Capacity Middle East 2022 – the subsea upgrade ecosystem

Capacity Middle East 2022 – the subsea upgrade ecosystem

Capacity Middle East subsea panel 16.9.png

Capacity Middle East has officially started, kicking off with a number of virtual panels on the subsea ecosystem.

Moderated by Sabarinathan Sampath, SVP and COO of ZNet Technologies, the first session entitled How to successfully upgrade capacity of subsea routes, explored the subsea cable lifespan and the increasing capacity demands placed on existing cables.

Sampath was joined by Gavin Rea, chief technical officer, Gulf Bridge International; Geoff Bennett, director of solutions and technology, Infinera; Panagiota Bosdogianni, CTO, Oteglobe; Sameh Sobhy, managing director of the META (Middle East, Turkey and Africa) region, PCCW Global; and Mohamed Dahshory, global projects & submarine cable development director, Telecom Egypt.

Bennett jump started the discussion, explaining the evolution of technology that has enables cable operators to squeeze even more life out of their expiring systems.

"We have to remember that there have been parallel evolutions in cable technology and transponder technology. So older subsea cables were designed before coherent technology was developed, in other words they are dispersion managed cables, that usually means they've got a higher non-linear penalty that limits the maximum capacity and data rates," said Bennett.

"Cables that were designed after 2010 tend to be uncompensated cables and they’re specifically designed for coherent transponders. The thing to remember is, once a cable is under the sea the only thing we can change, in order to change capacity, is the transponder technology. By following the coherent transponder evolution curve submarine cable operators can increase the economic life of their existing cables quite dramatically."

GBI's Rea agreed, adding that investment in the subsea tech/upgrade ecosystem is essential "because as we've seen over the life of an optical submarine cable, technologies change both undersea and the terminal transmission side. So, you put a system in and within a very short time technology has moved on so the next system so the next system coming along will have a greater capacity."

"The upgrade market with the development of transponders from companies like Infinera, Ciena and Nokia – have evolved and increased the capabilities of cable that we've evolved it to. Previously when a system reached its capacity, we took them out of service, now we can continue to upgrade them and keep the system going."

From an investment perspective, Sobhy pointed out that these upgrades are particularly attractive to investors as "it maximises the return on investment of that system by extracting more capex. As the surge in demand continues to rise from things like cloud and content, it helps investors speed up the recovery of their investment."

Dahshory gave more of a regional view of the biggest data drivers in the GCC, which he says are large enterprises and local customers, who too were benefitting from these advancements.

"The traffic loaded on subsea cables in the region are driven by the enterprise and local markets. The enterprises in the Middle East, are starting to shift from traditional MPLS networks to SD-WAN as well as others that mainly leverage the international internet bandwidth," he explained.

"The local market traffic is mostly driven by 5G, FTTH, and other bandwidth intensive services such as video streaming, live entertainment etc. it is rapidly increasing."

Bosdogianni echoed this saying, "there a lot of opportunities for GCC countries to take advantage of new technologies like augmented reality and things like that because they already have the three basic prerequisites."

The first she says is highly reliable connectivity, as "GCC countries connected to multiple international cables". Second wide-scale mobile broadband adoption, adding "we've seen that GCC countries have become 5G pioneers, according to the GSMA". Lastly it is ongoing developments in the data centre area and the wide scale adoption of cloud compute.

But she points out that "this does not mean there is no need for new systems for further diversification".

Weaved into these discussions were another area of interest, and that's green goals with each company represented on the panel, detailing their firms commitment to sustainability.

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