AAE-1’s Italian landing station breaks new ground
With the Bari landing station a hot topic, Retelit discusses becoming an investor in the AAE-1 consortium and meeting the demand for interconnection.
When the Asia-Africa-Europe 1 (AAE-1) cable landed in Italy in May 2016, it also landed a huge opportunity for operators in Europe and across the Middle East and Asia. With almost all of the undersea cable installed and 15 shore-end landings, AAE-1 is confirmed to start commissioning before end 2016. When the project begins service in Q1 2017 it will provide 25,000km of subsea cable with an initial design capacity of at least 32 to 40Tbps, interconnecting Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe. AAE-1’s landing station establishes this Eurasian route through Bari, on the mainland of southern Italy.
Why does Bari matter? First, it offers ready-made open access infrastructure that avoids existing congested routes and single points of failure through the Sicily Channel. Operators with long memories will recall December 2008, when FLAG Telecom, SEA-ME-WE 4 and SEA-ME-WE 3 cables were simultaneously cut, probably by a ship’s anchor, disrupting 75% of Eurasian communications. “The usual landing points in Europe are in Greece, Sicily in Italy and especially Marseille,” says Giuseppe Sini, head of Retelit’s international business unit. “While Marseille has become very important for operators, it is also very crowded. Operators are looking for diversity.”
The Bari landing station is about much more than diversity, which is why Retelit made the decision to become the only Italian investor in the AAE-1 consortium. For Retelit’s 18 consortium partners looking to connect to Europe, for its 60 international carriers customers in Europe and North America who want to reach Asian destinations and for the US Department of Defense, a strategic partner of Retelit, the AAE-1 provides high quality solutions to existing needs. Additionally, for fast-growing Asian operators looking for low-latency connection to Europe, and for ambitious OTT players looking for flexibility, AAE-1 is coming online at exactly the time it is needed.
This Europe-Asia route continues to grow in importance. If we exclude Hong Kong, Singapore, France and Italy, the locations visited by AAE-1 have had infrastructure to support only 24% of the population’s connectivity needs. Asia-to-Europe capacity demand is growing at 41% per year. “AAE-1’s capacity will be filled up quickly. Look at the growth in demand, especially between Europe and Southeast Asia,” says Sini, “We know about rapidly growing established markets in Hong Kong and China, but there are also emerging markets like Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand. For them AAE-1 is unique: it is the only project with a route all the way from Europe to Thailand without a stopover."
For Asian financial centres, low latency is vital. Connecting Europe’s financial centres in Europe to Hong Kong, for example, using AAE-1 through Bari will improve the round trip delay on the route by 10ms. With 9,000km of fibre optic cables in Italy and with points of presence in Frankfurt, Milan and London, Retelit is already the preferred partner for operators who choose to route this type of high-value traffic through Italy.
Sini says that Retelit can now also use AAE-1 to serve the needs of an important class of customer: the OTT service providers who want a route from Southeast Asia to Europe, whose needs are often not well met by legacy cables. “They have commercial power, and we are carrier neutral so we don’t compete with them. We can offer service to them without conflict,” he explains. “Often OTT applications require fine-tuning, and we can attract them to Bari and onto Retelit’s multiple 100Gbps network with our flexibility and innovative end-to-end network solutions. We can talk to them about functionality, performance and a customised SLA, whereas traditional approach leverages mainly on capacity, price and diversity.”
While it will take time for Bari to assume the importance of the Mediterranean’s established landing stations, the location meets needs based on innovation, performance or simply risk management.
And with 20Tbps of capacity either designed or operational along Atlantic and Pacific routes, but only 5Tbps available before 2016 on the fast-growing Europe-Asia route, the demand for the route will keep growing. “We believe Bari is a key point on that route,” says Sini, “and we want Retelit to be the key carrier.”
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