First mile of FLAG undersea fiber optic cable laid off

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HAMILTON, Bermuda -- The cable-laying ship C.S. Nexus has laid the first mile of the $1.2 billion FLAG cable system, which will stretch 28,000 kilometers (17,000 miles) from the UK to Japan.

C.S. Nexus, owned by Cable & Wireless Marine of the UK, began installing state-of-the-art fiberoptic cable last week off the coast of Palermo, Sicily, where the 2,149-kilometer (1,289 miles) leg from Italy to Egypt begins. The ship laid 300 kilometers (180 miles) of cable in less than a week.

FLAG (Fiberoptic Link Around the Globe) will connect Europe, the Middle East and Asia, linking 75 percent of the world's population to a "Broadband Superhighway" roughly equivalent in miles and routing to Marco Polo's 13th-century land and sea trek from Europe to the Far East.

When completed in 1997, the 120,000-circuit cable will be able to handle 600,000 simultaneous conversations.

C.S. Nexus is equipped with the latest cable-laying equipment and staffed by a 50-person crew working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to install the first leg in approximately 34 days. A total of 16 segments of the cable will be installed over the next 18 months.

Other vessels have already cleared FLAG's 14,000-kilometer (8,400 miles) path from the UK to India, removing inactive cables in portions of the route where cable will be buried.. The remainder of the route from India to Japan will be cleared by next week.

In addition, smaller vessels off the coast of Egypt have already installed 13 kilometers (7.8 miles) of cable, which will connect the landing point at Port Said to the deep sea "main-lay" cable when it reaches Egypt later this month.

"The FLAG cable will be built in less than two years -- half the time it took Marco Polo to travel to the Far East," said Joseph Timpanaro, chairman and chief executive officer of FLAG Limited. "When FLAG is completed, it will move information across the same distance in fractions of a second."

"For those who have shared in FLAG's vision, this marks the culmination of years of work to determine the best configuration for the route, negotiate landing party agreements, and structure financing for one of the world's most complex global projects," Timpanaro added.

"We are pleased that our experience and skills have enabled us to contribute to this technological development," commented Dave Foot, Cable & Wireless Marine chief executive officer.

The start of installation follows a Data Gathering Meeting for FLAG this past December in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which was attended by representatives of 67 international carriers.

In all, more than 50 carriers around the world have signed agreements to purchase capacity on the FLAG cable, including the 12 landing parties, which also have responsibility for landing the cable in their countries.

C.S. Nexus set sail for Palermo in December from the east coast of the United States loaded with 5,500 metric tons (U.S. - 6,060 short tons )of cable and repeaters from a Simplex Technologies cable factory inNewington, N.H.

C.S. Nexus lays cable at a rate of approximately 1.5 kilometers (.9 miles) per hour in shallow waters (less than 1,250 meters/4125 feet deep), where the cable must be buried, and 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) per hour in deeper waters, where the cable is placed on the surface of the ocean floor.

"We look forward to laying the FLAG cable over this historic route to improve communications around the world," said C.S. Nexus Captain G.W. Holmes.

Using the most advanced optical fiber technologies available, the FLAG cable will provide high-bandwidth transmission capacity to PTTs and international carriers. The cable system will use 326 state-of-the-art optical amplifiers to maintain the integrity of the optical signals along its route.

It will dramatically improve communications in the regions it serves, many of which depend largely on satellite transmissions. Fiber optic transmission offers increased security, speed, accuracy and reliability of transmission as well as increased bandwidth capability for advanced applications.

NYNEX is the managing sponsor of FLAG. NYNEX provides a range of communications and media services in the northeastern United States and selected markets around the world. Other sponsors and shareholders of the privately financed project are: the Dallah Al Baraka Group of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a large multinational investment company; Marubeni Corporation, one of Japan's leading general trading companies; Gulf Associates Inc., a New York-based corporation that focuses on trade and project development; Telecom Holding Co., Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of TelecomAsia, the largest market-capitalized company on the stock exchange of Thailand; The Asian Infrastructure Fund (AIF) of Hong Kong, a $1 billion fund that invests in entities engaged in developing and operating infrastructure projects in Asia; and GE Capital Services, a diversified financial services company wholly owned by General Electric Company and headquartered in Stamford, CT.

The cable system is being built by AT&T Submarine Systems, Inc., and KDD Submarine Cable Systems of Japan. Cable & Wireless Marine has been subcontracted to install more than two-thirds of the system, including two of its longest segments stretching from Palermo to Miura in Japan. Cable ships began clearing the route in September 1995.


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