Welcome, once again, to the annual gathering of engineers, program managers, executives and the myriad other professionals that comprise the Pacific communications industry — PTC ’16. For the conference’s first session, seven submarine fiber industry specialists will be participating in a workshop addressing the state of submarine cable infrastructure and its future.
Submarine fiber criss-crosses our world’s oceans in a spider’s web of data traffic, comprising the bulk of international communication — 98 percent. Requirements and technology continue to change, however, and an active industry continues to be critical to meeting demand.
For this opening workshop, “Waves of Change,” seven presenters representing various corners and skill-sets of the industry are weighing in on the regional issues. Presenters are Wayne Nielsen from WFNStrategies, speaking on the Americas, Atlantic and Europe; Shota Masuda of NEC, on Asia Pacific; Byron Clatterbuck from SEACOM, on India, Middle East and Africa; Joel Ogren from Ocean Networks, inc., speaking on Latin America and Caribbean; Dean Veverka of Southern Cross Cable Network, on cable operations and maintenance, and cable ship issues; Kent Bressie from the law firm Harris, Wiltshire, Grannis LLP, speaking on regulatory issues; and John Mariano of The David Ross Group, inc., presenting “Think Smart:” Science Monitoring and Reliable Telecommunications.
The workshop is moderated by Paul McCann, managing director of McCann Consulting International.
The workshop opened with Wayne Nielsen.
“I’m going to talk a little bit about the Trans Atlantic world… Looking at the Trans Atlantic, at the moment we have 11 current systems … we have our first new cables in about 12 years … We also have a new push for low latency”
He began with a short breakdown of the recent history of the industry in the area. There were a number of new systems from 1999 to 2002, then nothing new for a long time. There were a number of new upgrades however.
In recent years, however, growth has picked up. In a recent article in Subtel Forum, new data showed that a number of cables are now available.
“By brining these systems in, we’re looking at a new southern connectivity.”
Potential systems show a possibly positive future for the area, but there are concerns, including sustainability of business in the area due to drop in oil prices, effecting the global economy.
The conversation was taken up by Byron Clatterbuck.
“The common theme … all the traffic flow went to Europe to get content,” referring to Africa, India and the Middle East.
“Markets in these regions have seen a varying degree of liberalization and competition, often with only one incumbent being the “gate keeper,” according to his slide presentation.
Clatterbuck raises the question on is there a need for two new cables that have similar landing points in the area, both of which are due to be RFS in the near future.
G2A, Dare, O2C, Liquid Sea, Australia West Express are upcoming cables planned for East Africa.
“West Africa, we’re sing a couple things happening there”
Clatterbuck comments on the more than 15 planned Africa cables.
“Some of them will materialize and some of them will not. Some of them don’t make much sense, economically.”
“Announcement for new cables will continue as players position themselves in the market. Not all will materialize and consolidation of projects is likely.”
Shota Masuda takes over to talk on the Asia Pacific region.
“Most of the cables are 15 years old … In the very near future we will be needing new cables between Japan and U.S. and between China and U.S.”
Also looking at new cables from New Zealand and Australia to the U.S. His presentation includes eight possible new projects, which are only part of the announced projects.
“These underserved makers [in inter-Asia] need connectivity.”
“The Pacific Islands, usually, are now served by satellite or by one specific cable.”
Islands have lower capacity needs, but need broadband global connectivity. This can be served by hooking up to existing cable networks.
Finished with talking about permitting.
“Every country has its own different procedure and we have to know what those procedures are.”
He suggests that Purchasers begin the permitting process early.
“Everyone must know that sovereignty and geo-politics can stop a cable from happening.” Doing the leg work in the planning faze is important.
Next up is Joel Ogren, speaking on Latin America and the Caribbean. He focussed on what is driving investment and development in the region, which is similar to the growth in Africa.
Part of the driving force is the tourism in the area.
“The Latin America area is probably the greatest development in the 4G area in the world.”
The growth can be attributed to mobile devices, data center growth, consumer demand, wire/wireless comms, however overall economic growth projections have been downgraded down to 0.f percent in 2015, which may hurt growth.
“Economies across the board are actually on a downturn right now.”
Good news is the vast majority of investment is in telecoms, but general investment and the economy is down.
New systems in the last few years include AMX-1, PCCS. There are six large systems planned over the this and next year.
Next two years will see the completion of several new “Greenfield” cables that will allow direct connection to both Asia, Oceana, Europe and Africa.
“The wireless development trend is increasingly effecting development. I think the focus in this particular region in the future will be based on the development of systems.”
Kent Bressie takes the podium to speak on regulatory development. Much of it focuses on the U.S., because U.S. landings are still an important part of the infrastructure and in part serves as a leader in regulatory issues.
Began with media reports that Russian submarines had been reconnoitering U.S. cables, which may have been meant to jumpstart a government cable protection group.
“I think we’re going to see more stringent security reviews.”
Team Telecom continue to review applications for new licenses and merger consents where submarine cables either connect beyond the U.S. or have material foreign ownership.
Team telecoms has increased the number of site inspections for the submarine cable operators subject to security mitigations — including visits to non-U.S. landing sites.
Also increasingly focused on compliance with the U.S. digital wiretap law.
Bressie turned his focus to FCC proposals for outage reporting.
Most industry interests have called for significant medication of the FCC’s proposals prior to any implementation as well as an ample transition period.
“There’s a lot of concern about the mechanics of this with consortium systems. The FCC, if it had its way, would adopt this in the summer of 2016.”
There has been a decrease in 2015 for FCC’s annual regulatory fees, but it’s uncertain is there will be further decreases.
“I think it’s likely we see a drop in regulatory fees in the future.”
Dean Viverka turns the conversation to cable operations and maintenance.
His presentation covers two parts: Southern Cross and ICPC.
“Southern Cross has been doing updates for all its 15 years existence. We’ve now added the first 200gbps wavelengths.”
When upgrading, Viverka explains, there is a checklist that should be followed to get the necessary upgrades: Define Requirements, Tender and Evaluation, Operational Impact and Risk Assessment, Sofware Upgrades, Hardware Upgrades, Systems Integrations, Staff Training, and Testing Equipment.
From the ICPC perspective, Viverka turns attention to zone maintenance.
There are three traditions of zone maintenance. Zone agreements is one of the lowest cost, where is a contractual agreement between companies. Another is the Private Maintenance agreement, which includes a private contract for a system with a maintenance provider. Lowest Cost and highest risk is to not have an agreement with a maintenance provider, meaning no up-front cost, but may cause problems if there’s an issue with the system that needs fixing.
Viverka turns the presentation to an explanation of the International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC) and the work it does to protect systems internationally. Information can be found here.
The final presentation is by John Mariano of The David Ross Group, inc., presenting “Think Smart:” Science Monitoring and Reliable Telecommunications. The program SMART is to cooperate with the science community and the commercial telecoms industry to implement a more global subsea environment sensor system.
The sensors are already used all over the globe, but would add cost to systems if added to cables.
“Of course there’s skepticism and focus on reliability.”
The project has already had U.S. approval and an endorsement by NASA. The program would achieve climate change data, sea level data, seasonal variation, instantaneous tidal data and instantaneous tsunami warnings.
“We are in a position, together, to achieve an early warning system.”
It would be applied to most scientifically significant cable routes.
“We really need this industry’s support.”