7 QUESTIONS WITH LAURIE MILLER
Talking Technology Trends With Southern Cross’s President and Chief Executive Officer
As published in the May Issue of SubTel Forum Magazine
May 17, 2022
What is Southern Cross’s mission?
Southern Cross’s mission is to “Enable connectivity and support social development across the region through high quality products and solutions that people can depend on”.
Incumbent in that is the typical things that you would hope a modern socially aware organization tries to achieve. We want to be a pro-active, supportive and fundamentally awesome employer. We have a very small team as companies go, and as such our people and relationships are critical, and so our support and growth of those people and relationships is our number one priority.
We aim to be aware and responsible with regards to community and environment, and our affects upon it, with a view of making long lasting positive contributions.
From a customer and industry viewpoint we aim to be recognized as the submarine cable operator of choice in the Trans-Pacific region with performance and innovation that others strive to emulate, committed to the development and support of broadband in the regions we operate in.
In practice this means that Southern Cross strives to have a positive impact on customers, our team, society and to be great financial stewards for our shareholders.
How does Southern Cross participate in the submarine cable market?
Southern Cross as a company has been operating for over 20 years, and with our new Southern Cross NEXT system (NEXT) will operate a meshed network ‘eco-system’ comprising three cables connecting Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii the United States West Coast and also Fiji, Tokelau and Kiribati. In total, the Southern Cross eco-system is almost 45,000km in length and has an aggregate design capacity of circa 100 Tbps.
Customers are currently able to access the Southern Cross eco-system from Points of Presence in Sydney, Los Angeles, San Jose, Palo Alto, Seattle and sites in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
Besides operating cable systems, we also positively engage and support the submarine cable industry and participants, through various other technical activities and engagement in industry bodies such as ICPC, OSCA, SubOptic, PTC and many more as well as business and community engagement support, marketing and business support to customers, and so on.
Is Southern Cross currently involved with many new submarine cable projects?
Southern Cross is currently finishing construction of our new Southern Cross NEXT cable. NEXT is a new 15,500km, four fibre pair, submarine cable system connecting Sydney to Los Angeles, with branches to New Zealand, Fiji, Tokelau and Kiribati. Commissioning of the optical paths is happening currently, with Southern Cross NEXT scheduled to launch on 7 July 2022.
Besides NEXT, and running our own two existing cables, we also provide various services to the TUI-Samoa, JGA-South, Gondwana and Indigo cable systems. Our landing in Fiji has also become an increasingly important pacific hubbing point, with connectivity to the Vanuatu, Tonga and Samoa cables, along with the new Gondwana-2 cable also due for completion in the near future.
What makes Southern Cross unique in the submarine system market?
Southern Cross is unique in the international submarine capacity market as we are a stand-alone entity providing us the opportunity to operate as an independent, agile and innovative company, but also coupled with the fact that our shareholders are large financially secure companies with their own inherent underlying demand for capacity.
This provides our customers with the independence and flexibility that they require from a provider, while also giving confidence in our viability as a long-term service provider and solutions partner.
What are the elements of Southern Cross’s success?
Southern Cross has established its reputation over the last 20 years based on its people, and our strong focus on relationships, both with our customers and with the wider industry. As mentioned earlier, our team in quite small, but also very experienced whether it be in technical fields, finance or marketing … and it is this depth of experience and relationship with our relevant industry counterparts and customers that has enabled Southern Cross’ success over the years.
While the team has deep experience we are also very aware that we cannot do it alone. The Southern Cross NEXT project is a great example, where besides our own people we are also dependent on the considerable experience and support of our partners such as ASN, Ciena, Pioneer, Axiom, and DXN as well as that of the landing parties, government officials and even communities as a team to enable the project to particularly in the unforeseen times over the last couple of years.
Again, a great testament to the Island communities that are part of the NEXT project and our relationships with them, could be seen in that many families chose to make home cooked meals for our people who were on island doing installation, in support and appreciation of their efforts. A seemingly simple thing, but one that came from a caring place and made a tough experience for our people who were away from home during COVID, having to undertake multiple quarantine periods, very much not only bearable but an enjoyable and memorable adventure.
As sustainability has become a hot button issue in our industry, what are Southern Cross’s plans for sustainable operation for the next 5 years?
As you say, sustainability has become a hot topic and I don’t think any company can simply ignore the impacts that they have on the environment and world at large. As an industry we face many challenges as some aspects remain out of a providers (such as Southern Cross’) direct control but will eventually be changed through work as an industry over time.
More specifically though for Southern Cross, we have involved our leadership team working with environmental advisors to examine all of our business to identify key areas to reduce our carbon impact and are aiming to be carbon neutral with respect to our direct impacts within the next 5 years. Through our involvement in many of the industry groups mentioned earlier we are also seeking to have a positive influence through industry change.
Southern Cross is also very aware of the significance of our role as an enabler for many other organisations to achieve their own sustainability goals. By operating efficiently, minimising outages and providing a consistent quality of service, we can support our customers, and their customers, to operate in a sustainable manner. We have initiated a process of biannual carbon footprint assessments to track our goals on carbon reduction initiatives, as well as a process of annual supplier surveys with respect to their initiatives and alignment with our Code of Ethics.
Southern Cross has also adopted several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) to ensure we are leaving the planet a better place for next generations, and recently won a PTC Award for our efforts in the Pacific.
What is next for Southern Cross?
Southern Cross NEXT cable system is ready for launch 7 July 2022. While the immediate focus is to embed the NEXT cable system within the Southern Cross eco-system, Southern Cross is actively evaluating opportunities to further develop the eco-system, business and support the growing and changing needs of our customers and the industry as part of our Vision 2031 strategy. Our strategy also includes plans to replace the other side of our system within the coming years.
We always must have an eye looking over the horizon to remain relevant and meet the insatiable demand for capacity. We will continue to evaluate opportunities that fit with our mission and provide our customers with solutions and capacity on routes that are relevant and make sense for our business.
Southern Cross has always been a niche player that has served its customers by delivering a highly reliable and often protected service. As customer needs and route requirements change, along with factors such as high fibre count cables, meshed networks and exponential capacity growth we continue to look at how we can provide new and better services and routes that meet these changing needs. All I can say is watch this space, as “NEXT is NOW”, we have actively started to look at “What’s NEXT?”.
Laurie Miller was appointed to the position of President and Chief Executive Officer for Southern Cross Cable Network in February 2019.
Prior to his role as President and CEO of Southern Cross, Laurie held key roles as Head of Wholesale and Interconnect in 2degrees Limited and as President and Country Manager in Sparks’ US operation Telecom New Zealand USA Limited. Laurie has an extensive background in management and sales and over a 27-year career in the International Telecommunications Industry starting with Telecom New Zealand in 1991.