Starting on the morning of January 7 2022, one of the two connections on the Svalbard fiber between Longyearbyen and Andøya (Norway) has been out of order. The two cables are 1,375 and 1,339 km respectively, and Space Norway AS (SPN) - owner of the socially critical fiber connections - informs in a press release that there is good connection in the cable still working, but with the other broken there is no redundancy in the communication between Svalbard and the mainland.
The two cables provide broadband internet to Svalbard, but more imprtantly they are there in support of the Svalbard Satellite Station (SvalSat). The SvalSat site consists of more than 100 satellite antennas on a mountain plateau and is the largest commercial ground station of its kind. Being located between mainland Norway and the North Pole means that SvalSat is in much demand with operators of polar-orbiting satellites, being one of only two ground stations from which data can be downloaded from these types of satellites on each of the Earth’s rotations.
Troubleshooting has been carried out since the error with the cable was discovered, and it was approximately at 20:00 determined that there is a fault in the power supply between 130 and 230 km from Longyearbyen and in an area where the cable goes steeply into the deep sea from approx. 300 m to approx. 2700 meters depth. To repair the damage, a larger, sea-going cable-laying vessel must be mobilized.
How the damage occurred is not clarified, but this is being investigated further. When cables that were part of the Lofoten-Vesterålen (LoVe) Ocean Observatory were severed last year, suspicion in some quarters fell upon the Russian government, which certainly has the means to do so.