3.2.1 Regional Capabilities
Reported information indicates ASN, SubCom and Global Marine Systems Limited (GMSL) own the largest portion of the global cable ship fleet. ASN owns 7 cable ships, while SubCom and GMSL own 7 each. Combined, these 3 companies account for nearly half of the global fleet. E-Marine owns the next most at 5 ships, followed by Orange with 4. ASEAN, NTT WEM and S.B. Submarine Systems all have 3 cable installation ships to their name. Elettra, International Telecom (IT) and Kokusai Cable Ship (KCS) own 2 each. While these numbers illustrate the part of the fleet that is exclusively owned and operated by each installer, they can also make use of “vessels of opportunity”. This allows for a high degree of flexibility to take on any type of project around the globe.
Many of these companies overlap in their regional capability. This provides comprehensive installation experience to the submarine fiber industry. With several companies being able to serve each region, a prospective cable owner can be sure that an experienced installer will be available regardless of their system’s timeline. This allows a cable owner a great deal of flexibility when planning their new system.
3.2.2 Current Installations
Figure 37 – Systems Installed by Company, 2015-2019
Based on announced systems installed for the period 2015-2019, ASN is shown to be the busiest overall by a significant margin. SubCom is the next busiest with Orange, GMSL and IT International Telecom not far behind with the rest of the companies being about equal in system activity. This compares well with regional capability, as those who can serve the most regions tend to be the busiest. However, the number of cable ships owned clearly does not correspond to the amount of system installations performed per company. (Figure 37)
3.2.3 Regional Activity
The amount of cable installed by region for the period 2015-2019 shows the Americas region as the busiest by far. Except for the Arctic region, all regions around the world saw a health amount of new cable added – owing largely to the industry success of 2017 and the continued momentum of 2018 and 2019. The Americas have benefitted from emerging markets in South America, the continued desire for more bandwidth and redundancy on the United States to Brazil route — especially when driven by demand from OTT providers — and the fact that it is one of the largest regions in the world. The Indian Ocean Pan-East Asian region has benefitted from multiple large systems put into place from 2017-2018.
The EMEA region has experienced a downward trend in recent years, as economic and political instability in the region have caused prospective cable owners to seek alternative routes – though it maintains a moderate level of growth. The Transpacific and Transatlantic regions overtake the EMEA region due to renewed interest for new routes and improving route diversity. Lastly, a new system was installed in the Arctic region for the first time in 2017. (Figure 38)
Figure 38 – KMS Installed by Region, 2015-2019
Projections for the next three years indicate a new trend differing from that of the previous five. The Transpacific region is expected to see the most activity by far, as several large systems are set to be installed throughout the region to connect major economic and data center hubs in the United States, East Asia and Southeast Asia. The Transatlantic, Indian Ocean, EMEA and AustralAsia regions will see moderate growth, as OTT providers and private companies continue to add infrastructure to these regions. The Americas region is expected to see a marked decrease in activity as it has been one of the busiest over the last couple years and has already received numerous new cable systems that likely meet the region’s need for the foreseeable future. There are early plans for new Polar systems, but they are the most uncertain – owing to the technical challenges and expenses incurred from dealing with ice. (Figure 39)
Figure 39 – Planned KMS by Region, 2020-2022