Superloop completed the construction of the Tseung Kwan O Express (TKO Express) in March 2017, making it Hong Kong's first submarine cable linking the data centers in Tseung Kwan O and Chai Wan. "TKO Express" is Superloop's first submarine fiber-optic cable project in Hong Kong.

According to Computerworld Hong Kong, Superloop's CEO Bevan Slattery explains the major challenges the company faced during the construction phase of TKO Express, the key partnerships formed, and the company's upcoming plans for the Hong Kong market.

Permission and construction

According to Slattery, the permitting process and the actual construction of the cable duct to connect between Tseung Kwan O and Chai Wan have been the most challenging aspects of the TKO Express construction project.

In 2014, Superloop began to investigate the possibility of constructing a submarine cable system across Victoria Harbour. "There was much need for a diverse, low-latency path from Hong Kong Island to the key data centers in Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate (TKOIE)," he said.

Ruling out the option to build it in the cross-harbor tunnels, the company concluded that it was a viable option to install an undersea cable across the Victoria Harbour. It commenced the design and permitting process for the selected sites mid-2014.

"Concerning the permitting process, we needed to obtain more than 20 permits and official approvals in all. That took about two years," Slattery said. "We had to consult and obtain appropriate approvals from government departments, including planning, civil engineering and marine and environment, as well as permission from other telecommunications providers to cross their cables."

"We have a fantastic Project Leader in Hong Kong, Susana Halliday, an environmental engineer who has worked on many of the international cables landing locally, including EAC1 & 2 and FNAL. Her experience and knowledge was invaluable when knowing whom to deal with and the preparation of correct documentation."

On the construction side, Superloop built a beach manhole on the Chai Wan side to get the TKO Express cable ashore. It also constructed a cable duct that would provide the transition from the land to the sea. This involved drilling below the foundation of an existing seawall and through the bedrock to the breakout point some 250m in the harbour.

To get the required depth to bore under the seawall, Superloop's partner, Intrafor, had to drill a hole on the foreshore 150m before it. "It was a challenge to maneuver a large drilling rig in a small area, while minimizing the impact on the surrounding environment. Intrafor had to bury the rig a depth of about 1.5m to get the correct angle to avoid the seawall, and successfully construct the duct."

2 key partnerships

TKO Express was planned, designed and constructed internally by Superloop staff in-house. Its professional team is equipped with the knowledge and experience to build submarine cables. "They helped achieve a cost-effective and optimum design that met our full requirements. A previous company I founded and led -- PIPE Networks -- built the PPC-1 submarine cable system which connects Sydney to Guam," Bevan said.

That said, Superloop had engaged local contractors at the early stages of the project: Hong Kong Marine Contractors and Intrafor.

The network company worked with Hong Kong Marine Contractors early on to design a route that combined maximum cable protection with the shortest physical path. "Their extensive experience in installing submarine cables within local waters, and their insight into marine conditions and areas to avoid, proved invaluable in determining the final route. Hong Kong Marine also installed TKO Express using a purpose-built sea plow to bury the cable 5m below the seabed," Bevan recalled.

Superloop also worked with Intrafor, a ground and construction engineering company, to build the cable duct that delivers TKO Express ashore on the Chai Wan side. "The companies are experts in horizontal directional drilling, which minimized the impact to the surrounding area and allowed for the construction of the shortest path for TKO Express."

Shortest path linking to CBD

At present, Superloop is connecting data centers and enterprise buildings in Hong Kong such as the HKEX Hosting Services Datacenter, Equinix HK1, 2 & 3, Telstra Global, NTT and HK Colo.

"In Hong Kong, TKO Express is the shortest path linking the HKEX Hosting Services Datacenter with the Central Business District. That's important for financial institutions which rely on low-latency connectivity to the HKEX Hosting Services Datacenter for transactions that can be won or lost in the blink of an eye," Bevan said.

As its core network construction completes, Superloop will continue with customer acquisition in Hong Kong. "More than 50 data centers and commercial buildings are under consideration for connection to our fiber infrastructure," he said.

Superloop versus HKT

Last November, local network services provider HKT announced to construct the Ultra Express Link(UEL), a 3 km long submarine cable system to connect TKOIE and Chai Wan to provide lower latency and diversity connectivity, with a target launch date in the second half of 2017. How is Superloop's TKO Express different from HKT's submarine fiber cable link in terms of connectivity and latency?

"Hong Kong Telecom's submarine cable is in the very early stages," Bevan said. "Based on our experience, the permitting and approval process can take considerable time. It took two years for us to receive the appropriate permits and permission required for our submarine cable system."

"[Superloop's] TKO Express is live right now, and customers are already signing up for the reliable, high speed service. It is the only geographically diverse path for TKOIE, and is approximately 20 km shorter than any other terrestrial route linking Chai Wan and TKO," Bevan said.

He added that all of Superloop's dark fiber solutions have a latency of 0.01ms per kilometer. "Considerable time and consultation with local specialists at key stages enabled us to determine the shortest possible route between Hong Kong Island and TKO, a major data center and financial hub."


Source: Computerworld Hong Kong