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An Iberian pipeline for future networks

Peng Yan
Peng Yan

The Iberian Peninsula is growing as a communications and cloud hub, bolstered by the submarine cable systems recently landing and being deployed in the region. Peng Yan, chief commercial officer at Spanish wholesale provider Axent, explains how the company’s gas-grid-based network provides diversity and resilience for players attracted by the fresh opportunities in the area.

What kind of evolution have you seen in the telecoms market over the past 12 months?

We have seen two main factors that benefit our business evolution. One is the establishment of new cloud zones in the Iberian region by hyperscalers and over-the-top [OTT] companies, and the second is different projects involving new submarine cables landing in Spain and Portugal.

Both factors have increased the need for new backbone connectivity and bandwidth demand from our customers, which have relied on our experience in maintaining and operating critical infrastructure, and in delivering connectivity solutions.

What unique elements has Axent brought to the market since it launched in 2018 to address these needs?

Axent is a carrier-neutral wholesale operator that has grown considerably in the past four years. We have deployed our network based on the gas grid infrastructure and roads, alongside pipelines. This gives the best resilience and security compared with other infrastructure because our fibre is 100% underground and there’s more vigilance when it comes to things like sabotage.

Since the company was created, we’ve had this boom of submarine cables, with all these OTT companies deploying their own networks. Traditionally, many submarine routes were going to the north of Europe, but people started to explore routes to the south for diversity.

These include systems that have been rolled out or are under development, such as MAREA, EllaLink, 2Africa and Grace Hopper. The Iberian Peninsula has therefore become an important traffic hub to interconnect traffic coming from the US, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

We have developed our presence in the main hubs where these cables land, allowing Axent to provide the best solution for integrating terrestrial and submarine systems. As a new company with very secure and resilient terrestrial infrastructure, and with the possibility to invest and build new segments, we also make a good match for OTT and cloud providers, and customers launching new network assets.

What kind of traction have you gained in the market and how extensive is Axent’s network now?

I’d say the last four years have been very good in terms of business because all these actors are looking for alternative routes and new networks using the latest technology. Axent has been distinguished from its beginning by the ability to provide highly reliable, flexible and tailor-made solutions for its customers.

We currently have almost 5,500 kilometres of fibre network, and we’re still growing that and developing new infrastructure. We have very good assets, with huge experience in managing, deploying and operating them.

Our experience in engineering projects has also helped us to develop unique new routes for our customers to provide them with fully redundant long-distance alternatives. A perfect example of this is our network reaching Somport in the Pyrenees, on the border between Spain and France.

This offers an alternative route to connect the countries through the middle, compared to the traditional routes in the south-west of France, and through Barcelona on to Perpignan in south-eastern France.

What are the company’s plans going forward?

We’re mainly focusing on Spain, but are already exploring different projects in Portugal and France. We see high potential for a 100% buried route connecting Madrid and Lisbon due to the new submarine ecosystem created in both countries, and we are already deploying connections to the border of Portugal.

To further develop our coverage, we’re also planning to reach more data centres that are newly created in the main traffic hubs in Spain, such as Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao.

In addition, we’re seeing more investment in data centres not only in the big cities like in the past, but in a more and more distributed way. We are therefore also focusing on our offering of edge colocation and to increase our network capillarity, building out new dark-fibre amplifier sites as edge data centres, following the latest standards in terms of power supply, temperature and humidity control.

How do you see the overall future of the market and Axent’s place in its development?

The development of the cloud, cloud providers and 5G means there will still be more need for new networks. In the long-term future, the idea of developing routes to provide diversity for what customers have is a very good strategy for us. With the growth of traffic, organisations will invest in new data centres that require more network connectivity, and that’s the market we are in.

Our network strategy has been developed very closely with our customers, and in the next months we will continue developing routes based on our high-quality standards. Our experience of managing critical assets has also given us the environment to deliver top-rate operational SLAs [service-level agreements].