Arctic Fibre is a Canadian entity building a new telecommunications network from
Quintillion was formed in 2012 to take advantage of what CEO
The project also includes a terrestrial cable line from
When service is ready, likely in early 2016, half a dozen communities should have access to faster communication at a cheaper cost than they currently pay for satellite access.
Quintillion is supported by private investors, most of whom have not yet announced themselves publically, although
"It's obviously a very, very exciting evolution and a rapid evolution for these markets," said ASTAC manager of sales and business development
ASTAC is a member-owned cooperative, and has invested in the project. Laipenieks said the project should drive prices down throughout the region, based on the modeling the co-op has done so far.
"The cost per bit will definitely come down from where we are with satellite," Laipenieks said.
This year, Quintillion and Arctic Fibre together will spend more than
Although Quintillion is responsible for the
"This summer, the plan is, complete all the survey work," Pierce said.
The survey work includes marine surveys and geotechnical drilling. The marine surveys will help engineers determine the lowest-risk locations for landings by using sonar to map the sea floor along the Arctic Fibre route and to shore. The geotechnical drilling will sample the ground at each location to determine what equipment is needed when the cable is laid next summer. The project will use horizontal drilling, but the sampling will help engineers decide exactly how to lay the cable and create the bores for landings.
Afterward, contractors working on that component of the project can determine the exact length of the cable needed; the submarine cable will then be manufactured in
Other prepatory work will be done away from the project site -- including shelters being built out in the Matanuska-Susitna area that will eventually be assembled at the landing sites in
Permitting is also underway. Quintillion is working with Umiaq, a subsidiary of Barrow Native village corporation UIC, on the permitting process.
Quintillion will also apply for landing licenses from the
Most of the work is done by various contractors, but Pierce herself is doing another aspect of the project: communicating with residents about what they'll be seeing just offshore.
Larger vessels will conduct the marine surveys on the main line, with up two operating along the coast at a time. Along the spur route -- in the realm of 19 to 24 miles from shore to the main line near
Pierce has been visiting various northern communities to talk about the planned work. Some will receive the original landings while others will not, but will still see the ships working just offshore, so Pierce said it's important to share information about what's going on.
The project has been well received, Pierce said.
"We've spent time with whaling captains, with the Mayors, with board members from various Native corporations and management teams and I would say that pretty consistently, there's a great deal of enthusiasm for the project," Pierce said. "People are anxious for the capacity and the capability that it brings."
Quintillion is a carrier's carrier. It will not directly sell service, but will sell to telecoms interested in using the capacity for its service, Pierce said. Any interested provider can access the new network, she said.
That decision was made in part as a way to recoup the investment -- the hope is that open access will help grow demand, and create more revenue over the long term -- but also as a way to stimulate
Local providers in each of the landing point communities are planning to use the new network, and there are
Pierce said that's phase two of the project, and Quintillion is working with
Once there's service in
Laipenieks said ASTAC is also looking at how it will expand the network.
The landing point communities are mostly ready for the new service to be turned on, Laipenieks said. Quintillion will build all the way into the landing communities, and the local networks are situated well for an upgrade in capacity.
"We have been preparing the network for the evolutionary step," he said, and will see enhanced internet as soon as possible, with plans to also upgrade wireless services to 3G and 4G LTE speeds.
The co-op is also evaluating the possibility of building out fiber or microwave to the other communities it serves, both along the coast, and farther south, such as
Beyond the technical buildouts, Laipenieks said he's interested to see how communities use the services when speeds suddenly spike and latency drops.
"This is a bit of a petri dish for how broadband will stimulate things," he said, referring to the likely increase in use of the internet for entertainment, as well as enhancements to health care and education, and possible new businesses that could crop up.
"For me that's going to be the interesting piece, to see how quickly things evolve," Laipenieks said.
"It really is about the difference it makes to people's lives," she said.
(c)2014 the Alaska Journal of Commerce (Anchorage, Alaska)
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