Interview with Vincenzo Clemente, CEO of Cross River Fiber

Editor’s Note: The submarine fiber optic cable industry is going through an incredible period of change in many ways.  While the impact of the Over-the-Top content providers gets most of the attention, the convergence of the infrastructure that allows the content to move globally is every bit as important. 

I recently had the opportunity to discuss this issue with Vincenzo Clemente, CEO of Cross River Fiber.  His company is one of those at the forefront of this convergence.  Cross River Fiber, a terrestrial fiber network operator serving the New York/New Jersey area, recently connected its network to the NJFX cable landing station/data center facility in Wall Township, New Jersey.  Mr. Clemente had some excellent insight into the recent trend of infrastructure convergence related to submarine cables.  The following are his comments:

Cross River Fiber is a fiber infrastructure provider in the New York-New Jersey metro area.  We own and operate our fiber assets in their entirety.  That’s a big differentiator in this day and age when you kind of stand out from the bigger guys who quite frankly have more regional and even national presence.  We are known to be really good fiber optic builders within our footprint.  When I started the business in 2011, there was a market need to create a lot of diversity and low latency between certain financial exchanges and data centers.  I look at New Jersey and New York as a hub for technology customers in a universe where all of this information converges at these data centers.  The traffic is moving in all these directions towards these facilities.  At the outset back in 2011, it was important to recognize what kind of fiber footprint had already been laid by the traditional telco providers and how Cross River could  have made those more efficient.  We had taken a crack at a few different routes in Northern New Jersey and optimized those routes for low latency purposes between the financial exchanges because customer demand dictated that.  We looked at all of these facilities in New Jersey and contemplated how we could make the data transmission a lot faster for these sites and ultimately, satisfy the end user demand that was driving the industry at that time.

That was an interesting start to the business, and it allowed us to not only lay fiber cable for those specific market requirements, but it also allowed us to increase density in and around areas that didn’t have a lot of capacity which ultimately became an important asset for the buying community to use our fiber cable for more than just capacity between data centers, but also aggregate enterprise business traffic on it.  We now sell our fiber systems to other carriers, submarine or carriers’ carrier, as well as international businesses who want to aggregate their traffic in the NY/NJ metro area.  As we look towards the future, we are aggregating a lot of mobility-type traffic for the cellular companies where a lot of densification is a requirement these days, with the evolution of front-end access for small cell and DAS applications. It’s interesting how our network was purpose-built for this type of growth without even knowing it at the time.

So we laid a new foundation starting back in 2011 up to the present day for networks that can be multi-purpose.  Now we are continuing to build to data centers, for wireless infrastructure and specifically to the NJFX facility.  What’s most interesting about that is the proliferation of the subsea content that is coming into and around that Wall Township area that we can pick up as a metro provider and move that traffic from those facilities to the Northern New Jersey and New York City facilities that we built to early on.  We think there will be a lot of demand for that and when the submarine cables land here on the terrestrial side; ultimately businesses are going to need a place to go and they are going to look for a provider, an alternative provider to the ones that they already recognize, that can provide them with diversity and also provide them with some level of low latency application to get to these locations faster. 

So we set out on this journey about year ago to build out to NJFX and we’re excited to have completed this important network segment. We think there will be multiple subsea cable landings at the NJFX facility where we will be able to help the international community that traffic onto our metro network. Our network was unknowingly at the time purpose-built for this type of aggregation and branch them out to the 30+ data centers that we are in throughout the NY/NJ metro area. 

Ultimately, I really think that we’re seeing an evolution. There is an aggregation and movement of data traffic today that the industry as a whole can’t even get its head around.  When you think about these content providers who are moving Terabits of traffic, it just seems to make sense that there is this convergence between all layers of infrastructure – submarine cable, co-location facilities, metro fiber, data centers, etc.  It all seems appropriate because the requirements of the end users are driving the need. This will become a fundamental way of getting access and data storage across all industries. The aggregation of fiber infrastructure, subsea cable, data centers and enterprise businesses just seems more relevant now than ever.