ANALYSIS: Rivalling subsea players eye growth

ANALYSIS: Rivalling subsea players eye growth

Two fibre providers have told Capacity they are targeting enhancements to their respective networks after dipping into the UK to Ireland subsea market.

UK-based Geo Networks launched its dedicated fibre-optic ring between the two countries at the end of 2012, adding to the Sea Fibre Networks-owned CeltixConnect cable that went live at the beginning of last year.

Since launching CeltixConnect, Sea Fibre has extended the reach of its network to Manchester, London and to the AMS-IX internet exchange in Amsterdam, through agreements with service providers.

This year the company received Code Powers from regulator Ofcom allowing it to roll out fibre networks in the UK and more easily connect its customer’s backbones to its network.

Sea Fibre is now looking to construct its own ring through a new southern subsea route linking from Cork, Ireland to the major Atlantic cable landing point in Bude, UK and on to the Lannion area of France.

Diane Hodnett, CEO of Sea Fibre Networks, told Capacity that the public consultation for the marine survey in Cork had recently been completed and the company can now commence the survey to identify if it has chosen the correct landing site.

When construction begins Sea Fibre plans to work in parallel with partners in the UK, Ireland and France to deploy terrestrial routes from the landing sites on to London, Dublin and Paris.

“What we are doing is connecting Ireland with two major circles, making it one of the best connected countries in the world, with the most modern cable systems, by late 2014,” said Hodnett.

Hodnett sees CeltixConnect as phase one of a much bigger business plan and revealed that the company is now also looking at projects in other areas of the world. She expects further development of those towards the end of 2013.

After Geo Networks' first experience of the subsea cable industry, the company’s CEO, Chris Smedley, has also not ruled out future additions to his company’s network.

“We’ve certainly built up a really useful set of skills and knowledge inside the business about how this is done and if the right case presented itself we would definitely be interested.”

Based on Geo’s criteria for the UK to Ireland cable project he believes there are other attractive ICT locations with existing networks that are struggling to fulfil demand for capacity at the right price points.

“Obvious markets to look at are places like Amsterdam and even Iceland, and some of the Scandinavian countries that are being invested in right now could be of real interest,” he said.

Irish attraction

The bustling Dublin IT and data centre market attracted both companies to invest in their cable projects. The telecoms market in the city was previously starved for investment when considering there were no route additions for 11 years.

Demand is being driven by large American firms like Google and Amazon, which have set up operations in Ireland due to the country’s low corporation tax.

“It’s not just about the people in those data centres but they are definitely the biggest part of our plans, to connect them up and then bring them back through the UK and then onwards into Europe,” Smedley told Capacity.

Hodnett said the launch of Geo’s cable route so soon after CeltixConnect was natural as the other existing systems continue to reach the end of their service life.

“I doubt it is going to massively affect pricing because I don’t believe either we or Geo are in this to try and sell capacity as quickly as possible. This is a very slow burn and one that was never targeted to give a return any sooner than a six- to eight-year term.”

Both Geo’s East-West system and CeltixConnect take similar paths, linking from the Welsh government owned Fibrespeed network, built and managed by Geo, across the sea to Dublin. Sea Fibre is also selling a comparable proposition to Geo’s managed dark fibre offering.

Smedley suggested that running FibreSpeed was not an advantage over its competitor, instead citing the size of Geo’s business and the assets the company has in the UK as differentiators.

“We’ve got an extensive London network, 10 years of history in providing these fibre services and the private networks that go with them. Frankly that expertise, that covenant, and the service levels and the track record that we have are far more likely to influence a customer than things like the operation of the FibreSpeed network.”

Geo’s East-West ring comprises of a southern and a northern route, connecting London and Dublin via a combination of subsea cables and terrestrial infrastructure.

The northern part of the ring was built in association with Irish power company EirGrid, alongside a newly laid power cable connecting the power grids of Ireland and the UK.

Geo has partnered with Irish alternative fibre provide ESB Telecom to link all of Dublin’s major data centre sites to the cable and used its own UK infrastructure to provide connectivity to London’s carriers and data centres. 

Submarine cable projects that address small communities don’t always make the headlines, but nevertheless have the ability to transform lives through the power of fibre connectivity. Read Capacity's feature 'Filling the digital gap' for more.

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