19 March 2018
Netell, a Brazilian fibre firm, has seen demand for connectivity explode over its 16 years. James Pearce spoke to CEO Wagner Rapchan about links to international partners and the impact of OTTs
As more and more inter- national infrastructure has landed
in Brazil, demand for fibre services within the country has
continued to grow. The Latin American region is quickly
catching up with the rest of the world in terms of telecoms,
and it is Brazil that is leading the way.
Several new subsea cables connecting into the country have
been announced or have gone live over the last few years. 2017
saw Seabras-1 – which connects São Paulo to the
US – go live, for example.
One of the companies currently buying capacity on the
Seaborn Networks cable is local fibre provider Netell Telecom.
Wagner Rapchan, CEO at Netell, says: "We have a great working
relationship, as Seaborn and Netell share similar business
cultures as well as a commitment to customer service
excellence. Both companies have a clear vision for its
business and the future of the industry and it makes things
easier when we are partnering.
He adds: "Netell provides a diverse, dark fibre backhaul
solution from Seaborn’s cable landing station in
Praia Grande as well as a dark fibre, mesh network solution to
Seaborn’s points of presence in metro São
Paulo. Netell has also purchased a substantial amount of
capacity on Seabras-1, which it will use to serve its local,
regional and international carrier and enterprise customer
Launched in 2002 as an internet service provider, Netell
offers backbone services throughout Brazil. With more than 200
million people living in the country, it is not really
surprising that the demand for such services is on the
"We are a competitive, entrepreneurial organisation built to
serve our customers with seamless, high-performance
connectivity in and around São Paulo.Netell has evolved
into one of Brazil’s leading backbone network
providers. Our experience as an ISP has taught us the
importance of ensuring optimum end-user experience, and this
has shaped our approach towards servicing enterprises, network
operators and service providers without ever compromising on
So what are the main drivers behind the sudden burst of
subsea and fibre deployments? Rapchan points to three key
factors that he believes have seen demand increase to make it
the seventh largest internet user in the world, according to
Internet World Stats.
The first, he claims, is similar to many other global
markets – the demand for over-the-top (OTT) services
and social media, such as Facebook. According to
Facebook’s own figures, it had 111 million
subscribers in Brazil as of June 2017, making up 52.5% of the
"OTT players such as Netflix and Facebook are taking huge
amounts of capacity on these cable systems going into Brazil as
demand for their services grow," explains Rapchan.
"The OTTs are a key driver for more capacity coming into
Brazil. We’ve had one provider asking for 1Tbps of
capacity in Brazil just recently – it is a key factor
in the growth of services in the country."
I ask if this is in response to demand from users, and he
points to an example close to home to demonstrate how young
people’s content consumption habits are
influencing the marketplace.
"I spoke to my daughters about traditional broadcast TV
channels and they said they never watch them. The young people
in Brazil are very keen to use new technology and Netflix is
one of the key sources of TV services. It has huge penetration
in the country."
Another reason for the drive in investment is sheer need for
new, fresh infrastructure due to aged and creaking
connectivity. A number of the existing subsea cables that have
linked with North America will be approaching their twentieth
year in service before long. This means they need to be
replaced with newer, better infrastructure.
"The cables that are being deployed have begun to age. There
are some pretty old systems running, so we have a lot of new
cables coming in from the US. Cables from the US have
traditionally gone from Miami through Central America to
Fortaleza, then Rio, then São Paulo. The distance
between the points of presence in the US and Brazil meant you
needed some replication of the signal, but the new cables
include a straight path from the US to Brazil. The new cables
have better technology and this allows them to go further and
that reduces latency."
He also points to new transmission technology that allows
for better connectivity in the country that can help meet the
demand of subscribers.
Reaching 140 million
The jump in internet penetration is sharp. If we go back to
2000, two years before Rapchan founded Netell, there were
around five million internet users in the country according to
the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). That was just
2.9% penetration in a population of almost 170 million. Five
years later this had jumped to 14% penetration, and this has
continued to grow every year after. By 2008, ITU figures show
67 million people had internet access, and the figure is now
nearer 140 million a decade later.
Netell’s customer base includes financial
customers, enterprises, local providers and the international
community. "Today a range of customers entrusts Netell with
their bandwidth infrastructure require-ments: from financial
institutions requiring low-latency architecture through to
international network operators that need reliable network
infrastructure to deliver content seamlessly throughout
Brazil," Rapchan tells me. "For over a decade, we have grown
organically by assisting local and international enter-prises
and service providers with deploying the highest-quality access
He adds: "As demand for connectivity grows, we will always
continue to match performance with proactive support so as to
ensure the delivery of the best in quality of experience to all
of our customers."
It currently runs a fibre metro network that consists of
400km of its own fibre, 18,000km of national fibre partners and
over 40 points of presence across 10 Brazilian cities. It also
has over 40,000km of long-haul network across Brazil which
includes highly resilient bidirectional switched rings which
are geographically diverse, with the DWDM layer providing
optical channels at 1Gbps, 2.5Gbps, 10Gbps and 40Gbps.
It also has connections in data centres including Terremark,
UOL-Diveo, Locaweb, ALOG/Equinix, GBLX/Level 3.
Brazil is fast becoming a core transportation hub with new
subsea cables landing there. What opportunities does this
present for your company, I ask, and how do you plan to seize
"We are committed to helping our partners be successful and
delivering critical capacity that will support the growth of
the Brazilian market," he replies. "We own a unique solution
connecting the CLS directly to any data centre in São
Paulo with Express Routes. It means we are in the core of these
hub of connectivity between Brazil and other countries and
being a neutral boutique dark fibre-optic and
telecommunications solutions provider represents an assured
growth in the next years."
The likes of Seaborn, Facebook, Google, Telefónica,
Sparkle, China Unicom, Angola Cables and many others are all
investing, or have invested, in new subsea cable systems into
Brazil. So I ask what he wants from the new wave of
international partners that are entering the Brazilian
"We offer fibre infrastructure in cities across Brazil that
help our partners rapidly grow their reach in the country.
Companies from all over the world can benefit from our simple
business model with high quality, low latency networking. We
make it simple and easy to connect and be successful in local
markets across Brazil."
Last year, Netell announced the completion of the shortest
commercially available underground fibre network route between
Praia Grande and São Paulo. It also completed a metro
underground fibre ring, including new network paths to major
data centres in São Paulo and another metro ring
connecting the cable landing stations in Praia Grande.
I ask what to expect from Netell in the coming year, and
Rapchan points to fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) as a key element of
the carrier’s strategy.
"We now have a network footprint covering more than 26
cities and several enterprise campuses throughout the state,"
he explains. "We now are focusing on the rapid growth of the
FTTH business in these locations through our other companies
under Netell Group," he says.
"We already have the fibre infrastructure and the IP that
would be necessary to speed up our growth in the next decade."
With the rise in demand for internet services continuing in
Brazil, you wouldn’t bet against it.