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  • By Louella Losinio

Swimming in a digital ocean

Guam lies on the path of an interlocking network of submarine cables making the island an important telecommunications hub in the region. Since the establishment of the Guam Cable Station in the early 20th century which connected the island to the rest of the world, more submarine cables have landed on Guam. Today, there are around 10 separate cables with landing points on the island.

After receiving a license from the Federal Communication Commission on Feb 23 to operate a second-fiber optic submarine cable on Guam and the Northern Marianas, Docomo Pacific will finally move forward with the $25 million Atisa network project. Docomo, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NTT DOCOMO Inc., and NEC Corp. announced the signing of the project contract in March last year.

Atisa, which means "to illuminate" in Chamorro, seeks to enhance connectivity and upgrade capacity in the islands. Docomo expects to complete the project towards the latter part of 2017.

More than half of Docomo's investment will be placed in the construction of the cable and backup microwave system, the rest will be allotted for upgrades to the mobile network on Saipan, Tinian and Rota. The company informed the press of their plans during the launching of the Atisa project last year.

The Atisa network will have a capacity of 4.8 terabits per second (Tbps) and a total length (trunksplus spurs) of approximately 279 kilometers. According to Docomo, the Atisa system would enable the company "to offer new and sustainable wireless, cable television, home telephone, and broadband services." The FCC license constitutes an important compliance component of the of of the project. Jonathan Kriegel, president and CEO of Docomo said that with the commission approval in hand, the "final permit required is from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."

With the construction of shore-based infrastructure about to start soon, Kriegel said they anticipate conducting the marine lay between March and May. Docomo plans to launch commercial service by June.

During a luncheon meeting with the Rotary Club of Guam luncheon Pacific Star Resort & Spa last year, Kriegel said that aside from the infrastructure improvements, the project will benefit Guam by creating more jobs. "A lot of the core switching for these networks - cable TV and mobile - will take place on Guam." He added the they intend to hire more engineers to support network activities in CNMI.

Kriegel said that telecommunications companies are now laying more submarine cables after a period of declining demand for data and cable. Increased economic growth in China and the Southeast Asian region plus the growing popularity of smart devices spurred the need for more cable infrastructure. In fact, Kriegel expects the average use of the internet to reach 15 gigabits per user by next year.

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