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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

2008 Trans Pacific Express (TPE) Cable

The Trans Pacific Express (TPE) cable is 18,000 km in length, connecting Nedonna Beach, Oregon, USA; Chongming & Qingdao, China; Tanshui, Taiwan; and Keoje, South Korea. The system was completed in September 2008 with a data rate of 2.56 Tb/s.

The TPE project uses Tyco 17mm loose tube cable, Alcatel OALC-4 loose tube cable and OCC (Japanese) SC300 cable, also loose tube. Most cable manufacturers are using loose tube fibers now due to the ease and low stress of extracting the fibers.

The sample shown here is Tyco's 21mm light weight loose tube cable with eight fiber pairs. Each fiber pair is enclosed in a color-coded sheath for easy identification.
TPE uses the 17mm version of this Tyco cable.

Project suppliers are Tyco Telecommunications, Alcatel, and NEC Submarine Systems, and the cable is a joint venture of Verizon Business, China Telecom, China Netcom, China Unicom, Korean Telecom, and Chungwa Telecom. The ships working on the lay are Tyco Durable, Ile de Sein, Ile de Batz, Fu Hai, Segero, and Cable Innovator.

Image courtesy of Tyco

Tyco light weight loose tube cable

The core of the undersea optical fibre cable is a loose tube of a traditional thermoplastic tube material. Gel in the tube serves as a filling compound to prevent water ingress and to gently support the fibres to reduce the impact of microbending. The fill ratio of the gel is designed to be as high as possible to reduce voids and increase water-blocking effectiveness. The fibre count varies: up to 16 for a 17mm cable, and 24 for a 21mm cable. Fibres are laid in the tube straight without helix.

The basic design is the same as that of a tight-buffer cable, but the core is replaced by a loose tube. Outside the tube, 24 stranded wires form a tight package surrounding the loose tube. Next, copper tape is welded and swaged down on the wires to serve as an electrical conductor and a protective sheath. Then a polyethylene jacket is extruded over the copper to serve as insulation. This structure is designated Light Weight (LW) cable. For additional strength and abrasion capability, armour wires can be added to the outside of the LW cable to create different types of protected cable.

Other Tyco systems using this type of loose tube cable are BPGoM (British Petroleum Gulf of Mexico) connecting oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico; SAFE, South Africa to Far East; TWA in the Arabian Sea, linking the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Pakistan, Svalbard (Norwegian mainland to the island of Svalbard for the Norwegian Space Centre; and TGN (Tyco Global Network).

Thanks to Brian Isenstadt for providing the cable sample and information on the TPE project.

A technical article on the design and construction of Tyco Light Weight cable may be read here (archive copy).

Last revised: 18 June, 2010

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