Superloop CEO shares inside story of TKO Express construction

Bevan Slattery, Executive Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, SuperloopAustralia-based connectivity services provider Superloop completed the construction of the Tseung Kwan O Express (TKO Express) two months ago in March 2017, making it Hong Kong's first submarine cable linking the data centers in Tseung Kwan O and Chai Wan.

Bevan Slattery (pictured), Superloop's executive chairman and CEO will next Tuesday (June 13) officiate the launch of the TKO Express in Hong Kong.

Founded in 2014, Superloop is an independent provider of connectivity services. It designs, constructs and operates networks throughout the Asia Pacific metro region.

As an expanding telecommunications industry entrant in the region, Superloop already owns and operates over 540km of fiber networks in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

"TKO Express" is Superloop's first submarine fiber-optic cable project in Hong Kong.

In an exclusive interview with Computerworld Hong Kong, Superloop's CEO Bevan Slattery explains the major challenges the company faced during the construction phase of TKO Express, the key partnerships formed, and the company's upcoming plans for the Hong Kong market.

Permission and construction

According to Slattery, the permitting process and the actual construction of the cable duct to connect between Tseung Kwan O and Chai Wan have been the most challenging aspects of the TKO Express construction project.

In 2014, Superloop began to investigate the possibility of constructing a submarine cable system across Victoria Harbour. "There was much need for a diverse, low-latency path from Hong Kong Island to the key data centers in Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate (TKOIE)," he said.

Ruling out the option to build it in the cross-harbor tunnels, the company concluded that it was a viable option to install an undersea cable across the Victoria Harbour. It commenced the design and permitting process for the selected sites mid-2014.

"Concerning the permitting process, we needed to obtain more than 20 permits and official approvals in all. That took about two years," Slattery said. "We had to consult and obtain appropriate approvals from government departments, including planning, civil engineering and marine and environment, as well as permission from other telecommunications providers to cross their cables."

"We have a fantastic Project Leader in Hong Kong, Susana Halliday, an environmental engineer who has worked on many of the international cables landing locally, including EAC1 & 2 and FNAL. Her experience and knowledge was invaluable when knowing whom to deal with and the preparation of correct documentation."

On the construction side, Superloop built a beach manhole on the Chai Wan side to get the TKO Express cable ashore. It also constructed a cable duct that would provide the transition from the land to the sea. This involved drilling below the foundation of an existing seawall and through the bedrock to the breakout point some 250m in the harbour.

To get the required depth to bore under the seawall, Superloop's partner, Intrafor, had to drill a hole on the foreshore 150m before it. "It was a challenge to maneuver a large drilling rig in a small area, while minimizing the impact on the surrounding environment. Intrafor had to bury the rig a depth of about 1.5m to get the correct angle to avoid the seawall, and successfully construct the duct."