A new Arctic fiber project aims to link Asia and Europe via the Northwest Passage

Alaska-based Far North Digital is teaming up with Finland’s Cinia on a new project connecting Japan with western Europe

This map shows a proposed fiber-optic cable route that would connect Europe and East Asia through Canada’s Northwest Passage. (Image courtesy of Far North Digital)

By Krestia DeGeorge
Arctic Today

A group of companies is planning an ambitious new fiber-optic cable connecting Europe and East Asia through the Arctic.

The Finnish telecom company Cinia, along with the Alaska-based Far North Digital, which was formed specifically to develop this project, and True North Global Networks LP, its Canadian affiliate, announced the deal on Dec. 23. The companies estimate the project will cost about US$1.15 billion.

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

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

A map on the project’s site includes tentative links to Greenland and Iceland.

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

The coronavirus pandemic has slowed that process, he said.

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

Other major fiber-optic projects of varying sizes are either underway or in planning across the Arctic. Another Alaska-based company, Quintillion, has long been touting an Arctic cable linking Alaska to Europe and Asia — though that project suffered a blow when its co-founder and CEO pleaded guilty to fraud. Other networks under construction connect parts of Arctic Canada, including Nunavik and Nunavut, to broadband infrastructure further south.

In Russia, a government-backed project along the Northern Sea Route began laying fiber this summer. A separate, private project planned for the Northern Sea Route that also involved Cinia, along with Russian telecom company Megafon, was put on hold in May.

Berkowitz said he doesn’t see Far North Digital’s cable as competing directly with those efforts.

“We hope to be complementary” instead, he said.

Still, Berkowitz emphasized — as did the announcement — that the route is “geopolitically stable,” a reference to the potential for increased tension between the U.S. and Russia that could complicate links with a Russian route for some investors and users.

The project’s partners hope to have the cable in service by 2025.

This article originally appeared at Arctic Today and is republished with permission.

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Suffering citizen on

    Sure its nice to hear about everyones plans to do fiber optic, but could we get an update on whats going on with the GNs plan to bring fiber, or CanArctics Sednalink…lets do some follow up Nunatsiaq

  2. Posted by Thomas Aggark on

    Most of infrastructure that involves Inuit employment are mostly stores, businesses. Nothing to do with the sea if not it’ll be shipping, fishing that’s it small groups of Inuit others are mostly southern Canadians…

  3. Posted by I’ll believe it when I see it on

    This is now the umpteenth time a company dangled a fiber optic promise to Nunavut. What happened to the GN agreeing to the $90m line just 3 years ago? Cancelled.
    It is long overdue to stop funding the hunting-trapping orgs (which people can do on their own budget a.k.a. the traditional way) and dedicate real funding to 21st century modern technology and infrastructure that will help our society learn, develop and grow.

    • Posted by Right Back Atcha on

      How about you learn, develop, and grow? You’re talking about Nunavut here: founded on a mix of traditional and modern ways. No easy task, sure. Dropping the HTA’s would be backwards.

      I don’t mind sacrificing some internet speed to keep funding an avenue to the Inuit way of life.

  4. Posted by TBD on

    Lots of announcements about investing in Fibre, and zero progress. Starlink has been delayed a few times now for the pole orbit and will still be operational long before any of these companies even begin laying fibre in the ocean. What a joke!

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