Anchorage-based firm plays role in fiber optic project

ANCHORAGE — Marine surveying will start again this summer near Alaska’s coastal communities in a wide-reaching effort to improve communications by laying a $700 million fiber-optic cable linking Europe and Asia through the Arctic Ocean.

The Alaska Dispatch News reports lingering sea ice in Canada’s Northwest Passage has caused project delays for cable-laying ships that don’t have the ability to adjust course like transport ships do.

Anchorage-based Quintillion Holdings is a partner in a project initiated by Canada-based Arctic Fibre. Quintillion CEO Elizabeth Pierce says her company has a larger role now than it had at the project’s inception.

Developers are now using a phased approach, Pierce said, with work starting on links from Asia to Nome and Prudhoe Bay to Europe after the Alaska portion of the project is finished.

“We will methodically work through all elements to deliver a smart project,” she said.

Pierce says her company plans to break ground in May to install about 500 miles of fiber-optic cable from Fairbanks north to Deadhorse, and is developing a subsea line from the oil field complex of Prudhoe Bay that’ll come ashore in Nome, a Western Alaska community.

That subsea line will have offshoots providing service to four more Alaska communities.

This summer’s marine surveying will help determine cable routes and protective measures that’ll be necessary.

Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative is an investor in Quintillion, and director of operations Jens Laipenieks says the satellite or microwave connections currently in use by rural communities are costly and provide sporadic coverage.

“A fiber-optic connection will never have issues like snow in the satellite dish or solar interference, and it is much faster as far as lower latency technology,” he said. “So instead of taking 500 or 600 milliseconds, it will be 20 or 30 milliseconds.”