Disruption at Arctic Circle undersea cable linking satellites to Norway

The cable carries data from satellites orbiting the Earth above the North Pole

Svalbard is an archipelago in northern Norway. AFP
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Service to one of the world’s key Arctic underwater cables providing a data lifeline to satellites orbiting the Earth has been disrupted.

One of the two cables has been out of service since Friday and Space Norway confirmed that repairs using an ocean-going, cable-laying ship would be needed.

The remote but vital Svalbard Undersea Cable System connects Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Circle, with mainland Norway, and is owned by Space Norway.

The twin submarine fibre-optic communication cables serve SvalSat park, the world’s largest commercial ground station, and provides support to operators of polar-orbiting satellites.

More than 100 satellite antennas are located on a nearby mountain, with the satellite park halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole.

“There is a fault in the power supply … in an area where the cable goes steeply into the deep sea from approximately 300-metres to approximately 2,700-metres depth.

“How the damage occurred is not clarified, but this is being investigated further. To repair the damage, a larger, seagoing cable-laying vessel must be mobilised.”

Space Norway said the two cables act as a redundancy for each other meaning all data is being routed through the single working cable.

“Space Norway owns and is responsible for the socially critical fibre connection between Svalbard and the mainland,” the company said.

“The Svalbard fibre consists of two geo-redundant connections between Longyearbyen and Harstad. This means that the Svalbard fibre is fully functional if one of two connections fails, but it is then without reserve capacity.”

Norway’s Minister of Justice and Public Security, Emilie Enger Mehl, said: “I have been informed that an error has occurred on part of one of the two fibre connections between Svalbard and mainland Norway.

“Communication to and from Svalbard is still running as normal, even though one of the connections now has failed.”

Updated: January 10, 2022, 11:57 AM