Telenor Norway’s Svend Hopland controls the underwater installation of submarine cables from the comfort of his office chair.
From Svend Hopland’s very first day as a Telenor employee back in 1986, he found himself submerged the world of submarine cables. As a coastal nation, Norway’s telecom infrastructure extends beyond land, and Hopland was hired to help further develop Telenor’s subsea network.
Submarine cables are part of the overall telecom infrastructure
“The submarine cables are integrated as part of our overall telecom infrastructure, connected to the land-based network through about 550 installations. In many places, the submarine cables are integrated in a system for backup infrastructure, and thereby playing an important role for the overall network security,” says Svend Hopland, Chief Engineer-IP&Optical Transport, Telenor Norway Technology.
Today, as much as 25 percent of the fiber cables in Telenor’s transport network are submarine cables. The 4,500 kilometers of cables resting on Norway’s seabed are equivalent to nearly twice the distance of the Norwegian coastal line and comprise an important part of Norway’s network infrastructure.
A leader in coastal installations
Hopland and his colleague, Magnar Greve, have helped Telenor achieve international recognition as one of the best operators of coastal installations. Hopland is considered Telenor’s foremost expert in this area, and is the main developer of a computer system for remote controlled installation of submarine cables.
From his office at Fornebu, Norway, Hopland controls the installation of cables anywhere along the Norwegian coast. He works closely with Greve who sets up the sailing plan and manages the operational work on the cable ship. Hopland plans the routes and controls the installation of the submarine cables from his computer remotely. The vessels are hired from the shipping company Seaworks.
Remote controlled installation
“My job is to determine the angle and the ship speed to be used for the installation, meaning I prepare the execution files that are used to deploy the cable at the correct position on the sea bed, as well as the position and speed of the ship along the route,” explained Hopland. “The whole installation is then run automatically by the ship computer. Magnar Greve is on board the ship to help tackle any unforeseen situations.”
Installing the subsea cable is a challenge. There are many factors to consider in advance, such as seabed conditions and topography, the currents and the weight, and other characteristics of the cable itself.
“As many facts as possible have to be included in the computer model, in order decide on the angle and speed for the actual installation of the cable,” said Hopland.
Installing and using submarine cables is a relatively cheap and effective alternative when new cables are needed near the coast. The submarine cables have also shown to have less fractures or damages over time.
“Statistically, we have only 0.4 faults per year, usually due to rare underwater landslides. Our subsea cables have survived the stormy weather that caused severe damages to the land-based telecom installations last winter,” says Hopland.
Growing the underwater network
Telenor predicts that over the next three to five years, it may install around 200 – 300 km of cable annually. According to Hopland, Telenor is at the forefront in terms of using large quantities of light submarine cable along difficult routes as a part of the national network.
“What we are doing is quite different from using long submarine cable to connect to other countries and continents. We are installing very small and light cable in complicated subsea terrain, which makes things a bit more challenging,” said Hopland. “But it’s a challenge that we are well-prepared to meet.”