02 February 2018
| Natalie Bannerman
Capacity talks with president of C&W Networks Paul Scott on the presence of OTTs in the subsea cable market, the death of the cable landing station and the company roadmap for 2018.
2017 was an exciting year for
C&W Networks. While on the one hand it has won numerous awards for its performance and
innovation in the pan-Caribbean region, it was also affected by
the hurricanes that hit the area as well as the changes to the
landscape of the wholesale telecoms sector. Capacity
spoke to Paul Scott, president of C&W Networks on some of
the biggest developments over the last 12 months and where, in
his opinion, the industry is going.
Back in August 2017, C&W announced the success of its pre-5G
trials in Antigua. While the current phase of testing
reaches speeds of 800Mbps, the second phase of the trial will
use a 5G prototype to reach between 2 and 5 Gbps in speeds.
Once deployed Antigua will become the first country in the
Caribbean on this advanced pre-5G network.
"That was a successful trial we were delighted to conduct in
Antigua, one of the many islands we’re proud to
serve," says Scott. "The trial was performed in conjunction
with our technology partner Ericsson and further reinforces our
commitment to the region. We’re continually
looking at how we can improve our service capability to the
consumers who buy our services. Our willingness to invest in
next-gen technology whether fixed line, wireless and subsea, is
illustrative of our commitment to advancing the region.
In the aftermath of the 2017 storms that swept across the US
and Caribbean, C&W Networks was one of the first telcos to
launch relief efforts and offer financial aid to those in the
region through is Cable & Wireless Charitable Foundation.
But why were they so quick to act?
"Well it’s a 154 year history (give or take) in
the region and we feel we have a real sense of duty and purpose
to serve and advance the region," explains Scott.
"Our subsea network was not impacted, services remained up
during the storm but we, like many did suffer damage where we
had exposed aerial terrestrial networks. In Dominica, BVI,
Anguilla, Turks & Caicos and certainly our brethren in
Puerto Rico (Liberty Cable Puerto Rico, part of the Liberty
Latam group assets) were hit very hard. So across those
impacted islands we feel a sense of duty."
Though he’s quick to add that charity is not
something reactionary for C&W, explaining:
"We’ve had charitable organisations on these
islands way before the hurricanes hit, this brought it onto
another level though our new foundation we established,
Cable & Wireless Charitable Foundation.
We’re really proud and pleased with what
we’ve achieved with this foundation,
we’ve raised a million dollars and climbing. And
most importantly our partners stepped up in a time of need. So
employees, myself, technology partners, the entire company, we
all contributed. The foundation will long survive this post
hurricane, as will the "on island" foundations."
With the increasing investment in internet connectivity,
much of the conversation stays within the central western
geographical area but how does that region differ in terms of
data needs to that of emerging markets?
"The driver of international subsea capacity is with people
and organizations increasingly subscribing to high and higher
speed local broadband services," clarifies Scott.
"In mobile data packages or fixed line broadband, Western
Europe and North America are fairly well developed, although
still growing on an annualized basis. But in these emerging
markets we still have some step change in growth going on as
old copper networks convert to more advanced technologies like
fibre-to-the-home. That’s a step change event in
how much broadband capacity can be offered, purchased and
powered by the subsea networks," says Scott.
"So I think the onward growth in the years ahead, as these
mobile and fixed networks serving our region/footprint further
develop, we’re going to see continued year-on-year
demand for subsea capacity. We believe we’ve made
the investments in network architecture capability to serve the
region for the long term. With ongoing advancements in
optronics and continued further investments in network, we feel
that we have enormous run way and head room to meet that
During the inaugural Subsea Connect Americas conference
Scott sat on a panel discussing the opportunities of the subsea
cable industry where he commented that
carriers wouldn’t be ploughing capital into legacy
systems if they didn’t think it still had life in
them. Adding: "I just don’t see those systems
going out of service anytime soon."
Questioning him on his comments he elaborated on exactly
what he meant and the difference in types of legacy cables.
"Well firstly there’s mid-nineties vintage,
which generally aren’t used anywhere near as much
as systems from 1997 onwards. We are a very small consortium
owner of those mid-nineties systems, but from 2000 on,
we’ve added a variety of new systems 2005, 2007,
2009, 2015 which clearly can hardly be considered old systems.
So if you look at the overall composite group of our assets,
those really old ones are probably seeing less investment and
are probably at a higher risk of being retired. But we are
absolutely investing in those systems from 1997 onwards, and in
point of fact, we there is growing support to further extend
the life of these systems for ten more years, thus extending
its original life of 25 years to 35 years."
"Given that the systems are still perfectly fine and able to
support the region’s growth. Advancements in
optronics are enabling untold additional throughput on those
networks. Smart operators like AT&T for example would say
why wouldn’t we continue to utilise that sunk
cost, that still works perfectly fine and still has plenty of
life left in it. That’s not to say we
wouldn’t look to invest in new systems,
there’s just plenty of headroom in existing ones,"
With the announcement of the Facebook and
Amazon consortium led Jupiter cable, we asked Scott his
the increase of OTT (over the top) investing the subsea cable
market and the effect is has had on the industry.
"Certainly on a global stage it is impacting it,
particularly with the intensification of their participation in
and investment in subsea cables is remarkable. To date
they’re following more of the traditional
engineering profile of the subsea cable. I’d wait
for the day they’d bring that DNA of theirs which
is of a disruptive nature, challenging why this way –
why not that way? I don’t believe
we’ve seen the impact of that yet. We certainly
haven’t seen OTT’s invest on the
Caribbean with subsea cable yet," says Scott.
"Do I think globally it’s a good thing? Yes.
It’s driving new high capacity global networks
traversing the planet," he adds
But as with other investment in connectivity the majority of
the interest from OTT is in developed markets instead of
emerging ones. Will they eventually get there and why
haven’t they already?
"I think quite simply the eyeballs on other continents and
other parts of the world are so huge that first they are
preoccupied with that. Notwithstanding the fact that
there’s several hundred million people in the
Americas region, but I think we’ll have to wait
and see," says a hopeful Scott.
Another big discussion that was at the forefront of the
conference was cable projects forgoing the cable landing
station and connecting directly into the data centre. To read
the full feature please
Scott however, see it only as a good thing depending on your
"I think in developed countries, there’s a
greater density of data centres, to even consider that but
let’s face it in some of the emerging markets
there’s not an abundance of ready to go data
centres sitting in an appropriate location suitable to land a
cable in," he explains. "In fact to the contrary, so I
don’t think it’s either or,
it’s what does the landscape look like at a given
country and what can I avail myself of if there’s
a hardened world class data centre that’s not too
far from the beach, that could be interesting."
Though the majority of this time in his region, Scott says a
modest cable landing station is the way to go.
"But more often than not I think, one has to look at purpose
built cable landing stations or terminal point that might just
be a modest facility that’s carrier grade, bullet
proof but then seamlessly connects onto that data centre which
might then hub a bunch of activity. So the day to day activity
in that modest but hardened cable landing station, is low
intensity, low foot traffic but might be high foot traffic,
high cross connect, high bi-lateral commerce taking place over
here and it seamlessly gets onto the onramp and goes where it
needs to go."
"I think combinations of that is the reality and
practicality that’s there’s not a
bunch of data centres to pick and choose from in emerging
markets in the areas we play in. We have a bunch of data
centres of our own, which are multi use facilities it just all
depends," answers Scott.
As we enter into 2018, Scott is firmly at the helm of
C&W ship, doubling down on the successes it has achieved
over the last year and its eyes set on growth.
"Well we’re particularly proud of the fact that
we’ve won five consecutive best carrier awards. We
just one the most innovative MEF service award, I think that
peer industry recognition speaks volumes about our commitment
to the region, to not sit back, and not sit idle but
continually push the envelope on how to be better, and deliver
more value added service and figure out how to better serve the
region from the citizens to the global carriers who need to
move data around the region," boasts Scott.
"That is in our DNA – to continuously push the
envelope, do better, and provide more. We don’t
always get it right but I think we can say with great pride
that we’re always looking forward we
don’t sit idle. We often look about where we can
extend the network, it’s ongoing.
News recently broke that C&W
has been spun off into Liberty Global’s Latin
America division, called Liberty Latin America. Speaking
exclusively to Capacity on the announcement, Scott is
keen to reassure us that its business as usual for C&W:
"Liberty Global’s split-off of its Latin America
operations known as LiLAC into a new independent operation
called Liberty Latin America will not affect the operations of
Cable & Wireless Communications (C&W)."
Adding that the new division will create a number of
benefits for the company and its customers.
"The split-off will allow the new company to have access to
the capital and resources necessary to achieve superior
financial and strategic growth," explained Scott. "Also, it
will be able to bring more world-class technology, innovation
and scale to the operations, expand network coverage, and
deploy exciting new service offerings to residential and
business customers across the region."
As we look to the future, Scott seems optimistic about the
change and says that his plan for the company as part of this
new entity is to leverage new technologies and continue to
scale the company.
"Latin America has a huge potential for broadband,
connectivity and services which are underpenetrated," continued
Scott. "The new company expects to take advantage of organic
and inorganic opportunities for growth across the region. So
what’s the plan? The plan is growth."