The Alaska portion of a massive Arctic undersea broadband project is complete

By Yereth Rosen, Arctic Now - October 26, 2017
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With the last 40 miles of a massive subsea fiber optic system just installed, the company Quintillion said it has completed the first phase of a massive project that will ultimately link the North American Arctic to modern communications systems in the rest of the world.

The 40-mile subsea addition completed earlier in October completes a network that connects Nome to Prudhoe Bay, reaching coastal communities in between, the Anchorage-based company said in a statement. Additionally, there is a new a new terrestrial fiber from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay that was installed last spring and has already started operation on a test basis, Quintillion said.

Most of the system was laid last year. The whole 1,400-mile fiber optic system is expected to launch commercial operations in December, providing high-speed broadband access to previously underserved northern Alaska, the company said.

“Completing the Alaska phase is a significant step for our groundbreaking project,” George M. Tronsrue III, Quintillion’s interim chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Our team overcame considerable challenges, including operating in a short, harsh and unpredictable Arctic construction season.”

The goal is to link communities and industrial sites in the Arctic and subarctic to modern communications systems — a service that has been scarce in in the past.

“Our mission is to deliver the same capacity to our Alaska markets the rest of the US has enjoyed for the past two decades,” Tronsrue said in the company’s statement. “Our team overcame considerable challenges, including operating in a short, harsh and unpredictable Arctic construction season. We’re proud of our work and what it will mean to these Alaska communities.”

The Alaska portion is just the first phase of what Quintillion plans. A second phase would link the Arctic Alaska system to Asia, with fiber optic cable installed westward in the Bering Sea and North Pacific to end in Tokyo. The third phase would expand eastward through the Beaufort Sea and North Atlantic, ultimately reaching London.