Post 2015 we left behind the era of submarine cables that took off in mid-1990’s, stumbled in early 2000’s and recovered cautiously post 2010 and witnessed an unprecedented surge post 2015, flagging off a golden era. Over 2010-2015, it was observed time and again that lifecycle management of large consortia cable systems were really challenging. Hence post 2015, the size of consortiums reduced significantly and settled for 3-6 members in most cases, except for the Asia-Europe corridor. Along with it, number of countries connected also reduced to 2-4, albeit with few exceptions. This was enabled by lower cost of submarine cable construction, that dropped to $25,000 to $35,000 per kilometer. One of the main reasons for shrinking size of consortiums was overzealous preference for fiber pair(s) ownership instead of tranche of capacity proportional to investment, for greater independence and flexibility and deploy new optical transmission technology to multiplex more wavelengths per fiber pair and pack greater capacity in each wavelength. This led to new service innovations and optical spectrum and fractionated or virtual fiber pair became standard service offering creating affordably scalable models, allowing new consortium members to onboard midway.
The trend highlighted above is brought about by two groups of entrants in the race to build new submarine cables – the cloud and content behemoths Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, and the less noticed group of independent infrastructure developers. While the hyperscale heavyweights were duly noticed and applauded profusely, the independent infrastructure developers remained relatively unnoticed. This article aims to take a closer look at top 10 independent infrastructure developers.
The number of independent infrastructure developers over the last 4 years has grown to 10. Put together they are set to own and operate 25 submarine cables by 2021, representing a significant percentage of major submarine cables that will be operational by that time. At present 5 out of 25 submarine cables are operational. 10 submarine cables are scheduled to be operational in 2019. Interestingly the stated RFS of Q4 2019 for several cable systems could roll over to 2020 for some of the cables. Hence the larger play of independent infrastructure developers will unfold in 2020. There are 4 submarine cables whose plan of action is not available till date and that could indicate uncertain prospect, tough I would prefer to believe otherwise.
The 25 cable systems will have combined length of nearly 1,85,000 Kms. This includes cables systems as short as 256 Kms (SEAX-1) and as long as 14,720 Kms (PLCN). Construction of the 25 cable systems will entail investment of nearly $6 billion, with several cable systems declaring they are fully funded. The submarine cables will span majority of global routes - transatlantic, transpacific, Latam-US, Latam-Africa, Africa-APAC, Australia-US, intra-Europe and intra-APAC.
These independent infrastructure developers or IIDs are not telco careers, they don’t carry the burden of legacy, they don’t operate anything less than 10G, yet they bring a unique differentiation in their approach to build global telecom infrastructure and large-scale data connectivity in their target markets. They bring together skills in design, deployment and operation of submarine cable systems, cable landing stations and terrestrial backhaul along with financial planning, effective program management and strategic alliances. In some or other way the tagline of Seaborn Networks - transforming global communications as the leading independent developer-owner-operator of submarine fiber optic cable systems, resonates with all the independent infrastructure developers.
The commonality of these independent infrastructure developers is that they are experts in aggressive play of risk and rewards with cutting-edge competitive pricing. Their marketing pitch is also noteworthy with - newest, most-advanced, next-generation, most-direct (lowest latency) state-of-the-art submarine cable system linking the target countries with multiple PoP-to-PoP connectivity options for end-to-end solutions. Marketing jargons aside, creating differentiation in the submarine cable landscape is challenging, hence these providers have studied the current submarine cable systems closely, observed challenges faced with multi-provider engagements and fragmented SLA, leading to unpredictable delivery lead time and performance for end-to-end capacity built. With studied observations they have augmented the submarine cables with fully owned and managed terrestrial backhaul connectivity and network nodes for capacity breakout in multiple datacenters that is truly resilient, such that capacity on the submarine cable only requires ordering a cross-connect. They mostly have lean teams of senior people with extensive experience within the submarine cable and wider telecom industry. The service offerings include capacity, spectrum (cable administrator managed as a service or customer managed) extending to factional or virtual fiber pair and full or physical fiber-pair. While capacity subscription will continue to increase from 100G to 200G and eventually 400G, there is growing demand for spectrum and whole and fractional fiber pair, across multiple routes. The services are reinforced with bold SLA for differentiated play with flexibility, security and reliability. The prime target customers are czars of cloud and content - Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon, along with telco carriers, large enterprise and government bodies.
Yet the independent infrastructure developers differ significantly in terms of scale, geographic focus, size of investment and business model, approach to alliances. Some of them are already operating submarine cables, some are driving timelines for the submarine cable to be operational in 2019-21. Some are focused on one submarine cable while others are concurrently implementing 2-4 submarine cables. Interesting trends of collaboration and competition will emerge in 2020 once majority of the submarine cables will be operational. It remains to be seen if competitive dynamics would lead to consolidation and pave the way for mergers and acquisitions going forward.
Hereafter 10 independent infrastructure developers are profiled briefly to outline their approach characterise the submarine cables they have constructed, under construction currently and planned submarine cables.
1. RAM Telecom International (RTI)
RTI, headquartered in San Francisco, and its wholly owned Singaporean subsidiary RTI Connectivity Pte. Ltd. (RTI-C) have over the last 4 years established themselves as leading carrier neutral network infrastructure provider to telecom carriers, large multinational enterprises, content and cloud providers, and government entities.
Focused on east-west and north-south routes in APAC, they are the front runners among the 10 independent infrastructure developers to build 5 new submarine cables with combined span of 41,780 Kms that are scheduled to be operational by 2020. RTI/RTI-C is the co-investor and consortium member 3 consortium built cables (SEA-US, HKA, JGA-S). It leads one cable system - HK-G with Google, hence it's not really a consortium cable. It also leads one cable system as the sole investor - JGA-North. There is no announcement till date from RTI on its plans to develop cable administration capability and invest in NOC setup, though it is recommended that they do, logically for JGA where they are project lead, unless they plan to outsource it. Uniquely RTI is the only independent infrastructure developer to join 3 major consortium built cables, a deviation from the privately owned submarine cables by other independent infrastructure developers.
The 14,500 Kms 20 Tbps (presumably 4x50x100G), $250 million transpacific cable SEA-US (South East Asia-United States) connects Indonesia, Philippines, Guam, Hawaii and Los Angeles. It was RFS in August 2017, meaning it was designed in 2014-15. Looking at 2020, 20 Tbps presumably with 4 fiber pairs seems low capacity, given majority of cables currently under construction have 12 Tbps per fiber pair and some go as high as 24 Tbps per fiber pair. Hence SEA-US is evidently a low hanging fruit for upgrade in 2019-20. RTI announced collaboration NTT Com ENG in January 2018 to provide managed network services for RTI’s investment in SEA-US, though the scope of work remains unclear. Interestingly SEA-US has one of the lowest per kilometer cost of submarine cable built.
The 3,900 Kms 48 Tbps Hong Kong Guam (HK-G) submarine cable under construction by NEC and scheduled for RFS in Q4 2019 has Google and Japanese government led Japan ICT Fund as co-investor. It has provision of branching units for future connectivity to Taiwan, Vietnam and Philippines and possibly onboard new consortium members. In Hong Kong, HK-G will land inside datacentre owned and operated by NTT Com Asia. It’s presumably a 4 fiber pair system with 120x100G technology.
The 13,000 Kms, 72 Tbps (6x120x100G), 6 fiber pair, $300 million Hong Kong Americas (HK-A) cable system connects Hong Kong to Los Angeles. It's a consortium cable with RTI, Facebook, Telstra, Tata Communications, China Telecom, China Unicom, under construction by ASN and scheduled for RFS in 2020. Notably this is direct connectivity without stopover in Guam and Hawaii. Latency for HKA route is expected to be 20ms shorter than that of AAG, that is heavily utilized currently.
The 9600 Kms, 32 Tbps (2x16x100G), 2 fiber pair, Japan-Guam-Australia (JGA) cable system is being co-built by ASN and NEC as with scheduled RFS of Q4 2019 with an interesting hybrid approach. JGA South (JGA-S), the segment between Sydney and Guam, is a consortium cable including RTI-C, Google and AARNet. JGA North (JGA-N), the segment between Japan and Guam, is set to be a private cable with RTI-C as the sole investor. The rational for 2-fiber pair system has not been clarified yet, given the trend to go for 4/6/8 fiber pair cables that provides wider inventory to offer virtual and physical fiber pairs. Moreover Google has clearly stated preference for fiber pair ownership for independence and control on design and operation of their arsenal of submarine cable assets. Further RTI with the committed scale of investment is not expected to accept trade-off to cut cost. While the project cost of JGA has not been revealed yet, it is expected to be of the order of $200 million.
It seems RTI/RTI-C and the consortiums they have joined will leverage existing cable landing stations to land the 5 submarine cables and does not intend to venture into new cable landing station construction. RTI/RTI-C positions the cable landing station operated by GTA in Guam as the hub to interconnect 4 submarine cables – SEA-US, HK-G, JGA-N and JGA-S. It remains to be seen if this becomes an innovative differentiator, given it could lead to the question – how is the risk of the Guam cable landing station as the single point of failure for customers that purchase east-west and north-south connectivity from RTI/RTI-C or any other consortium member mitigated.
Funding for submarine cables has always been the major challenge. JGA will be the second submarine cable after HK-G to be co-financed by the Japanese government led Japan ICT Fund, and the third submarine cable led by RTI after SEA-US and HK-G to gain from syndicated loans from Japanese financial institutions, including NEC Capital Solutions Ltd. This possibly explains the apparently preferential involvement of Japanese companies.
2. Super Sea Cable Networks (SEAX)
SEAX, established in Singapore, as independent infrastructure developer, has positioned themselves as fully licensed provider in all the locations their submarine cable lands and provide wholly owned end-to-end connectivity.
SEAX has announced three submarine cables - SEAX-1, SEAX-2 and SEAX-3 and aims to offer capacity, spectrum and fiber-pair on these submarine cables. SAEX aims to provide capacity breakout in well-known carrier neutral datacentres in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia that facilitates cross-connect with host of submarine cables for onward connectivity. SEAX it seems is notably conservative with marketing activities to promote and differentiate their approach.
The 256 Kms SEAX-1 links Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia with carefully chosen cable landing stations that allows cross-connect with multiple submarine cables at these locations. It could be amongst the few unrepeatered submarine cables. From Mersing, Malaysia where SEAX lands, fiber backhaul will extend connectivity to two major datacenters in Kuala Lumpur - AIMS DC and CSF CX2. In Batam Island, fiber backhaul will connect to Graha Pena and IDC at Batam Center. In Singapore, fiber backhaul will connect to Global Switch. SEAX-1 was scheduled to be operation in Q2 2018. However with 6 weeks remaining, it’s unlikely that the timeline will be met, and the RFS will roll over to Q1 2019. Further, delay with 256 Kms submarine cable is likely to raise uncomfortable questions.
SEAX-2 targets to intensify transpacific competition and connect with US west coast. Spanning 15,000 Kms, SEAX-2 is scheduled to directly connect Singapore to California with express route and branching units for Jakarta and Guam. SEAX-3 targets India landing at one of the newest cable landing station currently under construction in Digha, 180 Kms from Kolkata, starting from Singapore with provision of branching units for stopovers on the way.
SEAX-1, SEAX-2 and SEAX-3 will interconnect in Singapore to provide connectivity to multiple pair of destinations. The RFS for SEAX-2 and SEAX-3 or the standard progressive milestones are not announced yet, indicating they could stretch to 2021. Notably further insight on the design fundamentals of the three cables, cable landing arrangements and RFS timeline that generally characterize submarine cables remain unavailable. The only attribute is that the three cables are 6 fiber-pair systems. However it’s highly unlikely that these cables will have anything less than 120x100G or 12 Tbps per fiber pair, given the trend is towards 16 Tbps and 24 Tbps per fiber pair. The 3 submarine cables are likely to land in existing cable landing stations, as constructing a new cable station is highly challenging, particularly for a newcomer that is entering a highly competitive landscape. RFS announcement of SEAX-1 will build market confidence on SEAX-2 and SEAX-3.
3. Pacific Light Data Communication Co. Ltd. (PLDC)
PLDC, founded in 2015 in Hong Kong, along with Google and Facebook is building the 12,971 Kms, 6 fiber pair, 144 Tbps, $400 million transpacific submarine cable PLCN (Pacific Light Cable Network), scheduled for RFS in Q4 2019. It claims to be the first to directly connect Hong Kong and Los Angeles with lowest latency of 130 ms. Though the scale of investment is not revealed yet, it is expected that the investment will provide ownership of 1 fiber-pair each to Google and Facebook. Thus PLCN is delicately positioned between a private submarine cable and consortium built submarine cable.
PLCN prides itself as one of the first submarine cables designed to implement the newly developed C+L technology for cable length exceeding 10,000 Kms, supporting 24 Tbps per fiber pair with 240x100G. PLCN design capacity of 144 Tbps is highest among the 25 cables being built by the independent infrastructure developers. PLDC has end to end ownership for design, deployment and operation of PLCN.
PLCN is designed to promote open cable system approach with provisions that allows each fiber pair in the system to be terminated by separate SLTE’s, with individual SLTE owned, operated and upgraded by the party leasing the fiber pair completely independent of the SLTE’s terminating other fiber pairs. Further PLCN incorporates Spectrum Manager, that allows the C+L band to be sliced into blocks of spectrum that can be independently assigned to separate SLTE that is owned, operated and upgraded by the party leasing the spectrum. PLCN has productized it in terms of Minimum Spectrum Unit (MSU) which is 5% of the total C+L band capacity i.e. 5% of 240x100G or 1.2 Tbps. It’s extended further as virtual fiber pair with Quarter Fiber Pair as 5xMSU or 6 Tbps and Half Fiber Pair as 10xMSU or 12 Tbps. This notably is not unique to PLCN and is supported by most the cable systems designed post 2015 or supported with upgrades.
PLCN will terminate in carrier neutral datacenters - TMH in HK, Equinix LA4 in Los Angeles. SDN-enabled activation on-demand it claims will shorten the delivery lead time considerably, a key differentiator for customers expecting cloud-speed provisioning times. It remains to be seen if PLCN develops metro fiber connectivity and establish network nodes in multiple datacentres, similar to Seabras-1 from Seaborn Networks, in Hong Kong and Los Angeles to meet the promise of shortened PoP-to-PoP delivery lead time for its customers.
4. Pakistan East Africa Cable Express (PEACE)
PEACE the 12000 Kms, 60 Tbps (4x80x200G), 4 fiber-pair, submarine cable from Karachi to Marseilles with stopover in Djibouti, overland transit in Egypt and East Africa branch to Somalia, Kenya, Seychelles is an ambitious cable system with unique attributes. It has a unique multi-provider participation, that includes October 2018 announcement of collaboration between PCCW and Orange to land the cable in France. With scheduled for RFS in Q1 2020, it will offer full fiber pair, fractional fiber pair along with customized spectrum and capacity services of 100G and 200G and 10G Ethernet service.
PEACE is being built by Huawei Marine and is funded by Tropic Science and other investors. The cable administration will be managed by PCCW Global. With two landing in Pakistan at Karachi and Gawadar, cable landing will reportedly be managed by ISP’s Cybernet and Jazz. In April 2018 it was reported that new cable landing station will be constructed in Karachi and Gawadar. In the next phase, further expansion down south from Kenya to South Africa will be planned. One inexplicably surprising fact is the cable system is scheduled to have 4 cable landings in the strife torn country Somalia.
Unique characterization of PEACE comes from the onward terrestrial fiber connectivity from Gwadar through Rawalpindi to China. This relates to 820 Kms, $44 million Pakistan-China Fiber Optic Project, completed and inaugurated in July 2018. It remains to be seen if terrestrial connectivity across China would be extended to Hong Kong, creating a new route.
The submarine cable for PEACE will be supplied by Hengtong Marine Cable System Co. Ltd., also a major investor in the cable system and apparently intended highlight China manufacturing global quality. PEACE also breaks the traditional mold of consortium cable build where investment from the consortium members are pooled to construct the cable system. Evidently it aims to combine best of consortium-built and privately-owned cable system with open cable architecture.
PEACE is seen as China’s quest to gain control and better connectivity to Africa and Europe. This might restrict commercial success in open market and even make the global cloud and content providers, the key customers that every submarine cable targets, cagey on buying capacity. Further simmering geopolitical stress and apprehensions on Chinese debt trap gaining momentum could alter the course of action, though at present PEACE cable deployment shows steady progress, being marketed aggressively. Thus PEACE does not fit the description of consortium built submarine cable, it does not seem to conform to privately owned submarine cable either and loosely resembles a submarine cable initiative from an independent infrastructure developer.
5. Acqua Comms DAC (Acqua Comms)
Aqua Comms, an Irish venture established in 2014, with the objective to build, acquire or merge with submarine cable networks to provide network solutions that require exceptional reliability and performance. Acqua Comms is strictly a carriers’ carrier, targeting ISPs, telco carriers, and of course the global behemoths of cloud and content. It undertakes complete submarine infrastructure development that includes planning, implementation, operation and lifecycle management of submarine cables. The service offerings include capacity, spectrum and full and fractional fibre pairs.
A journey of merger and acquisition of transatlantic initiative Emerald Networks and Sea Fiber Networks, led to $300M, 5,536 Kms, 52 Tbps (4x130x100G), 4 fiber pair America Europe Connect-1 (AEConnect-1 or AEC-1) that was RFS in 2016. Interestingly AEC-1 seems to have the highest per kilometer cost of construction.
Aqua Comms is implementing the second transatlantic cable system - 7,200 Kms, 108 Tbps, 6 fiber pair, America Europe Connect-2 (AEC-2), that connects Denmark and Ireland to US East Coast. When combined with the extension to Norway, it's named HAVFRUE cable system. Acqua Comms is the cable administrator for the entire HAVFRUE cable system. HAVFRUE/AEC-2, together with AEC-1, CentixConnect-1 and other existing systems owned and operated by Aqua Comms, will create resilient, ring-protected infrastructure between the US East Coast, Ireland, and Northern Europe.
Network services on AEC-1 and AEC-2 will be delivered to and from carrier-neutral interconnection points at NJFX, New Jersey, and 1025 Connect in Long Island, New York, with a resilient network connection in between. The NJ and NY network interconnect will have Manhattan bypass route to increase diversity and resiliency. In Europe, services will be offered from all landing stations and carrier-neutral metro PoPs in Dublin, London, Amsterdam, and Blaajberg.
Acqua Comms is also constructing two new short span submarine cables – 300 Kms CeltixConnect-2, successor or CeltixConnect-1 and 700 Kms North Sea Connect connecting Denmark, scheduled for RFS in Q4 2019. Collectively these cable systems will create resilient mesh connectivity between Ireland, UK and Denmark. To make end-to-end connectivity simpler for its customers Acqua Comms has 4 operational and 2 planned PoPs in US (New York, New Jersey) and 8 operational and 2 planned PoPs in UK (Dublin, Manchester, Slough and London) with resilient terrestrial connectivity for one-stop-shop end-to-end connectivity.
In order to expand the addressable market Acqua Comms and Seaborn announced an exclusive partnership in September 2017 for access to Seabras-1 submarine cable connectivity to Brazil and Argentina.
6. SAEx International Ltd. (SAEx)
SAEX, the second independent infrastructure provider based in Mauritius other than IOX, is actively and ambitiously developing two long haul submarine cables – South Atlantic Express, SAEx1, across South Atlantic to US through Brazil with scheduled RFS of Q1 2021 and South Asian Express, SAEx2, from South Africa across the Indian Ocean to India and Singapore with scheduled RFS of Q2 2021.
Both the submarine cables will be 6 fiber pair system with 120x100G per fiber pair adding up to 72 Tbps design capacity and leverage existing cable landing stations at 6 key locations for landing. With SAEx1 spanning 14,720 Kms and SAEx2 spanning 13,900 Kms, gives it second position in the group of 10 after RTI in developing submarine cables. Their differentiation is with submarine routes that are designed to avoid regions prone to geological disruption (Red-Med overland transit and earthquake belt of Pacific Ring of Fire), narrow straits and geopolitical unrest that are present on current submarine routes.
SAEx1 will have phased development to minimize time between construction and revenue service. It will be deployed initially from Cape Town to a branching unit near Fortaleza, Brazil where it will interconnect with fiber pair leased from TI Sparkle, providing onward connectivity to New Jersey at RFS. SAEX announced partnership with TI Sparkle in September 2018. Effectively SAEX has secured access on the Seabras-1 cable, on which TI Sparkle owns 3 of the 6 fibre pairs, it had purchased in a $300 million deal announced in January 2016. Once FCC approvals are obtained, a new submarine cable segment will be deployed from the branching unit near Fortaleza to a second and diverse cable landing station at Virginia Beach. SAEX confirmed the plan with MOU announced with ACA International LLC in May 2018. It will be the only submarine cable connecting South Africa directly to the USA, and added with TI Sparkle’s fibre pair from Fortaleza, will offer a truly diverse trans-Atlantic network.
At Cape Town SAEx1 will in phase two connect with SAEx2, the second submarine cable SAEX is constructing. SAEx2 will provide connectivity across Indian Ocean to Chennai, India and Singapore. SAEx2 will have 2 fibre pairs, in addition to 6 fiber pairs, between Cape Town and Mtunzini. This makes it the second submarine cable other than SAFE to provide subsea connectivity between cable systems on the east and west coasts of South Africa. It seems connectivity to Singapore could be prioritized over India. SAEx2 will have branching units facing Mtunzini, Mauritius, Madagascar.
Once interconnected and operational in Q2 2021, SAEx1 together with SAEx2 will establish an end-to-end wholly owned digital superhighway, providing a unique route from Asia to the Americas. While SAEx1 will compete with Seabras-1 + SABR from Seaborn Networks, SAEx2 will compete with IOX.
7. Seaborn Networks (Seaborn)
Seaborn Networks characterizes its approach as independent infrastructure developer for submarine cable system with attributes - Build, Own, Operate, Innovate, that resonates equally with other independent infrastructure developers as well. Seaborn aims to address global communications needs between South America and North America for carriers, OTTs, ISP, HFTs, enterprises and governments. It fully operates and maintains its submarine cable system, landing stations, terrestrial backhaul, PoPs and metro connectivity. Seaborn also owns and operates primary and disaster recovery NOCs and claims to activate capacity faster than anyone else in the industry.
Seaborn is the owner and operator of the Seabras-1 (Brazil and the United States), ARBR (Brazil to Argentina) and SABR (Brazil to South Africa). Seaborn has constructed a new cable landing station in Praia Grande in Brazil and shares existing cable landing stations at other locations. Seabras-1, the 10,800 Kms, 72 Tbps (6x120x100G), 6 fiber pair, $520 million cable system is the first direct route between Sao Paulo, Brazil and the United States with branching units aimed at Ashburn, Miami, St. Croix, Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, and Las Toninas (Argentina). Seabras-1, the $520 million project, is owned jointly by Seaborn Networks and Partners Group.
Argentina and Brazil (ARBR), the 2700 Kms, 48 Tbps (4x120x100G), 4 fiber pair cable system scheduled RFS in H1 2019, is developed and deployed by Seaborn and co-owned by Seaborn’s Seabras Group together with The Werthein Group (diversified Argentinian conglomerate). Seaborn in January 2018 announced selection of Xtera to provide optical transport system, a pleasant deviation from TE SubCom, ASN and NEC. ARBR will be the first submarine cable to Argentina not involving a legacy telecom operator. Seaborn announced contracting with Telecom Argentina in July 2018 for ARBR to land in Telecom Argentina’s cable landing station in Las Toninas, Argentina. Telecom Argentina will also provide resilient dark fiber backhaul route between Las Toninas and Buenos Aires, and hosting facility for POP setup in Buenos Aires. Seaborn also announced PoP setup in EdgeConnectX dataceter in Buenos Aires on May 2018. In Brazil, ARBR will land in Seaborn’s existing Seabras-1 cable landing station in Praia Grande, thereby enabling direct onward connectivity to New York on Seabras-1.
South Africa to Brazil (SABR),the 7000 Kms cable system scheduled for RFS H1 2020, will counterintuitively SABR will land in Recife in northeast Brazil and will have subsea branch to interconnect with Seabras-1. It remains to be seen if Seaborn plans to build a new cable landing station or contract with Embratel to share its cable landing station in Recife. It is interesting to note that SABR lands in Cape Town, where SAEx1 and SAEx2 also lands. Does it mean the three cables will share a newly built cable landing station.
SABR + Seabras-1 will shorten geographic route, with significantly lower latency, fewer hops and greater reliability than existing alternative paths between South Africa and US. While the capacity is yet to be announced, anything less than 6 fiber pair with 12 Tbps per pair would unexpected. It will be extended further to Asia based on alliance between Seaborn and IOX announced in November 2017. Seabras-1+SABR+IOX will provide a route very similar to SAEx-1+SAEX-2 and healthy competition is expected to make pricing competitive.
Seaborn with Acqua Comms announced an alliance in September 2017 to interconnect Seabras-1 and AEC-1 provide new subsea route between South America and Europe. The two submarine cable systems will interconnect in Secaucus, New Jersey, in the location of Seaborn's primary NOC.
In order to provide resilient connectivity to US, Seaborn has also purchased half fiber pair on AMX1 submarine cable.
8. Hawaiki Cable Company Limited Partnership (Hawaiki)
Hawaiki is headquartered in New Zealand has designed, developed and operates the Hawaiki submarine cable that was RFS in July 2018.
It’s a 15000 Kms, 67 Tbps , 6 fiber-pair multi-segment cable system that links Australia and New Zealand to US West Coast with midway stopovers at American Samoa and Hawaii. Branching units are in place to connect the Pacific Islands of New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga going forward. of design capacity offering connectivity slabs of 1G, 10G and 100G, and further scalability to 200G and 250G wavelengths. Cable administration is conducted by Hawaiki from NOC facility in two locations - Auckland New Zealand and Sydney Australia, for enhanced redundancy. In August 2018 Hawaiki announced contracting with TE Subcom to build backup NOC facility in New Jersey, US East Coast as additional layer of operational resiliency. Hawaiki delivers reliable connectivity, diverse paths and competitive pricing on multiple routes (a) Australia - United States, (b) New Zealand - United States, (c) Hawaii - Continental United States and (d) Australia - New Zealand. It exemplifies its promise by listing Amazon, Vodafone and REANNZ as onboarded customers. It is expected to deliver the much awaited rationalization to overpriced transpacific connectivity and be the enabler for new connectivity centric business initiatives.
Main trunk of Hawaiki, between Sydney and Oregon, is 100% owned and constructed by Hawaiki Submarine Cable Limited Partnership (HSC LP). The cable landing station (CLS) in Sydney will be leased from Equinix. HSC LP will build and own a new CLS in Mangawhai Heads. HSC USA, wholly owned subsidiary of HSC LP, will build and own a new CLS in Kapolei, Hawaii. HSC LP has contracted with Tillammok Lightwave to lease space in its existing CLS in Pacific City, Oregon. Thus an optimized combination of new cable landing station built and shared access to existing cable landing station provides Hawaiki an unique architecture.
Hawaiki announced a technology upgrade contract with Ciena in September 2018 that will increase Hawaiki’s total design capacity from 44 Tbps to 67 Tbps between Australia, New Zealand and US.
9. EulaLink (Ellalink)
Eulalink, the holding company, will own and develop EllaLink as privately funded submarine cable. It started in 2015 as joint venture between Brazil's Telebras and Spain's IslaLink, holding 35% and 45% interest respectively. In addition European Commission (EC) will invest €25 million via Building Europe Link to Latin America (BELLA) project. This has similarity with AANet participation in Hawaiki.
EllaLink, the 10,119 Kms, 48 Tbps (4x120x100G), 4 fiber pair, $185 million submarine cable will connect Brazil and Portugal with terrestrial extension to Spain and France and has scheduled RFS of 2020. It has a unique route design as connectivity corridor between Latam and Europe bypassing US. Currently Altantis-2 submarine cable commissioned in 2000 connecting Brazil and Argentina to Portugal and Spain meets this criteria, however it's nearing end-of-life and with limited capacity that is grossly insufficient to meet the growing connectivity needs.
EllaLink will provide connectivity services with capacity, spectrum (open spectrum and managed spectrum) and fiber pair (full and fractional) lease and IRU on carrier neutral, open access and independent basis. It will also provide direct access between key submarine cable hubs in Europe and Latin America via shorter, new and unique path. It has been specifically designed to offer reduced latency between major hubs in São Paulo, Lisbon, Madrid and Marseilles with diverse and resilient terrestrial fiber connectivity. Up to 50% improvement in RTD is expected between Madrid and São Paulo.
Two additional submarine cable extensions are also planned from Fortaleza to French Guyana (GuyaLInk) and Columbia (CariLink), that are subject to investment approval from respective governments, the status of which remains unavailable till date.
10. Indian Ocean Xchange (IOX)
IOX, based in Mauritius, is developing the privately funded submarine cable with complete ownership, that had humble beginning in 2015. The 8,850 Kms, 54 Tbps (4x135x100G), 4 fiber pair cable system, with scheduled RFS of Q4 2019 will provide a new subsea route from South Africa to India with two stopovers in Mauritius that is similar to SAFE, the first submarine cable from South Africa to India and Malaysia commissioned in 2002 . The project cost though not announced officially, is expected to be $250 million.
In Phase 1, IOX will connect East London, South Africa to La Cambus and Grande Baie in Mauritius to Puducherry, India. It will also have branching units placed to connect Madagascar, Reunion and Sri Lanka going forward. IOX is also developing a network footprint with capacity lease in multiple submarine cables to offer a portfolio of connectivity and managed services. In Phase 2, connectivity will be extended from Mauritius to Seychelles and further to Mombasa, Kenya, creating diverse subsea route between Kenya and South Africa, albeit with higher latency. IOX plans to explore future connectivity to Egypt for Europe connectivity. Per announcement in September 2017, IOX has already onboarded Mauritius Telecom as the anchor tenant, to uphold their project commitment.
The landing points chosen by IOX does not land any other submarine cables currently. Hence it could be inferred that IOX plans to build new cable landing stations in South Africa, Mauritius and India and that is truly courageous and praiseworthy, though it increases project cost and complexity.
IOX and Angola cables announced signing of a joint provisioning agreement in March 2018 to interconnect IOX and SACS, that the respective parties own and operate. It will be the second such agreement for IOX as it announced a similar agreement with Seaborn in November 2017 to interconnect IOX and SABR to develop first subsea route Between US and India via Brazil and South Africa. Both the alliances are aimed at developing and enhancing their respective network reach and services across Americas, Africa, Europe and India. Success of this alliance is pivoted on interconnect between IOX landing in East London, South Africa and SACS cable landing in Sangano, Angola and SABR landing in Cape Town. SACS and SABR connect Angola and South Africa to Brazil and thereafter connects with Monet and Seabras-1 to reach US. More clarity on interconnect arrangement is expected going forward.
Value proposition of IOX other than promise of new route, greater reliability, low latency that makes capacity, spectrum and fiber pair competitively differentiated, uniquely includes a portfolio of managed services, consultancy and transformation services spanning private cloud, managed hosting, collocation, professional services and security services.
This fact intense roundup provides a consolidated summary of the top 10 independent infrastructure developers and the 25 submarine cable systems they are developing under one roof. An interesting play of collaboration and competition is set to unfold in 2020 that will impact the submarine cable landscape and enhance the future earning potential of the cable systems with cyclic supply-demand interdependence.