Big Interview

AFR-IX delivers open ports to Barcelona

Norman Albi NEW.jpg

Capacity speaks to Norman Albi, CEO of AFR-IX Telecom and the Barcelona Cable Landing Station, on the company’s new landing station and what it means to operate an open digital port.

November saw African internet and data services company AFR-IX announce the launch of its new Barcelona Cable Landing Station (CLS).

According to the company it will serve as the point of entry for high-capacity fibre-optic subsea cables arriving from Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean, delivering the fastest connection between Europe and America.

Capacity spoke to Norman Albi, CEO of AFR-IX Telecom and the Barcelona Cable Landing Station on what the key drivers were to build this new piece of infrastructure and in particular, why Barcelona was the location of choice.

“One of the key factors was to find a strategic location that could be an alternative to the saturated digital ports of the Mediterranean, such as Marseille and Genoa,” explained Albi.

At present, AFR-IX is able to install up to eight subsea fibre-optic cables at the Barcelona CLS , running along the seabed from the Barcelona area to the cities of Marseilles and Genoa.

“The location of Barcelona Cable Landing Station is privileged, as it allows the entry of cables without physical barriers and it’s an area where the coast is protected from significant erosion. In addition, Barcelona has a key strategic geolocation to be the fastest point of entry and exit for connections to America, Africa and Asia.”

What’s most interesting about the Barcelona CLS is AFR-IX’s decision for forgo the trend of connecting international subsea cables directly into the data centre, a move that Albi says was motivated by the need to create the most neutral access point possible.

“When building a large CLS that will host a large number of cables is important to be neutral, both at the operator level and at the data centre level,” continued Albi.

“Cable systems shall have the possibility to terminate their system at the data centre of choice. Keeping neutrality and being open access is our key differential factor.”

At the time of announcement, AFR-IX described the new CLS as being an open digital port that will allow unrestricted cable entry. During our conversation, I pressed Albi for further details on what that means and how it will benefit the customer.

“An open digital port is a neutral landing station that allows the arrival of multiple cables without restrictions and always, maintaining neutrality. It is an innovative proposal, as normally each company that owns a cable has to build its own landing station for the cable connection,” says Albi.

“In this way, a single landing station will be the point of arrival of multiple cables, optimising resources and preventing the proliferation of buildings.”

Like so many businesses AFR-IX has not been exempt from the impact of Covid-19, speaking on how it has effected this project Albi shared that “mainly, Covid-19 has affected us to get some permits”.

“Over the alarm State that was applied by the central government, all permits and administrative work were delayed.”

Looking ahead, the Barcelona CLS is currently under construction, will come into operation in the first quarter of 2022 with the arrival of the first submarine fibre-optic cables, and the final data transmission capacity of the Barcelona CLS, when its eight 16-fiber-pair cables are connected up, delivering approximately 400Tbps in capacity.

“2021 will be the year that the Barcelona CLS will be fully operational and will host the first works for the first cable systems to land,” says Albi.

“We will be also working on promoting the south Europe and specially the West Med area as an area attractive for cable systems to land.”