The three Cs are the basis of the recent development in the submarine cable industry in the Nordics-Chic, Cool and Cheap.
Why Chic? Because all major players (including OTTs) are locating data centres in the Nordics-it is “in fashion”.
Why Cool? Data centres in the Nordics are using areas, which have in addition to the cooler climate a “natural” cooling effect—like old mines, former bunkers etc. The Nordics benefit from a cold climate and stable political conditions and a growing network of redundant fibre connectivity.
Why Cheap? Cheap power supply is available in the Nordics. 99% of Norway’s energy comes from hydropower at the lowest electricity prices in Europe. The Nordics have a strong renewable energy mix and the world’s most resilient electricity grid.
But there are even further Cs to name—Connectivity (international and national), Competent workforce (the Nordic countries have the highest proportions of ICT specialists in employment in Europe) and Continued harmonization of national rules and processes. All this is underpinning the steep development of the Nordic region in pursuit of becoming a global hub for data centre investments, attracting the build-out of domestic and international submarine cable infrastructure.
What countries constitute the Nordics? It consists of five countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, as well as their autonomous regions (Åland Islands, the Faroe Islands and Greenland).
The market in the Nordics is dominated by unrepeatered cable systems with the occasional repeatered system.
To really see what kind of submarine cable development is currently ongoing in the Nordics, we need to look at each country individually.
International connectivity in Norway is currently only served via submarine cables connecting Norway to Denmark and the UK, i.e. Skagerrak 4 and Tampnet. These cable systems are all unrepeatered cable systems, Tampnet crossing the North Sea via O&G platforms, used as relay stations. The two cables, Denmark—Norway 5 & 6, were recently decommissioned.
Several new cable systems (repeatered and unrepeatered) are in planning or are already under construction to enhance this landscape, such as Havfrue/AEC-2, Celtic Norse, NO-UK, Skagenfibre West, Havtor, Skagenfiber East, Leif Erikson Cable, etc.
These new international cable systems will put Norway at the forefront of the Nordics market in respect of available capacity, large scale data processing and digital revolution. Norway can serve the near edge computing market in the Nordics, EU and UK. Services like archiving, managed services, CDN and HPC and sky-based services can now easily be delivered to a global market.
Domestic connectivity in Norway is also changing rapidly with new systems being installed along the coast, i.e. N0R5KE Viking (Bergen —Trondheim), BKK (Bergen—Stavanger), etc. to feed these new international connections and to create further opportunities in the data centre market.
Finland is with future-ready digital infrastructure, lowest possible operational costs and superior regulatory environment, the ideal location for data centers in the Nordics.
In addition to the six cable systems connecting Finland to Sweden, Finland has numerous connections to Estonia, one to Russia and one repeatered cable connection to Germany.
Cinia, a data network provider from Finland, has a further ambitious plan to implement a cable system called “Arctic Link” from Finland to Japan via the Northern route through the Arctic ice. The project has been initiated and is in development phase. It would create the shortest direct sea route from Asia to Mainland Europe. Access to a polar fibre route from Japan is expected to cut Asia to Europe latency by half and could transform the Nordics as a central East/West connectivity hub.
Cinia has also future domestic plans to build C-Lion 2, a submarine cable connecting Hanko in the South of Finland (close to Helsinki) with Oulu and Tornio in the North of Finland, at the end of the Gulf of Bothnia.
The Hyperscale data centres have changed the subsea landscape in Denmark. There are several existing repeatered cable systems connecting Denmark internationally, as far as Canada and the US.
These will be complemented by new repeatered cable systems (under planning or construction) Havfrue/AEC-2 and North Sea Connect.
The hotspot for international submarine cables in Denmark is Blaabjerg; here TAT-14, CANTAT-3, DANICE and the future Havfrue/AEC-2 cables land. Close by, the future North Sea Connect and the COBRAcable (unrepeatered fibre optic cable bundled to HVDC cables) providing connectivity to UK and The Netherlands. The excellent terrestrial connectivity from Blaabjerg to Esbjerg (Bulk Data Centers and others) and to Copenhagen makes this the main international entry point to the Nordics.
The rest of the subsea connectivity in Denmark is achieved via unrepeatered cable systems, one to Norway (plus three planned), fourteen to Sweden (plus one planned), four to Germany (plus one planned), two to Poland, one to The Netherlands and several domestic cables connecting the islands in Denmark.
International connectivity in Sweden is currently served through 26 submarine cables connecting Sweden to Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.
Only three cable systems are less than 10 years old, connecting Sweden with their neighbouring countries. The newest cable is the Eastern Light cable (first phase), just completed in the fourth quarter of 2019, connecting Helsinki and Stockholm.
There are numerous new cable systems planned (not publicly announced), replacing some of these systems. However, also upgrades of these unrepeatered systems are ongoing, extending the lifetime beyond 15/25 years.
The telecom market in Iceland has shown some resilience in recent years following the significant economic downturn a decade ago. Currently Iceland is connected via several repeatered cable systems, CANTAT-3, FARICE-1 and Greenland Connect. Future cables in planning are the IRIS cable (proposed by the Telecommunication Fund of Iceland and Farice ehf) and the Celtic Norse (NordavindDC Sites with financing from TrønderEnergiAS, Eidsiva EnergiAS and Eidsiva bredbånd AS) connecting Iceland with Ireland, Scotland and Norway.
A recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers states, “In the search for cost attractive locations catering to the power intensive industries (data centres), Iceland is the single country in the world that provides best in class environment conditions in combination with attractively priced green power supply.”
To complete the review of the Nordics, we need to mention the autonomous regions, Greenland, Faroe Islands and Åland Islands.
The Åland Islands are an autonomous region of Finland and are connected via two unrepeatered cable systems to Sweden.
Only one repeatered cable system connects Greenland to Canada and Iceland, Greenland Connect.
The Greenland Connect North system is a 680 km unrepeatered festoon system, connecting the far north of Greenland to the capital Nuuk.
The Nunavut Undersea Fibre Optic Network System is currently in planning and will provide further international connectivity from Greenland to Canada. The RFS date of this system is 2023.
The Faroe Islands are connected to three cable systems, SHEFA-2, FARICE-1 and CANTAT-3, providing international connectivity to the UK, Denmark, Germany and Iceland. There are currently no further plans under development, despite the aging CANTAT-3 cable system, soon to retire.
The world is seeing an exponential development in the need for processing and storing of data. This has resulted in significant investments in data centres throughout the globe. In recent years, the Nordics have seen a substantial increase in data centre investments. This is especially valid in connection with the planning and building of the infrastructure related to hyperscale facilities, including submarine cable networks, where significant investments from Facebook, Google, AWS, Apple, Microsoft, etc. are already conducted, and a number are under planning or construction. The Nordic region is becoming a global leader in the digital economy.
For the Nordics, data computing is becoming for this century what oil was for the previous one—a premise for growth and change. The new planned submarine cables will spark innovation amongst the next generation of tech experts and help businesses across the Nordics to capitalize on the comparative advantage of 99% renewable green electricity. With a total of nine new submarine projects adding more than 12,000 km new submarine fibre optical cables to the Nordics, the region is laying out the red carpet for new data centre establishments and for the other industries to utilize all of the regions advantages.
Managing Director/Editor, Subcablenews Ltd.
Master Mariner and MBA with over 30 years of experience relating to the offshore submarine cable industry, Eckhard has managed the construction of thousands of kms of submarine fiber optic cables as well as submarine power cables. Eckhard is also the MD and Editor of SubCableNews.
Business Manager, Submarine Solutions, Hexatronic
As Business Manager of Submarine Cable Solutions at Hexatronic in Hudiksvall, Sweden, Anders is responsible worldwide for Hexatronic’s fiber optic submarine cable portfolio. Anders holds an MSc in Polymer Mechanics and has been employed for 28 years in the fiber optic cable industry.
CEO, Nordic Consulting
Dag is the CEO of Nordic Consulting and possesses more than 25 years of senior technical, operational and executive experience in the global telecommunications industry. He was responsible for buying/selling many of Europe’s active fiber optical telecommunications systems for both undersea and terrestrial applications.