1 of 2 undersea cables serving Svalbard has suffered a disruption

The archipelago still has communication, but no redundancy.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - January 10, 2022
Satellite antennas here at Svalbard are linked to mainland Norway via two subsea fiber optic cables. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

One of the two subsea fiber optic cables serving Svalbard, the Norwegian Arctic archipelago, suffered a disruption last week. Space Norway, which operates the cables — the world’s northernmost — has located the disruption at somewhere between 130 to 230 kilometers from Longyearbyen in the area where the seabed goes from 300 meters down to 2700 meters in the Greenland Sea.

The error happened on Friday morning, January 7.

Svalbard Undersea Cable System is a twin submarine fiber optic communication cable connecting Longyearbyen with Andøya, north of Harstad, in northern Norway.

The two cables are 1,375 and 1,339 kilometers respectively, and Space Norway said in a press release that there is good connection in the cable still working, but with the other broken there is no redundancy.

How the damaged has happened is not clear. Space Norway said an ocean-going cable-laying vessel would be required to examine and repair the cable.

In addition to providing the settlement of Longyearbyen with internet broadband, the fiber optic cables serve the SvalSat park of more than 100 satellite antennas on a nearby mountain plateau. SvalSat is today the world’s largest commercial ground station with worldwide customers. Its location at 78 degrees North, halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, gives the station a unique position to provide all-orbit support to operators of polar-orbiting satellites.

Norway’s Minister of Justice and Public Security, Emilie Enger Mehl, said in a press release Sunday morning that her ministry follows the situation closely.

“I have been informed that an error has occurred on part of one of the two fiber connections between Svalbard and mainland Norway. Communication to and from Svalbard is still running as normal, even though one of the connections now has failed,” Enger Mehl says.