An Interview with Andy Bax, COO of Seaborn Networks

Editor’s Note: Seaborn Networks and Infinera recently announced the launch of new network services on capacity acquired by Seaborn on America Movil’s AMX-1 submarine network segment connecting the US and Brazil.  The new connection complements Seaborn’s Seabras-1 cable that has served the US-Brazil route since 2017. 

 SubCableWorld recently had the pleasure to speak with Andy Bax, COO of Seaborn Networks.  In the interview below, Andy talks about the AMX-1 announcement as well as Seaborn’s response to the increase in demand for services during COVID and updates us on the company’s other activities. 

Andy Bax: The acquisition of capacity on the AMX-1 submarine cable system into Jacksonville aligns nicely with our Seabras-1 cable providing completely diverse routes between the US east coast and Brazil.  That’s really the driver right now.  You’re seeing more and more requirement for true diversity down the east coast of the Americas, particularly from the enterprise side and the historically larger users of bandwidth, the ISPs.  They’re looking for additional routes that maybe they can’t source themselves today.  With Seaborn having fiber capacity on AMX-1, it made all the sense in the world for us to light that up and be able to offer that capacity on a 100G basis to our larger customers.  They need diversity.  They like to have multiple routes between major locations and obviously Brazil to the United States is a major route. 

It also is important for us following the rollout of our IP network last year.  This creates completely on-net resilience in terms of our IP network between the US and Brazil.  Now we have our main route down to Sao Paulo and a secondary route coming out of Rio to the US.  We have a terrestrial network up and down the east coast connecting Jacksonville and Miami, Atlanta, Ashburn, New York City, etc.  This is all diverse through a nice mesh network. 

And then we have the same in Brazil between Rio and Sao Paulo.  We think we’re the only wholesale provides that is delivering true diversity on two new-generation subsea cables that are roughly the same age and use the same 100G coherent technology. 

AMX-1 lends itself really well to the Infinera platform.  We’ve used it widely across Seabras-1, where it’s our main delivery package.  Now we’re integrating AMX-1 with the same technology.  That means we have a common package across the entire platform up and down the east coast of North and South America.  That’s how we’re able to deliver 100G waves in a couple of days rather than a couple of months.  A single platform is always a nice advantage in terms of not just delivery, but maintenance and quality of service as well.  It’s fully integrated and all based on Infinera’s fourth-generation Infinite Capacity Engine (ICE4), which gives us a nice smooth transition to ICE6.  Probably in the early part of next year, we’ll begin testing ICE6 on both networks and we anticipate moving to ICE6 across the platform as soon as it’s commercially available. 

Regarding what happened this year in the capacity market, we definitely saw an impact from the COVID-19 pandemic on demand.  There was a six-week period in March and April where we sold and delivered an amount of capacity that was basically what we had forecasted for the whole year.  It all disappeared in that six-week period.  We delivered probably over 1.5 Tbps in capacity during that that time.  That’s not a lot in terms of transatlantic traffic, but for US-Brazil, that’s a lot.  Fortunately we had the capacity.  In these days you have to have capacity available.  We’ve been able to maintain the same traction for the rest of the year.  Demand hasn’t gone away; it’s carried on, just not to the same degree as during that earlier period. 

The back end of the year is not really slowing down in terms of demand.  The same people are still buying more.  We see it on the wavelength side in terms of pure capacity.  I think the really exciting thing we see is the demand generated within Brazil on the IP side.  There’s such strong demand there.  Some of it, obviously, is driven by the whole COVID-19 situation as it has been in the rest of the world, as the people in Brazil are working and learning from home, but I think it is sustainable growth.  We’re seeing that some of the domestic networks are putting in a lot of hard work to deliver what their customers need. 

Demand out of Brazil is big.  The well-known names that are always in all these routes are taking up a lot of capacity.  We’re also seeing a lot more non-traditional CDNs; this whole tranche of CDNs that are not the famous ones – not the Googles and Facebooks and Microsofts.  There are dozens and dozens of other CDNs that recognize Latin America is a big market.  So we’re seeing a lot of traction with them, too.  This is part of the AMX-1 story as well.  AMX-1 is a network designed for that type of customer. 

In terms of our customers, we have some of the large OTT-type companies that tend to take protected 100G services from us.  Their purchases vary in sizes.  Some are very large while others are spread among different networks.  Having a direct route between two points without any drop-offs in between helps them by creating a robust environment for them to deliver 100G services.  I mentioned the CDN environment.  We think that during the next two or three years we’ll probably see over 100 CDN players in the market.  Some are 100G customers, some are 10G customers.  There are large customers for us in-country in terms of our IP network for distribution.  That’s where we think we bring value to those folks; it’s not just in the transport but in the distribution to the eyeball networks in Brazil and other countries in Latin America.  We also serve traditional carriers. These often are fiber-pair owners or large capacity buyers.

The ISP community in Brazil is big opportunity for us.  There are thousands of them.  They don’t buy individually; they aggregate and buy in bulk.  We’ve tailored our IP product to be attractive to internationals going into Brazil in terms of distribution to the eyeball networks.  Plus, on the northern side of our network, we think we’re very well connected and perhaps better connected than most of the other IP providers in the wholesale space in Brazil.  We have multiple connections in the US, Europe and Asia to get those ISP customers in Brazil closer to the content they want to get to.  Even though some of them are small, they’re all highly sophisticated in terms of getting as close to content as they can.  The closer to the content, the better they look and the more customers they get.  We’ve designed our entire IP network around helping them do that.  

And then there are expansion opportunities.  We’re looking at northeastern Brazil right now at a project that’s well down the road of development for Seaborn.  We’re looking to use one of our seven branching units on Seabras-1 to go into Recife in northern Brazil to help open that market up.  Recife doesn’t have an international cable today, but it’s a wonderful aggregation point for northeast traffic and technology.  It’s just one of the opportunities that we’re really excited about.