SubOptic 2019 Opening Ceremony and Keynote

SubOptic 2019 kicked off this morning with opening remarks from Stuart Barnes, Kimberly LaGrue, Yves Ruggeri, Ian Clarke, and Gary Smith.SubOptic 2019 Blog
April 9, 2019

The sound of jazz trumpet hung in the air as the assembled members of the submarine telecoms industry found their seats for the opening ceremony of SubOptic 2019, themed “To the Beach and Beyond, Rethinking Global Networks.”

“This is not a conference. This is your conference,” said Stuart Barns, chairman of Xtera, and MC of the ceremony, in his opening remarks. He went on that this event is one where you get out what you put in and expressed his surprise in attendance on Monday’s opening events.

“Yesterday was unprecedented in terms of attendance,” Barns said. “It was standing room only.” In previous years, he explained, Monday has averaged only half of attendees that would come to the rest of the conference.

The ceremony continued as Barns passed the mic to Yves Ruggeri, president of the SubOptic Association.

Ruggeri, seasoned member of the industry with more than 30 years in the field, took the opportunity to welcome the new members of the SubOptic Association Executive Committee.

SubOptic, held in Dubai in 2016, celebrated its 30th anniversary and for the first time was held in the Middle East, a still-growing market in the industry. Holding the following conference in the United States held its own significance, said Ruggeri.

“By brining the conference here, to New Orleans, we’re keeping up a tradition of visiting a different city each SubOptic. He encouraged attendees to not only enjoy the conference’s official content, but to go out and explore the music, food, architecture, and other culture of this historical city, celebrating its tricentennial this year.

Following Ruggeri was Kimberly LaGrue, Chief Information Officer of New Orleans, here to speak on behalf of the mayor’s office.

“We’re all thankful that SubOptic decided to bring [the conference] to New Orleans,” LaGrue said. “We’re excited to connect with all the industries represented here.”

LaGrue explained that as a city below sea level and a port city itself, New Orleans truly understands the importance of living with water, and the infrastructure necessary to make that happen. Especially in tele communications.

“It’s a critical effort for New Orleans,” LaGrue said. According to her, the city has passed legislature to improve infrastructure and earmarked 322 million for smart city investment, including 5G.

LaGrue invited all present to consider supporting NOLA’s new initiative when considering future business. “We encourage you to consider us a channel to grown,” LaGrue said.

Stuart again took the stage to introduce Ian Clarke, Vice President of Global Submarine Solutions of Ciena, host of SubOptic 2019, who would introduce the key note speaker, Gary Smith, president and CEO of Ciena.

“It’s an interesting fact that we’re the first host that is not a marine supplier,” Clarke said, adding that this only served to highlight the ongoing changes in the industry, which was revealed to be a key theme of Smith’s speech.

The “Digital Revolution” is the forefront of Smith’s keynote speech as he takes the stage.

“Everyday we’re in it,” he said. “Every day we experience it.” This current technological upheaval, which has defined the zeitgeist o the modern age, was enabled by this industry, Smith pointed out. And it has created no small amount of disruption.

“You look at how fast this thing has happened,” he said.

Roughly two million years ago, explained Smith, humans developed stone technology. About a million years later, we learned to manipulate fire. Following that, the technological developments took extended periods to come, while getting incrementally shorter, relatively speaking.

“Then we get this thing called computing,” Smith said. “Since then things have moved somewhat quickly. The take away is just the rapid amount of change the world has had to absorb is just unparalleled… We need to be mindful about the rapid rate of change that it’s causing.”

Among the macro trends we see as a result of this explosion in technology, Smith said, are the digitalization of methodology, the economic shift of power back to Asia, and the new push of populations to urbanize.

These three aspects have enabled a shocking level of connectivity in recent years. “We’ve connected 75 percent of the planet,” said Smith. “That’s a staggering achievement in a relatively short amount of time.”

In fact, this move toward digitalization will enable an upcoming election in India to have an amazing 10 percent of the world’s population to vote for their candidate, Smith pointed out.

“It’s a pretty staggering statistic isn’t it?”

While many are waiting for this demand for greater and greater amounts of connectivity and bandwidth, Smith said he doesn’t see it ending.

“This pace of disruption, it’s really tough to imagine it not getting faster,” he said.

In fact, over the next three years, he said, forecasts expect to reach an amazing 95 percent world connectivity. “We have this connectivity platform. What do we do with it?”

“I think the takeaway from this… we’re only just beginning,” Smith said, “we’re only just beginning. We haven’t piled the stuff on top yet.”

There are only more new technologies down the line that will require more connectivity. “You look at all the dimensions we’re dealing with,” Smith said, “5G, connective cares… [demand has] never been greater. It just hasn’t.”

In his closing words, Smith reminds the industry members to embrace the disruption. To stay agile in the face of continual change and keep their own business models with the times.

“Despite all we’ve done… we’re only just beginning,” he said.