guam, on time and on budget.
Despite industry perception that PIPE lacked the necessary resources to launch a modern system, the company’s dedicated team, along with the support and expertise of SubCom, proved it could make its vision a reality, bringing increased competition to the Australian undersea cable market.
“Australia certainly had a distinct lack of competition in international capacity,” said Bevan Slattery, PIPE Networks’ former CEO. “And the Australian communications market wanted someone who was a neutral party and someone to get out there and expand submarine capacity. That’s what really drove us to build PPC-1.”
After launch, PPC-1 quickly served its desired purpose: international capacity costs in Australia were promptly reduced seventy to eighty percent.
PIPE was successful in its mission, Slattery said, as a result of careful planning and a thorough selection process to choose a cable supplier. Not only did PIPE need a supplier that offered advanced technology and a commercially sustainable solution, it wanted to find a true partner that believed in the company’s vision of changing the submarine cable and international capacity markets in Australia.
“Right from the RFP process, we knew SubCom was the right supplier for the project,” said Slattery. “We felt like we were partners in the project; and as the project went on, that partnership got stronger and stronger. I can say without question that the TE SubCom relationship that Pipe [currently] has is the strongest supplier/customer relationship we’ve ever had.
That solid relationship was especially evident when inevitable challenges in installation arose. For example, permitting was a particular risk for the project, as permits were required in multiple countries.
“We felt we were working with a U.S. company that was really a global company,” said Slattery. “And SubCom understands how things operate, not just in Guam because they’re a U.S. company, but they actually understand what the requirements are in nearly every country. So we’re very, very lucky that they really assisted us getting permitting sorted out. They had the network of people and the expertise.”
Beyond permitting, PIPE and SubCom faced a significant geographical challenge. Part of the PPC-1 cable had to be laid in the Marianas Trench, the deepest trench in the world.
Slattery acknowledged the significant challenges that arose throughout the project but praised SubCom for its creativity and flexibility in developing customized, affordable solutions, as well as its dedication to achieving PIPE’s end goals.
“It’s an example that when two people get together, or two companies get together to deliver a solution and deliver change and are motivated and respect each other, then things can be done exactly on time and on budget,” Slattery said.
PPC-1, which is comprised of SubCom’s state-of-the-art technology, was built to surpass PIPE’s design requirements and provide flexibility for future extensions.
“It was really good to be able to use SubCom’s established technology, as we knew it was consistent and reliable,” said Slattery. “But SubCom was also able to give us access to some of the new optical add/drop multiplex branching units, which is so important for us in thinking about future deployments. Even more importantly, the design was so good that our system is able to already carry more capacity than we initially designed.”
With its capacity of 2.56 terabits per second over two fiber pairs, 40 Gbs/sec capabilities and built-in extra branching units and fiber pairs for future use, PPC-1 will undoubtedly serve Australia robustly and reliably for many years to come.