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Exa Infrastructure takes capacity for data centres on CrossChannel cable

CrossChannel Fibre landing France.jpg

Exa Infrastructure, the private-equity owned company that last year took over GTT’s infrastructure division, has taken capacity on the CrossChannel cable to link data centres in the UK and France.

The company, now owned by I Squared Capital (ISQ), has taken a single fibre pair of the 96 fibre-pair system, which runs 149km from Brighton on the south coast of England to Veules-Les-Roses (pictured) in northern France.

Exa’s COO Ciaran Delaney said: “This new link will boost network capacity significantly, and bring the ability to carry data over more diverse routes between the UK and mainland Europe as we continue to broaden our geographic coverage to lead our sector.”

The whole CrossChannel Fibre cable stretches from an Equinix data centre in Slough with Equinix and Interxion data centres to the north-west of Paris. Canadian company Crosslake Fibre, which owns CrossChannel Fibre, laid terrestrial cables in advance of the completion of the subsea portion.

When it went into service in December 2021 it was the first England-France subsea cable for two decades. More capacity is provided through the Channel Tunnel, with Colt now having the lease of that wayleave.

But it was clear from conversations at International Telecoms Week (ITW) in the US last week that there is a growing demand for subsea capacity across the Channel. Capacity expects more announcements from carriers imminently.

This is the second network expansion announced by Exa Infrastructure since it completed the takeover of the former GTT assets. Two weeks ago it entered into a JV that will see it monetise fibre assets belonging to Trans Adriatic Pipeline to connect its south-east and western European networks.

The England-France link will “become a critical part of the chain that connects European digital infrastructure with North America over transatlantic sub-sea cables”, said Delaney, who 15 years ago joined Hibernia Networks, later taken over by GTT and subsequently sold to ISQ as part of its acquisition.

Exa said about the new Channel link that it “will offer greater capacity, resiliency and the lowest latency digital infrastructure connecting the two financial and data centre hubs, with a data round trip taking less than 5.5milliseconds”.

The whole UK-France network owned by Crosslake is 550km long, running from the data centre hub of Slough, through London and then directly to Paris via the shortest route possible.

Exa said: “This enables lower operating costs due to fewer amplification sites and a reduced risk of outages. It forms an integral part of the most critical digital network routes in western Europe that carry traffic between the economic hubs of Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris.”

Delaney said: “CrossChannel is a welcome tonic now and for the future, as many of the fibre optic cables that were laid across the English Channel in the late 1990s and early 2000s are nearing the end of their commercial and technical lifespans.”

The 150km Circe South, owned by Zayo, went into service in 1999, the last England-France subsea cable to be installed before CrossChannel.

Delaney added: “It will make sure there is sufficient capacity between London and Paris now and well into the future, making use of the very latest technology.”

Fergus Innes, chief commercial officer of Crosslake Fibre, said: “CrossChannel is a next-generation cable that is capable of supporting more than 2,400Tbps of capacity. It is a critical piece of Europe’s network backbone and safeguards data flows between the UK and France that would have otherwise struggled to cope with growing demand.”

Earlier this month, Exa announced capital investment of €190 million, due to rise to €340 million by September 2022, the first anniversary of the completion of the ISQ acquisition. The programme will see 7,000km of new terrestrial and sub-sea routes created, and dark fibre lit to increase capacity on many existing links.

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