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Xtera Execs Talk about Technology and the Company’s Future
Submarine Cable NewsFeed - Market Snapshot
Monday, 24 July 2017 17:56

Editor’s Note:

In January, H.I.G. Capital had acquired substantially all the assets of Xtera Communications, Inc.  In a statement made at the time, H.I.G. Capital said that under its ownership, “Xtera’s management and technical team would remain at the helm of the business, focused on successfully executing key existing customer contracts and expanding the business in the rapidly growing markets it serves with a clear roadmap of disruptive product launches.”

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Robert Richardson, Founder and Chief Sales Officer of Xtera, and Tony Frisch, Chief Technology Officer, about the company in light of the new investment.  The following are their views on the company’s outlook and technological advances.

Richardson: The future looks very bright for Xtera.  I think we have a very strong investment partner in H.I.G. Capital.  They’re a $22 billion fund.  They are not a short-term investor.  Their typical investment cycle is about 7 years on average but they have some investments they’ve been involved with for over 10 years.  They certainly understand our business because they spent a lot of time visiting with customers, and they understand that the submarine business is a cyclical one.

Frisch: We originally got into the subsea cable business because we had a lot of experienced and energetic people who wanted to do more than build terminal equipment.  Customers encouraged us to build a subsea repeater. 

In doing so we did a couple of things a little differently.  We decided to build not just a simple EDFA, but to add Raman to it because we had a lot of expertise on that inside the company.  We felt that by putting Raman we could get a better noise figure.  With the Raman, we’re getting some pre-amplification in the 30 kilometers of fiber coming into the repeater, so that’s acting as a low level amplifier rather than acting as a loss.  And we could use that Raman to improve the noise figure or to extend the bandwidth of the amplifier.  We currently have 55 nm, moving up to about 65 nm this year. We also have sold that unit in a reduced 35 nm bandwidth allowing us to get up to 140 km spans without spending a lot of money on expensive fiber. 

With 65 nm, we are capable of more than 40 Tbps per fiber pair this year and in the lab we’ve run in excess of 80 nm.  Depending on the market demand, we could move to production on 80 nm at some point in the future. 

The question of customer demand is a very interesting one.  When we first started making this repeater, of course the first thing we were concerned about was making sure that we tested every aspect of it.  So for the sea trials, we fitted the repeater with a whole set of sensors – pressure sensors (to know if anything was leaking into the repeater under pressure), accelerometers, temperature sensors and so on.  The intention was to strip the sensors out in the production model, but actually we had customers on board the ship looking at all this stuff and they were saying “No, don’t take them out.”  The customers recognized that the sensors were not designed to be super reliable, but as long as they are working, they tell them something useful. 

Particularly, the customers had seen the accelerometers, which are telling you what’s going on with the repeater as it goes down to the seabed.  One of them made the interesting point that if the ship knew that the customer could tell how carefully they were handling the repeater they would be a little bit more inclined to handle it really nicely.  So we kept that accelerometer in there and we also discovered a couple of other interesting things.  A lot of these ships have some really sophisticated software that monitors how fast the train is going out, the angle of the cable in the water, etc.  Using this data, they try to predict where the repeater comes down onto the seabed.  But I think we discovered on the first sea trial that they can be half an hour wrong and that means that you have a fairly poor idea what happens during the lay without the information from the accelerometer.  People we talked to said that’s the stuff they’d really like to have.  It also means they can monitor the repeater on the seabed and just be sure that it really is working. 

Richardson: Something that is really interesting is the idea of data center-to-data center connectivity.  We initially pushed this idea about 11 or 12 years ago at Submarine Network World and it didn’t get a great reception at that point in time, but I think the world has changed.

Frisch: This was a very simple and straightforward idea that seems now to be catching on.  If you really want to get the traffic inland, the smart thing to do is to pick up the submarine terminal and put that inland, rather than having the submarine terminal close to the beach and then a terrestrial terminal at the data center, PoP, or whatever.  That’s now something that I think a lot of people are doing.  We’re hoping, and it’s something that were doing work on, to take some of the electronics used in a subsea repeater and put them into a dry unit that can be used pretty much anywhere. 

The intention is not just a simple extension, but using a consistent piece of technology so that you don’t end up using a subsea amplifier and then a terrestrial amplifier.  It would also have some of the advantages that you get with a submarine amplifier, which has to be very reliable because it is so expensive to repair a subsea amplifier.

I think that one thing we will be looking at, again depending on customer demand, is the notion of putting what looks like a land-adapted version of a subsea repeater that has duplicated pumps and duplicated control units and putting that into a package that can be installed in a rack and powered off the local supply.  If one of the pumps fails, it won’t impact the service at all, it will just raise an alarm back in the data center and someone will realize that at some point they need to go out and replace it.  You can do it during a scheduled maintenance window rather than rushing out immediately because they have an outage. 

And along with that we’ve been looking hard at this whole business of open systems.  I think everyone is saying they’re doing it or willing to do it.  I think long-term this is suits us.  We’ve been involved for more than three years talking to customers about open systems and the fact that our recent commercial strategy has been to focus on the submarine, makes it very much more natural for us to say let’s go really open and not try and fudge the issue.  We don’t have any problem being open.

Richardson: In fact, we have a couple of buyers who are bringing their equipment into our lab for testing to verify that their equipment will work with our undersea technology and our open systems gateway.  We were the pioneers of the whole idea of idea of upgrades and open systems are in our DNA.  I think more importantly that’s where the market shift has been, particularly with the idea of people buying fiber pairs -- now each company owning pairs within the cable has a different supplier that they want to use.  They don’t want to have something unique for their undersea, they want the whole network in totality.  So I think embracing open systems is simply the way the network is evolving. 

One of the big things that came out of our discussions with customers is that they also want to deal with spectrum.  Because of the large amount of bandwidth available from our repeaters it may be better to sell spectrum than fiber pairs.  What we’ve done with our technology is design something that actually embraces selling "virtual" fiber pairs or spectrum.  If you want to sell a fiber pair as a submarine cable owner and you want something to put on there, that’s fine.  If you are a network owner and you want to sell spectrum, you can sell it off yourself because you have such a high amount of bandwidth you can sell and we have techniques to make that easy and managed it like it’s a physical asset as opposed to a virtual asset. 

Frisch: I think that’s one of the key problems that people don’t tend to think about.  You can have customers using products from different vendors.  And if you have to disconnect your terminal because you have to do some maintenance on it and you need to make sure that whatever equipment is facing all these different inputs is capable of making sure that none of them disappear or when something goes wrong it doesn’t impact the other guys.  That’s not fantastically complicated, but when you are taking into account failures and security issues, it’s something cable operators need to think about.  It’s more complicated that sometimes is appreciated. 

Richardson: There will be some interesting news coming out of Xtera in the next few months.  This will show that not only are the customers behind us – voting with their wallets -- but that they also are very supportive of us.  They see that we bring innovation and change to the marketplace.  They invite that.

 
Sub Cable World NewsFeed for July 25, 2017
Submarine Cable NewsFeed - Daily Review
Monday, 24 July 2017 17:49

Submarine Fiber Optic Cables

Guinea Bissau to Get First Connection

Guinea Bissau, the last country on the West African coast not connected to the global submarine cable network, will see that change thanks to an agreement to link to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable. 

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Sub Cable World NewsFeed for July 24, 2017
Submarine Cable NewsFeed - Daily Review
Sunday, 23 July 2017 19:20

Submarine Fiber Optic Cables

OPT, ASN Sign Agreement for NATITUA

OPT and Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), part of Nokia, have signed a turn-key agreement for the deployment of the NATITUA cable system, which will further enhance the connectivity in French Polynesia. NATITUA will also enhance the availability and accessibility to high quality, innovative broadband applications such as telemedicine, e-learning and on-line tourism programs for remoted islands' end-users.

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Sub Cable World NewsFeed for July 21, 2017
Submarine Cable NewsFeed - Daily Review
Thursday, 20 July 2017 15:58

Submarine Fiber Optic Cables

Huawei Marine Delivers BTL’s SEUL

Meeting the two-month scheduled installation on time and on budget, Belize Telemedia Ltd (BTL) and Huawei Marine announced the successful delivery of BTL’s Strategic Evolution Underwater Link (SEUL) project, bringing fiber-optic submarine cable connectivity to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. Stretching over 23km from the Belize mainland to the Caye, this fiber optic connectivity will be integral in the delivery of world class, lightning fast broadband speeds to the island.

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NJFX CEO: “We Provide Options”
Submarine Cable NewsFeed - Market Snapshot
Thursday, 20 July 2017 10:39

Editor’s Note:

In September 2016, NJFX formally unveiled its data center campus located adjacent to the submarine cable landing station in Wall Township, New Jersey. The colorfully named “Tier 3 by the Subsea” was the first of its kind in the industry, disrupting the traditional backhaul model and redefining proximity by providing direct interconnection options at the cable-head without recurring costs on cross-connects.

“NJFX is doing something that no company has ever done before,” Gil Santaliz, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of NJFX, said at the September launch. “The unique location of our campus enables unprecedented access to a number of the most sought after subsea and terrestrial assets transporting traffic nationally, as well as internationally. NJFX ensures our customers receive the flexible, reliable and secure connectivity they require to support their growing business needs.”

Since September, NJFX’s facility has continued to develop. Another expansion phase was completed in January and the concept has clearly resonated within the industry as more submarine and terrestrial cable operators make connections.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Santaliz about NJFX and what the future may hold:

Santaliz: “We have several billion dollars’ worth of assets sitting in our NJFX Campus now. We have three transatlantic cables -- two Tata Communications cables, which were there when we arrived, and now Aquacomms has come in and installed their equipment in the building to provide a third way across to Europe with their AEconnect cable. Seaborn Network’s new Seabras-1 cable from the US to Brazil also will be connected when it becomes ready for service this summer. So we are continuing to be unique. We are up to four subsea cables and we’re rivalling any location in the US or the world in terms of having so much subsea cable capacity in one place.

We provide options. You can bypass New York City by using Tata from Ashburn, Virginia, or any part of the US. We have alternate paths across the Atlantic. We have two ways to apply access to Seabras-1. TI Sparkle, which purchased three fiber pairs on Seabras-1, has taken residence in our facility, and the cable also can be accessed through Tata. There’s one cross-connect in the building rather than going all around New York or New Jersey, thus reducing latency and increasing efficiency.

On the US side, we’ve had Lightower come in and install their network and they’re about to put in a second cable in the building for diversity. Altice (formerly CableVision Lightpath) has installed their network. We always had Windstream offering capacity at our facility and we’re talking to Zayo about increasing the capacity it has. So we are the center of the universe between the US, Europe and South America -- between the US domestic fiber networks and the European and South America cable operators.

We made a decision about three months ago to take an opportunity to expand our property. We were always a 10-acre site with Tata and we are finalizing our joint venture to expand to 48 more acres. We had a large Fortune 100 company knock on our door and the amount of space they wanted from us exceeded what we could do for them, so we took the initiative to take up 48 more acres. We also expanded our relationship with the electric utility and now we can offer not only Tier 3 but Tier 4 for additional and increment space.

We need to all think differently because the world is changing so quickly. The telecommunications network is a global platform and the assets should reflect how we currently operate. People expect things to work whether you’re in Denmark or Frankfurt or Latin America. Content needs to move. Latency is important. Diversity is important. Our model is to give customers reliable, high-performance, reduced cost access to critical submarine cable assets so that they can do business, provide services and support all these new ideas that people have out there in the increasingly dynamic world.

 
Sub Cable World NewsFeed for July 20, 2017
Submarine Cable NewsFeed - Daily Review
Wednesday, 19 July 2017 16:22

Submarine Fiber Optic Cables

McKay Ltd New Zealand to Build Hawaiki Cable Station

McKay Ltd has signed a contract with Hawaiki Submarine Cable LP, the owner and developer of the Hawaiki submarine cable system, for the build of the Cable Landing Station (CLS) in Mangawhai Heads.

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Seaborn Execs Talk about Seabras-1 as It Nears RFS
Submarine Cable NewsFeed - Market Snapshot
Wednesday, 19 July 2017 07:19

Editor’s Note:

On June 13, Seaborn Networks announced that the Brazil marine landing of Seabras-1, Seaborn’s submarine cable system between New York and São Paulo was successfully completed.  With the construction phase of the 10,700-kilometer-long cable system coming to an end, this will bring a vast amount of new capacity to the Brazil - US route. 

One week later, I sat down at the Telecom Exchange (TEX) conference in New York City with Paul Creelman, Seaborn’s Director of Business Development, and Thasha Carey, a Network Operations Center (NOC) Manager for Seaborn, to get the latest on the project as Seabras-1 nears its RFS. 

Click here to see a video about Seabras-1.

Creelman: “This is a really exciting time for Seaborn and the whole team that worked on Seabras-1. We are now putting in the final connections and cross-connects and anticipate turning services on in August.  This cable is the only direct point-to-point cable between the commercial centers of Brazil and the USA.  Seabras-1 will drive greater Internet connectivity and improved reliability and stability to the region, while reducing points of failure that other systems are prone to experience.  Seaborn also has a proprietary lowest latency solution for this route. Known as SeaSpeed, this caters to the most demanding financial customers. Beyond SeaSpeed, even our carrier class solutions for OTTs and carriers offer a step-change in improved latency when compared to existing offerings in the market.

In addition to being an independent operator, we have our own Seaborn-staffed NOC in New Jersey and an additional Seaborn NOC in Massachusetts. Thasha is one of our NOC Managers and can attest to the Seaborn staff’s competence and skill sets.”

Carey: “Most of the NOC engineers that work for Seaborn have been in the industry for more than a decade.  And we have significant experience in network design and architecture. I myself have been in the submarine cable industry for 14 years.  We definitely have a great team with diverse backgrounds.”

Creelman: “There is existing subsea infrastructure between the US and Brazil, however it has aged out.  Ultimately the cables that are in the water today can’t really offer long-term IRU contracts anymore.  They have served their purpose well and brought connectivity to Brazil.  However Seabras-1 being the newest and most significant system to be built in years, and the only direct one between NY and Sao Paulo, has redefined the quality expected on the route. Having a new cable offering faster, more up to date tech and equipment has really disrupted the market, which was a fundamental objective of our business plan.

As the industry has long recognized, reliability has been a real issue for the existing subsea services and systems that land in Brazil.  That’s not due to the subsea piece, but is more to do with the overhead terrestrial fiber in Brazil backhaul and metro networks. Seaborn, on the other hand, invested in trenching and burying 100% of our backhaul and metro fiber.  The uptime that we can offer because of this will significantly change the market and the customer experience and I think that’s really important.  It’s bringing everything into the 21st Century, so to speak.

As we continue to focus on bringing Seabras-1 to RFS, there are other projects that we are working on.  For example, we’ve recently announced the ARBR project that we and The Werthein Group are building from Brazil to Argentina. Some of our new projects leverage the fact that we own and operate Seabras-1, while others are in fundamentally different geographies. Seaborn is a unique platform play; the company has been designed from the ground up to develop and operate the next generation of subsea routes and to work closely with OTTs and carriers as a neutral developer-owner-operator.”

 
Sub Cable World NewsFeed for July 19, 2017
Submarine Cable NewsFeed - Daily Review
Tuesday, 18 July 2017 19:12

Submarine Fiber Optic Cables

PTCL Commissions Pakistan operations of AAE-1

PTCL announced the commissioning of Asia-Africa-Europe 1 (AAE-1) cable system that connects South East Asia to Europe via Egypt. Spanning over 25,000 kilometers, it is the largest submarine cable to be constructed in almost 15 years.

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Sub Cable World NewsFeed for July 18, 2017
Submarine Cable NewsFeed - Daily Review
Monday, 17 July 2017 20:52

Submarine Fiber Optic Cables

Orange to Build New Cable between Mayotte and Grande Comore

Orange is strengthening its presence in the Indian Ocean by signing a construction and maintenance agreement for a new high-speed cable, FLY-LION3 (Lower Indian Ocean Network). The consortium, of which Orange is part with the Société Réunionnaise du Radiotelephone and Comores Câbles, plans for 2018 the commissioning of this new fiber optic cable that is approximately 400 km long.

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Sub Cable World NewsFeed for July 17, 2017
Submarine Cable NewsFeed - Daily Review
Sunday, 16 July 2017 15:39

Special Feature

Xtera Execs Talk about Technology and the Company’s Future

Editor’s Note:

In January, H.I.G. Capital had acquired substantially all the assets of Xtera Communications, Inc.  In a statement made at the time, H.I.G. Capital said that under its ownership, “Xtera’s management and technical team would remain at the helm of the business, focused on successfully executing key existing customer contracts and expanding the business in the rapidly growing markets it serves with a clear roadmap of disruptive product launches.”

Register to read more...
 
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