NxtVn boss promotes subsea mesh network to cover Mediterranean

27 June 2018

Khaled Sedrak of NxtVn believes new subsea fibres across the Med will help to build a highly resilient network linking cities on all coasts. He explains his idea to Alan Burkitt-Gray

Khaled Naguib 400x600The head of data centre company NxtVn is trying to coordinate a move by Mediterranean subsea operators to build a mesh network of cables across the sea between southern Europe, north Africa and the Middle East.

Khaled Sedrak, chairman and CEO of the Amsterdam-based company, says he has the support of ministers and the mayors of major coastal cities that are existing landing sites or could provide new landing stations.

He’s calling the initiative the NxtVn Open Mediterranean Mesh (NOMM), he told me at the Datacloud Europe conference in Monaco in mid-June. "This is a concept. No one is laying the cables tomorrow," he warned.

There are already many cables running west to east along the Mediterranean – typically from Marseille or Palermo to Alexandria, from which they head to the Indian Ocean and then both Africa and Asia. But with some extra links, the existing cables can be expanded into a resilient mesh network, he suggests. 

He was speaking to Capacity at the BroadGroup’s Datacloud Europe event in Monaco in mid-June, where he was a panellist. BroadGroup is part-owned by the Euromoney events, publishing and information group, which owns Capacity. 

He says he is taking "a supportive role", with technical, regulatory, commercial and procurement teams on the project. So far there is no corporate representation of the NOMM initiative. "Once interest reaches a certain level, we can then set up a company. We want to be a catalyst, but we don’t want to operate cables."

But if the initiative works it will help to provide more commercial opportunities for NxtVn’s existing and planned data centres, he says. "The more connectivity there is between any two cities, the more freedom of [data] movement," he adds. "The more movement, the more connectivity and the more open access there is, that is the better for us."

Which places is he looking at? Sedrak lists a number of cities from the western end of the Mediterranean to the east, including Barcelona and Marseille in Spain and France as well as places on the coast of Morocco and Algeria. 

At the other end of the Mediterranean he has a map showing Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and other coastal countries that would benefit from enhanced connectivity. 

"NxtVn’s idea is that subsea cables should be treated as a commodity. We would want to operate them on a cost-plus basis. Infrastructure should be built transparently." 

He wants costs to be shared so that companies that use the cables would pay a fair price. "No games," he smiles. "Companies would pay just a fraction of the cost – just a percentage."

His vision of a mesh network covering the Mediterranean would mean customers would have greater resilience. With costs being driven "not by profitability but sustainability", he says, operators would be encouraged to innovate on services.

He is busy collecting support from cities and countries, he says, eager to be "a flag carrier for each cable". 

He and his supporters are also looking at new routes, including Tunis to Alexandria and Valencia to Barcelona and Marseille, that would enhance the existing infrastructure. "We believe they will be new digital ports" where cables would land, but they would also bring in terrestrial infrastructure and data centres." 

But they would also offer competition to existing subsea operators, he notes. "NxtVn wants to make sure not too much of the power is concentrated at infrastructure level. It’s a new digital divide." More cities need connectivity and can be home to data centres, he says.

He reels off a list of coastal cities whose mayors he says he has talked to or countries whose ministers of telecoms he has the personal number for – "That’s the number they answer; don’t use the other, they never answer that," he says of one to a colleague at Datacloud Europe. 

Unfortunately the financial sector still harbours bad memories of subsea cables from the dotcom era, he warns. 

A mesh would allow new commercial opportunities for carriers, content companies and data centre operators – with data on one side of the Medi-terranean backed up at a city on the opposite coast, he suggests. 

He compares landing stations to the conventional ports that have been at the heart of the Mediterranean’s economy for thousands of years. "A very efficient port is good for us but is also good for the whole ecosystem." NxtVn will not lay claim to exclusivity for access to data centres, he insists. "If you want to build your own data centre, then fine, fair and well. It will be good for the whole community." 

Topics: NxtVn, Capacity media, wholesale telecoms, telco news