10 July 2017
| James Pearce
Eastern European carriers are facing a unique challenge. As the deployment of higher capacity subsea cables running from western Europe to Asia grows, the terrestrial carriers risk losing business.
Yet that is not reflected in demand, despite recent key
subsea deployments such as SEA-ME-WE-5 and AAE-1. Why? Because
eastern Europe is acting as a gateway for traffic travelling
from Europe to Asia and back, with terrestrial cables playing
as key a role in the development of the region as subsea
A panel expressed this view at Capacity Europe East event,
entitled "Connecting continents: what role do submarine and
terrestrial cables play in uniting European and Asian carrier
The panel looked at the importance of high capacity and low
latency transit routes connecting Europe and Asia in the
carrier market. Speakers included Türk Telekom
International CCO Stuart Evers, RETN managing director Daniel
Jasinski, Retelit chief sales and marketing officer Giuseppe
Sini, Colt VP of wholesale, Tim Passingham, and director of
international for Azertelecom, Sietse Lettinga.
Lettinga explained that in Eastern Europe, where a number of
countries are landlocked, the development of new terrestrial
cables, such as China’s Silk Road project, is
vital to ensuring redundancy and diversity. "If we look back
through history, there have been a number of natural disasters
that have led to subsea cables in Asia and Europe being cut,"
Lettinga told the audience in Dubrovnik.
"If that happens and your customers stop getting service
they’ve paid for, you will lose them. And those
natural disasters are going to happen again.
"We’re trying to build a network that runs
through Eastern Europe that will act as an alternative to the
subsea cables. It needs to run through as few countries as
possible, and needs to find the fastest ways to eyeballs. So
you need a lot of crossroads but both terrestrial cables will
play a big role, as will subsea cables."
His words were echoed by RETN’s Jasinski, who
said although terrestrial cables do not always compete directly
with subsea cables in terms of price, they offer a good
alternative option, especially on routes running through
"We see new subsea cables being developed every year and
that’s fine, but we also see a situation where we
expect more terrestrial cables to be deployed over the next few
years," he said. "It is more expensive, for sure, and it is
difficult to deliver but it is probably the best way to build
leverage with the sea cables in terms of growing business with
a safer solution."
Colt’s Passingham pointed to geopolitical
issues that can also lead to loss of service, such as trade
disputes or sanctions, meaning diversity of routes plays a key
role in service assurance. He used current the current
diplomatic in Qatar to illustrate his point. Countries in the
Middle-East, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates,
Bahrain, and Egypt, suddenly cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in
June, citing claiming the country was supporting terrorism.
"There’s obviously the natural disaster side
but there’s also a lot of things going on in the
world that means you must consider the geopolitical angle. Look
at what happened in Qatar recently," he said, referring to
Saudi Arabia and other Arab states cutting ties with Qatar.
"Those kinds of issues can have a big impact on the carrier
business if you have routes that pass those
Separately, Turkcell has said its $4.2 billion lawsuit
against MTN over a disputed licence in Iran is set to go to
trial in a court in South Africa.
AAE-1, a 25,000km cable running from South East Asia to
Europe across Egypt, was also discussed. It connects Hong Kong,
Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar,
India, Pakistan, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Yemen, Djibouti, Saudi
Arabia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, and France and went live in March
With a capacity of at least 40Tbps across 5 fibre pairs,
AAE-1 is designed from the outset with 100Gbps transmission
technology, which may be upgraded in the future to fulfil
increasing bandwidth demand. Configured with express routes and
the minimum number of hops between Points of Presence (PoPs) in
Europe and Asia, AAE-1 is the high performance, economic
solution for OTTs, international carrier and enterprise
Retelit is one of 17 companies involved in the AAE-1
consortium, with CSMO Giuseppe Sini involved in the panel. He
said take up of services on the new cable had been strong,
showing the growing demand for connectivity in the region. As
more traffic passes from Asia to Europe, and travels in the
opposite direction, this demand is only likely to grow. This
means offering diverse routes is ever more important.