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Cable & Wireless to Build New IP Transatlantic Cable

[London, ENGLAND] Global communications company Cable & Wireless announced Friday that it will build the world's most advanced IP transatlantic cable in conjunction with optical network specialist Alcatel.

The new cable, named Apollo, is scheduled to become operational in the summer of 2002.

Cable & Wireless is putting US $450 million into the venture, with additional funding coming from Alcatel. However, with today's huge demand for bandwidth, payback is virtually guaranteed.

According to Cable & Wireless, one major U.S. communications company has already agreed in writing to purchase a quarter of the cable's capacity. This augurs well for the project, as does analysts' forecasts of bandwidth demand growing around 100 percent per year.

"The bandwidth that Apollo will provide reflects our phenomenal growth in IP and data traffic and our continued commitment to becoming the leading global supplier of IP services to business customers worldwide," said Mike McTighe, chief executive of global operations for Cable & Wireless.

So what makes Apollo better than previous transatlantic cables?

Three factors, says Cable & Wireless, naming them as greater capacity, greater resilience, and what it terms as "full flexibility."

In capacity, Apollo will be the first 80 wavelength transatlantic system. In resilience, it is the first to use Alcatel's enhanced cable protection design, making it less prone to damage from trawlers.

As for flexibility: Apollo can be configured either as a standard ring protection architecture or fully meshed, giving customers the level of protection they require for handling voice, data or IP.

Hopefully, it bears little resemblance to the first transatlantic telegraph cable -- laid way back in 1858 between Ireland and Newfoundland. It failed, owing to poor insulation, and was replaced in 1866 by two others. Since then, the Atlantic has been crossed dozens of times with ever-increasing sophistication.

According to cable expert David O. Williams of the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, there was ten-fold increase in transatlantic capacity in the period from mid-1996 to mid-1999. A further ten-fold increase took place from mid-1999 to the present.