In 2017, Crosslake Fibre has announced two new submarine fiber optic cable systems.  One, announced last spring, will cross Lake Ontario, connecting Buffalo and Toronto.  The second, announced in October, will link the NJFX facility located at the cable station in Wall, New Jersey, with 1025Connect in Westbury, New York, on Long Island. 

SubCableWorld recently had the opportunity to speak with Crosslake Fibre’s Chief Executive Officer, Mike Cunningham, regarding the company’s announcements and future plans for the two cable systems. 

SCW

First, could you please give us an overview of Crosslake Fibre and the company’s projects?

Cunningham:

We are submarine cable developers and have been in the business for a number of years on a number of projects.  With the Lake Ontario project, the principals of the company are based in Canada and we are excited to actually have a project in our backyard.  This is one that probably has been talked about for at least a decade, but it is a submarine system that really plays in the terrestrial market.  It has never been developed as a submarine system as it is not a typical build that a lot of people in the terrestrial market undertake.  So we established the company last year after doing the feasibility to determine whether the project is viable – market sizing, some desktop work, etc. – then we really began to develop it in earnest last fall and announced it publicly in May of this year and recently announced the marine survey.

The Crosslake Fibre entity itself is really a platform to do a number of these niche, smaller submarine cable builds.  The Lake Ontario project, which is the first one, will be RFS in September of next year.  And then we just announced the project from Wall, New Jersey, to Long Island at the end of October. 

SCW

Let’s talk about the Lake Ontario cable.  Are there any specific issues with building the cable in one of the Great Lakes that makes it substantially different from the oceanic installations that we’re used to.

Cunningham:

Every project has its unique aspects that have to be designed around.  With the Lake Ontario cable, these are the shore ends.  The shore ends, especially on the Canadian side, are in a heavily developed area and so we had to carefully design the landing itself.  We will be using Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) in order to minimize the impact on the shore and get around other infrastructure.  There are other benefits in terms of cable protection that come from doing HDD at the shore-end.  It’s an added benefit but the driver is really to minimize the impact of the build and the construction in Toronto. 

The lake is relatively shallow.  The deepest we go is 120 meters.  In some ways that presents unique requirements as far as the installation of the system is concerned because we are burying the system the entire length.  It’s a different set of marine resources that are able to access the Great Lakes and some of those technologies don’t have the capabilities to provide burial. It’s an interesting aspect to this one.

The lake bed is very conducive to burial so we’re lucky in that perspective.  We haven’t prescribed the method of burial yet but one of the challenges is that you’re not able to get traditional cable laying vessels onto the lake.  There are plenty of vessels that are smaller and can be modified for use, but that limits the potential vendors to some extent.  At the same time, the ability to do jetting with a tradition jet as opposed to an ROV jet is present as some vendors are only able to use a surface-powered jet down to 100 meters and we have a burial requirement deeper than that which would require a different resource.  These aren’t, by any means, problems that can’t be solved.  We just have to look at different vendors and solutions in order to construct the cable as we see fit.

SCW

What are factors driving the need for this cable?

Cunningham:

The core offering will be dark fiber.  There is a legacy with dark fiber due to foreign ownership restrictions and you can’t really find dark fiber in much of Canada.  So this is really a new route getting into Toronto where we provide an option for customers that require their own dark fiber.  The legacy of the foreign ownership restrictions, although those restrictions were lifted a few years ago, is that there aren’t a lot of carriers that provide dark fiber and those small ones that did were acquired by the larger carriers.  It is also good for us to make the route more attractive by making it a physically diverse route as well as having a shorter route. 

SCW

Tell us something about the Wall-to-Long Island cable?

Cunningham:

The build functions to provide a new physically diverse path between those two end points that avoids Manhattan and New York and that’s really a point of congestion.  So this will provide physical diversity that can back up one of the segments from the transatlantic cables from one point to the other.  You have a lot of transatlantic cables as well as cables from South America that come either to New Jersey or Long Island.  These are very, very high capacity systems and generally speaking, you want several routes that are physically diverse, so we are providing a physically diverse route and a route that has lower latency that can get to different points.  So if you’re landing in Long Island, it can be essentially a segment of a lower latency route from Long Island to the data centers, for example. 

It is also designed with fiber types that match the type of fiber that they’re using on the transoceanic cable so from a performance standpoint, when you have a long segment, you’re not going to see a performance hit due to changing to a terrestrial fiber type.  If you have a system that you’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on and you hit the shore end, the existing facilities generally are not the G.654 fibers used for long-distance, high-bandwidth applications.  What you don’t want to have is an instance where you have a 25-Terabit per fiber pair system and have that be impacted by the fact that on the tail end of it you’re using a different fiber type.  So the ability to pass through your SLTE without regeneration lowers the cost of ownership by being able to have the SLTE far away in the data center and by having G.654 in there you don’t have to forego performance. 

SCW

The ocean between northern New Jersey and Long Island is heavily utilized.  Do you foresee problems when building your cable through such a congested area of ocean?

Cunningham:

In that area, there are a lot more infrastructure and marine protected areas – shipping, fishing, that sort of thing.  But I think we have a good design whereby we were able to, partly by design and partly by luck, pick a route that is not impacted by a lot of it.  We don’t have to cross dozens of cables.  There are a few pieces of infrastructure that we’ll have to cross but they’re relatively minor considering how crowded the area is.  It’s in a busy area of the world but we’re relatively fortunate that we don’t cross paths with much of the infrastructure and we don’t have to go through marine protected areas for the most part.  We designed the route with all of these things in mind for the purpose of making it easier to permit.