Big Interview

Aqua Comms thrives in new remote working world

Chris Bayly NEW.png

Capacity speaks to Aqua Comms' Chris Bayly about the company's plans post Covid-19 and how Aqua Comms future proofed its operations to be ‘remotely working’ .

Q. How is Aqua Comms ensuring the uptime of its network and leveraging its existing diversity/resilience in the face of the pandemic?

The pandemic has changed the way many businesses have had to operate in just a few short weeks. We actually designed Aqua Comms to be a ‘remotely working’ organisation – with a distributed workforce and a lot of expected displacement of employees due to development and project activity. 

We were thus able to adapt quickly and efficiently to the new realities largely because we already had robust operational processes and procedures in place.

Since the start of the pandemic, our Operations and Engineering teams have remained 100% operational. This includes our NOC, designed for distributed working, as well as our field engineering teams, allowing us to work to maintain existing standards, as well as delivering new services at such a critical time.

We have continued to do this within our promised industry-lead delivery times. Our network design remains robust with restored terrestrial backhauls supporting the secure subsea cables.

Q. What measures has Aqua Comms taken to ensure business continuity as well as to support its customers and employees?

At the outset of the pandemic, the Aqua Comms team worked quickly and effectively to establish that our supply chain would be unaffected and this proved to be the case. This included our core equipment vendors as well as our managed outsourced functions, including our NOC.

For example, we secured permissions for key workers to be able to work as close to normal as possible allowing them to access our main technical facilities. This has allowed us to support urgent customer demand, driven by changes in their network requirements due to the pandemic, and we have been able to deliver new 10G and 100G services in record time.

Additionally, all our employees have seamlessly migrated to home-working using video-calling platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams to replace face to face office time. We have also moved to a working 9 day fortnight to ensure we give the employees the scope to manage this new working style and to give them flexibility to spend time to support their families.

Q. Looking ahead, how do you see the subsea cable industry responding post Covid-19?

Firstly, we believe the companies that will come out of this best are those who really put employee safety first and were able to accommodate flexible work schedules.  Our employees are key to success. With our fully remote working capability, we can decide to cautiously move back towards an office environment as and when employees are happy to do so – retaining the capability to revert should there be ‘second peak’ or other future issues.

Clearly, our industry delivers critical infrastructure that would have caused yet further challenges should it have failed. Thankfully it has remained largely unaffected and able to cope with the increased demand on services, but the industry will take stock and realise more than ever that being a reliable, trusted partner to our customers is paramount.  

This means ensuring that all parts of the supply chain remain intact come what may. It further serves as a reminder that the industry needs to continue to improve in order to deliver services as quickly and efficiently as possible. Demand will, and does, continue to grow. This is Aqua Comms’s FOCUS – to be the best at delivering subsea services – it’s all we do.

Q. Last we spoke Aqua Comms was on track to bring into service, America Europe Connect 2 (AEC-2), CeltixConnect-2 (CC-2) and North Sea Connect (NSC) later this year. What’s the plan once these systems are operational?

Once these 3 new cables are operational, Aqua Comms will deliver its North Atlantic Loop offering two new, diverse Trans Atlantic routes with various routing options connecting New York, New Jersey, Ireland, Denmark and Scandinavia, and the UK. The North Atlantic Loop brings new and diverse latest-technology cables to a region that has been over-reliant on legacy cables and will support the huge growth these markets are seeing from massive data centre investments, connecting key data centre and trading locations in Northern and Western Europe.

The vessels delivering segments of these cables continued to work throughout the main international lock-down period, being at sea, loaded with fuel and provisions and having the cable onboard for deployment. 

Q. What are Aqua Comms’ strategic priorities for the rest of 2020, heading into 2021?

Aqua Comms’ target is to deliver best-in-class subsea services through its managed infrastructure, outsourced model. We have proved this model in the Atlantic market which is the most competitive market in our industry.

With the ever-growing need for efficiencies, those operating in the telecoms industry require focused experts to deliver such services including those on subsea cables. This has therefore driven a significant interest from those investing in and building new subsea cables seeking Aqua Comms to partner with them for our Professional Services suite, ranging from initial design, development and build management, to provisioning and order management services and through to sales and marketing support.

An example is Celtic Norse, a new cable development between Norway and Ireland that will be partnering with Aqua Comms to benefit from the financial and operational efficiencies available through our outsourced operating model.

As ever our primary priority is to remain a carriers’ carrier – and only that.  We will continue to deliver transport layer services to the wholesale market - and to be the best at it.

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