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Forging a closer link between Latin America and Europe

EllaLink team

After going into service last summer, the EllaLink subsea cable presents huge and unique opportunities as a direct connection between Latin America and Europe. A year on, EllaLink CEO Philippe Dumont talks about its impact so far and why it plays a key role in supporting digitisation in the two continents and beyond.

This time last year, a new cable was just going into service, opening up a much-needed route between Brazil and Portugal. With a capacity of 100Tbps, the EllaLink system provided customers with a direct high-speed submarine cable connection between Europe and Latin America.

The 6,000km route avoids the traditional subsea path from Latin America to Europe via North America, which slashes latency by 50% by reaching less than 60ms between the continents. That factor holds significant benefits for a whole host of digital services, from banking to entertainment, media and online gaming.

As a result, a wide range of opportunities have opened up over the past year, paving the way for the cable to fulfil its future potential as its key landing points of Sines in south-western Portugal and Fortaleza in north-eastern Brazil grow as digital hubs, along with other points of presence (PoPs) on the route. These include Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon, Madrid and Marseille, while enabling onward connectivity into the US, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The focus of current activity is selling capacity on the subsea cable, creating the contracts to bring a good volume of customers on board, says Philippe Dumont, CEO of EllaLink. “A lot of customers were waiting for the cable to be in service before engaging with us in terms of product planning and purchasing,” he says. “That’s normal and a lot of cables have seen this in the first year, so this is where we are at the moment.”

Brazilian connection

He expects a significant acceleration in sign-ups after this summer, but interest in the cable has already been reflected in a number of recent developments. One of these is EllaLink’s new PoP in GlobeNet, an important service provider in Latin America.

Through this agreement, GlobeNet’s Brazilian customers can access an ecosystem of content providers and internet exchanges in Europe, while European firms can, in turn, access the operator’s network.

“The Brazilian market is very strong and has a lot of appetite for the EllaLink cable at the moment,” says Dumont. “We needed to sign a deal with a company like GlobeNet to address players including the smaller ISPs in Brazil, which are numerous. We couldn’t do that ourselves, so we’re very pleased with the deal.”

As a key hub for submarine cables landing in the country, Dumont also highlights the attraction of Fortaleza as a place that will see further growth in data centres and digitalisation.

Rise of Sines

Looking across the water, in Portugal, Dumont talks of how Sines has also become an ideal location for establishing data centres – a site which, when combined with its counterpart in Brazil, makes the cable an enticing proposition. “The general trends that we see in Fortaleza and Sines reinforce the attractiveness of the cable,” he says. “We therefore think we will be signing major spectrum and fibre deals with over-the-top players and cloud providers in the coming years.”

This is further boosted by the single hop between Fortaleza and Sines enabled by the EllaLink cable, giving it an edge compared with the additional hop of others via North America. “We are better placed than anyone to serve direct connectivity needs between the two continents,” says Dumont.

In the area of Sines itself, he says there is plenty of land available and it is fairly flat, providing significant potential to develop sites for green and renewable energy. In addition, the area offers access to a high-voltage power grid and facilities including state-of-the-art seawater cooling systems from a liquefied-natural-gas storage site.

EllaLink has put itself at the forefront of promoting Sines as an up-and-coming data centre hub. “Sines is a fantastic place for building data centres,” Dumont says. “OTTs are also looking to that type of place because they seek sustainability, which is already important to them and will be a growing concern for everybody.”

Hub potential

Dumont points to the current development of the SINES 4.0 hub by the company Start Campus, which is intended to be one of the region’s largest sustainable hyperscale data centres. EllaLink has struck up a cooperation with Start Campus to bolster the position of Sines as a digital hub, linking the two projects to share knowledge and synergies, and reinforce connections with Europe, South America, Africa and Asia.

EllaLink also forms part of the Sines Tech community that is aiming to push the area as an innovation and data centre hub, boosting its competitiveness amid the EU’s digital drive over the next decade. With the cable providing onward access to Madrid, which Dumont highlights as a growing hub for OTTs, and offering a gateway into the rest of Europe, he also cites Portugal’s ideal location as a linking point to Africa, and both South and North America.

In a further move, EllaLink is planning to roll out a submarine cable from Sines to Lisbon, offering a robust sea route on to the capital and improved access on into the European continent. The company first needs to secure anchor tenants, but Dumont says there are some potential candidates springing up and estimates that the cable may be ready in 2024.

He talks of benefits such as the cable offering ultra-high capacity, having a high fibre count and helping to ensure diversity alongside the land cable. “I’d say we’d be saving 50 to 100 kilometres compared to a land route, so that’s quite significant,” adds Dumont. “The advantages of the cable are high-fibre count, reliability and latency. Also, it has the reliability of a subsea cable.”

DE-CIX move

EllaLink has additionally struck up a strategic partnership with major internet exchange operator DE-CIX. With this partnership, DE-CIX will provide access to an extensive carrier and data-centre-neutral interconnection ecosystem in Southern Europe through its IXs in Lisbon, Madrid and Marseille.

Commenting on the move, Ivo Ivanov, CEO of DE-CIX International, said: “Latency is the new currency of our digitalised world. Everything, everywhere, will be digital, and every millisecond counts when it comes to critical applications for different verticals, such as mobility, finance and e-health. The two strong business regions of Southern Europe and Latin America share many similarities when it comes to culture, language and the demands on the markets, and will now – with the new EllaLink subsea cable – grow together even more strongly.

“The huge demand for low-latency and high-quality data exchange between the two continents requires the shortest and fastest connections possible. This is what users on both sides of the Atlantic deserve for a great internet experience and why our partnership with EllaLink is a perfect match for both sides.”

Business and science

Meanwhile, the cable brings new opportunities that EllaLink is seeking to optimise in areas such as gaming, in which it is partnering with IP transit company IP Telecom and high-performance online gaming provider NoPing. The company is also working with infrastructure and connectivity provider BSO to both help serve the needs of oil and gas companies in the energy sector and develop the financial markets between Europe and Latin America.

Referring to the growing opportunities between the two continents, Dumont says: “It’s obvious that South America has significant ties business-wise with Europe, and we start to see corporations interested to buy capacity from us to reduce latency.”

Furthermore, EllaLink highlights the advantages of the cable to provide access to data for scientific researchers in Brazil, after the country recently signed an agreement to become an associate member state of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

Some of the cable’s capacity is used by the BELLA consortium formed by research and education communities in the two continents – including Géant in Europe and RedCLARA in Latin America. “Collaboration at the scientific level is very important,” says Dumont. “I think it’s a great social responsibility that the EllaLink cable is carrying in this world of confusion.”

Furthermore, new connections have opened up additional opportunities elsewhere. EllaLink has added the island of Madeira to the network, as well as Cape Verde, and plans to grow. “Connecting to Cape Verde today, and tomorrow to Morocco and Mauritania, is as important as connecting to South America, and this is what EllaLink is promoting,” explains Dumont.

All this together means, he says, that over the coming years there is huge potential for the cable to aid cross-continent digitisation and open up the data market for businesses across the world.