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New arctic fiber project aims to connect Asia and Europe via the Northwest Passage

Alaska-based Far North Digital partners with Finnish Cinia on new project linking Japan to Western Europe

A group of companies are considering an ambitious new fiber-optic cable connecting Europe and East Asia across the Arctic.

Finnish telecommunications company Cinia, as well as Far North Digital, based in Alaska, which was formed specifically to develop this project, and True North Global Networks LP, its Canadian subsidiary, announced the deal on December 23. The companies estimate that the project will cost around US $ 1.15 billion.

The proposed new cable would cross the Arctic via the Northwest Passage and terminate in Japan on the Asian side, and Ireland and Norway (with a link to Finland) on the European side.

The line will see additional landings in Alaska and the Canadian Arctic and possibly elsewhere along the route, Far North Digital president Ethan Berkowitz told ArcticToday, although it is “a little premature to say where exactly, ”he warned.

A map on the project site includes provisional links to Greenland and Iceland.

Berkowitz said the companies plan to engage with communities in the region before settling on additional landings, citing a story of unrealized megaprojects in the Arctic, where developers “promise all kinds of things and don’t. never hold. We didn’t want to do that.

The coronavirus pandemic has slowed down this process, he said.

Still, the main branch of the project is already underway, Berkowitz said, with the ground broken upon landing in Ireland, and the companies have selected Alcatel Submarine Networks as the main contractor for the project.

Other great fiber optic projects of various sizes are underway or in preparation in the Arctic. Another Alaska-based company, Quintillions, has long touted an Arctic cable connecting Alaska to Europe and Asia – though this project suffered a heavy blow when its co-founder and CEO pleaded guilty to fraud. Other networks under construction link parts of the Canadian Arctic, including Nunavik and Nunavut, to broadband infrastructure further south.

In Russia, a government-backed project along the Northern Sea Route started to lay fiber this summer. A separate private project planned for the Northern Sea Route that also involved Cinia, as well as Russian telecommunications company Megafon, was put on hold in May.

Berkowitz said he does not see Far North Digital’s cable as direct competition with these efforts.

“We hope to be complementary,” he said.

Still, Berkowitz stressed – much like the announcement – that the route is “geopolitically stable,” a reference to the potential for heightened tension between the US and Russia that could complicate ties with a Russian route for some investors and users. .

Project partners hope to have the cable in service by 2025.

This article originally appeared at The arctic today and is republished with permission.