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