Sunday, Mar 3, 2024
logo
Update At 14:00    USD/EUR 0,92  ↓-0.0027        USD/JPY 150,06  ↑+0.08        USD/KRW 1.330,46  ↓-4.42        EUR/JPY 162,70  ↑+0.668        Crude Oil 83,37  ↑+1.46        Asia Dow 3.774,00  ↑+38.1        TSE 1.728,50  ↓-11        Japan: Nikkei 225 39.910,82  ↑+744.63        S. Korea: KOSPI 2.642,36  ↓-9.93        China: Shanghai Composite 3.027,02  ↑+11.8494        Hong Kong: Hang Seng 16.589,44  ↑+78        Singapore: Straits Times 3,14  ↓-0.009        DJIA 22,50  ↑+0        Nasdaq Composite 16.274,94  ↑+183.018        S&P 500 5.137,08  ↑+40.81        Russell 2000 2.076,39  ↑+21.5523        Stoxx Euro 50 4.894,86  ↑+17.09        Stoxx Europe 600 497,58  ↑+2.97        Germany: DAX 17.735,07  ↑+56.88        UK: FTSE 100 7.682,50  ↑+52.48        Spain: IBEX 35 10.064,70  ↑+63.4        France: CAC 40 7.934,17  ↑+6.74        

OCC Corporation: Pioneering submarine cables and global connectivity

Interview - January 9, 2024

Explore the remarkable journey of OCC Corporation, formerly known as Nihon Taiyo Kaiteidensen, as it emerged from its 1935 inception to become a global leader in submarine cable technology. With a rich history rooted in connecting Japan's communication lines, OCC has evolved into a key player in the undersea telecommunications cable industry. Learn how the company's innovative three-divided steel segment technology sets it apart and enables the reliable transmission of data even in the most challenging environments.

TOMOKAZU ITO, PRESIDENT OF OCC CORPORATION
TOMOKAZU ITO | PRESIDENT OF OCC CORPORATION

Can you please give us an overview of your company?

Our history began in 1935 when our predecessor company, Nihon Kaiteidensen Co., Ltd. was established. The purpose of the establishment of this company was to domestically produce submarine cables for connecting the island nation of Japan as communication lines. In addition, in 1960, Taiyo Kaiteidensen Cable Co., Ltd. was established to domestically produce international submarine cables. These two companies merged in 1964 as the Nihon Taiyo Kaiteidensen Co., Ltd, which was the former name of our company. The company name was changed to OCC Corporation in 1999. Later, in 2008, it became a subsidiary of NEC and Sumitomo Electric Industries. The shareholding ratio of the two companies accounts for about 75% and 25%, respectively. Our three main business areas are the submarine cable business, the information and communications business, and the cable system business.

We employ approximately 300 people, with the head office in Yokohama, the submarine cable factory in Kitakyushu, and the land cable factory in Tochigi.

The submarine cable factory was relocated to Kitakyushu in 1995, where the quay allows the loading of our cables onto two laying vessels, at the same time. The quay is a public facility and permits are granted for ships to dock when needed. On the other hand, the land cable factory was established in 1963. Submarine cables account for about 70%~80% of the company's total sales. The submarine cable business is carried out in cooperation with NEC. The role of our submarine cable business is to deliver cables to NEC, connect repeaters manufactured by the NEC Group to submarine cables, and load them onto laying vessels.

 

Beyond NEC, do you supply your cables directly to other customers? Could you elaborate on how submarine cables work?

We do supply to other customers, but the ratio is only about 5% of the total.

Regarding the outline of submarine cable communication systems, let’s consider a system connecting Japan and the United States, the length of cable to be laid is about 9,000 kilometers, for example.

Along the cable, submarine repeaters that amplify attenuated optical signals are typically positioned at intervals of about 70~80 km. In addition, when the cable approaches its destination, it is diverted using an underwater distribution device or “branching unit” and landed at various points on land to provide communication services. These cables, repeaters, branching units, and other systems are submerged in the seabed. We also offer various cable types to meet different needs, including armored cable (Single Armored, Double Armored) and non-armored cables (Light Weight, Light Weight Screened). Armored cables are used for depths up to 500 meters, while non-armored cables are used for depths of up to 8000 meters.

 

Building and maintaining submarine cable networks requires them to withstand a variety of subsea topography and high water pressures, and what measures do you have in place for your cables to meet these requirements?

Initially, we prepare a route map for the installation of submarine cables before laying them and investigating the topography of the seabed along the route. We then discuss with our customers where and what type of cable is best to install. This approach guarantees the confidence and satisfaction of our customers.

Once the specific cable type is decided, for example, at the area where fishing nets may be a risk to the submarine cable, a trench of about 5 meters depth will be dug on the seabed and bury the cable there. And in deep waters, non-armored LW/LWS cables are installed. In this way, if the installation of cable is based on a route surveyed in advance, is possible there will be no problems and long-term safety can be ensured.

In addition, at high water pressure, optical fibers are protected by the cable’s center structure utilizing the three-divided steel segments and high-strength steel wires strand, so we can maintain high quality.

 

Your company is one of only three in the world with the expertise to engineer and manufacture these specialized cables. Could you share what makes your company uniquely positioned to produce these cables and how you became a leading player in this niche field?

What sets our submarine cables apart from other companies is the use of the three-divided steel segments to protect the optical fibers, which I explained earlier. We developed this structure in collaboration with a customer, and we were able to gain the know-how and make it our own.

In this way, for many years of building close and strong relationships with our customers, we have gained a wealth of technology, knowledge, and experience and have been able to be in a leading position in the field of submarine cables.

 

With Japan facing a rapidly aging and shrinking population, there is a growing concern about passing on knowledge and skills to the next generation of workers, as there is a smaller pool of young talent entering the job market. This situation also leads to a shrinking domestic market. Can you explain how your company is responding to these challenges?

We are fortunate to be able to hire several young people every year. One of the reasons for this is that our company is recognized as having important social value, engaging in distinctive businesses, and young people who are motivated to be involved in such businesses are joining us.

However, we also recognize that the decline in the available working force due to the declining birthrate and aging population is a major issue.

As an equipment industry, we are promoting labor-saving equipment as a response to this issue. We are also making capital investments for this purpose. In addition, after the introduction of labor-saving equipment, we would like to use human resources for the development of new added value to our processes, such as data analysis of equipment.



In addition to submarine cables, your company also provides cables for information and communication purposes. One core area is an optical-electrical hybrid cable. Could you please provide more details about the hybrid cables if you have any technical challenges?

When dealing with customers, we encounter a variety of criteria, including specifications like cable voltage, transmission length, and the cable's intended environmental conditions. This information serves as our initial step. We use these insights in our design and implementation processes aimed at enhancing the efficiency of hybrid cables. While it may sound straightforward, it is actually a complex endeavor that requires close collaboration with our customers. Typically, the design limitations and efficiency enhancements for hybrid cables are guided by the unique requirements specified by the customer.

 

You have provided your products overseas for international projects in Nepal, Mongolia, Tuvalu, and many other locations. Do you have a particular favorite project that you would like to share with us?

One noteworthy project for OCC, which I take great pride in, is to install our unique and robust optical cable, the so-called M-PAC series, in some of the most extreme environments. We have laid our submarine cables in the deepest undersea locations, reaching impressive depths. In addition to these achievements, we have a project to take our submarine cable technology to new heights on land by introducing the M-PAC series up to the Mount Everest base camp in Nepal.

A recent significant project we undertook was in Mongolia, where the winter temperatures can plummet to as low as -40 degrees Celsius. Prior to our involvement, a conventional cable manufacturer had introduced fiber cables to the region, but these cables proved inadequate for handling such extreme cold. We were able to provide a solution with our M-PAC unit, which involved replacing the conventional cables and introducing our M-PAC unit along the same route. Several years have passed since then, and our cables have withstood the harsh Mongolian winters, enduring extreme cold environments without any issues. The Mongolian government and local communities were extremely pleased with the project's success. In fact, I had the opportunity to visit Mongolia last year and participate in a ceremony marking the completion of the project.

The introduction of broadband fiber optic cables is a critical development for Mongolia. Given the vast distances between different towns due to Mongolia's extensive geography, having a reliable infrastructure and telecommunications solutions is of paramount importance. The project not only improves infrastructure and overall quality of life but also serves as an educational hub, providing access to the internet and telecommunications services, as well as being an instrument in supporting the growth and education of children in Mongolia. Because of that, this project gives us a special sense of pride and achievement.

Our M-PAC series has contributed to bridging the digital divide that is a common global issue. These cables are fully compliant with ITU-T standards, making it possible to install the fiber cables in any difficult terrain at an affordable construction cost, due to its lightweight and robust feature. This versatility positions our cable for potential growth in other telecommunications areas, making them an innovative and adaptable solution for the evolving digital landscape.

 

Your products have been used in various infrastructure projects in developing countries, such as Mongolia, and you have plans for projects in Africa. Are you actively seeking partnerships in other international regions to further expand your business?

When we embark on projects in overseas locations, it's a collaborative process with our partners. For instance, in economically developing Southeast Asian countries, it often hinges on providers, affiliate companies, or partners. If they decide to invest in infrastructure improvements in a particular region, we follow their lead in introducing our services to complement their initiatives. This collaborative approach ensures that our projects align with the larger strategies and goals of our key partners and the specific regions we work in.

Our company comprises approximately 300 employees. When it comes to executing large-scale infrastructure projects of significant governmental importance in multiple countries, we recognize the need for a more extensive workforce. In these endeavors, we collaborate with local partners to bolster our capabilities. The success of these projects is the result of mutual efforts involving not only our team but also our customers and affiliate companies operating in the local regions.

 

Industry experts estimate that undersea telecommunications cables carry 95% of global intercontinental internet traffic, along with 99% of transoceanic digital data, including trillions of daily international financial transactions. With the emergence of 5G telecom technologies, demand is expected to exponentially grow over the next five years. How do you plan to capitalize on this anticipated growth in demand?

In order to meet the strong demand for telecommunications cables against the backdrop of an increase in transmission volume, we believe that it is necessary to strengthen our manufacturing system (So-called monozukuri) and technology.

In terms of monozukuri, we are actively investing to improve our own production efficiency.

In addition, in light of the current decoupling situation between the U.S. and China and considering our Business Continuity Plan (BCP), we are strengthening our supply chain by establishing cooperative relationships with multiple suppliers in Japan and overseas.

On the technical side, it is necessary to increase the number of fibers in order to increase the amount of information transmitted by the cable, and this is supported. We would also like to start applying multicore fibers, which will increase the number of optical fiber cores. In September 2023, Google’s press release announced that it would start a submarine cable project using multi-core optical fibers. This cable will be manufactured by our company. In addition, NEC, with which we have a cooperative relationship, has successfully conducted an experiment in Indonesia on a technology that increases the amount of data that can be passed through a single optical fiber to 800 gigabits. We would like to use these events as a tailwind to meet the needs of the world for large communication capacity.

 

Do you have any goals or dreams that you would like to achieve during your tenure as President of OCC?

Our current monozukuri is in the process of implementing labor-saving  processes and improving the efficiency of production equipment.

I’m looking forward to seeing the completion of this project, if possible during my tenure.


Interview conducted by Karune Walker & Paul Mannion

  0 COMMENTS