ANALYSIS: Hibernia keeps faith with Express cable

11 September 2014 | Kavit Majithia


Bjarni Thorvardason, CEO at Hibernia Networks, has told Capacity that the operator did not contemplate "abandoning the Hibernia Express project for even a second", after work resumed on the subsea cable project in August.

Bjarni Thorvardason, CEO, Hibernia NetworksConstruction of the $300 million subsea system has been on hiatus since February 2013 after Capacity exclusively revealed that Hibernia had ended its contract with vendor Huawei Marine because of the row between the US and China over cybersecurity. The company began the process to construct the 4,600km cable in 2010, and originally selected Huawei’s UK-based subsidiary, Huawei Marine, as its vendor in 2012.

Hibernia was forced to suspend all work on the cable after key US carriers warned that they would not use the route, due to fears of losing lucrative contracts with US federal government agencies due to Huawei’s involvement.

It took Hibernia almost a year and half to launch a tender process to select another vendor, eventually deciding on US-based TE SubCom to finish what Huawei Marine had started.

Thorvardason told Capacity that the setback was frustrating, but everyone at the company kept faith in the project: “Once you have been working on something for so long, and you’ve almost been there a few times, we have sheer happiness that it is now back on track,” he says. “It tested our patience and perseverance at times, but I didn’t once think to throw in the towel.”

When completed, the cable will provide a low-latency route between New York and London, connecting Halifax, Nova Scotia and Brean, UK, and offer terrestrial fibre connectivity to major metro areas.

Thorvardason added that the only alteration on the cable between now and last year is that it will go to market on a six-fibre-pair solution instead of a four-fibre-pair. It is the first attempt by a company to lay a cable across the Atlantic in over 12 years. Hibernia claims to have 600 operators signed up to its existing Hibernia Atlantic North and South cables. Thorvardason believes the level of demand for the route is the reason why the company’s investors have stuck by the project, despite the setbacks it has faced.

“I would not be dreaming of financing a cable if it wasn’t on the back of having a substantial amount of customers connecting to it,” he said. “I am also not surprised that standalone projects have not succeeded in trying to build another cable on the route, especially as we had already convinced investors to give us $200 million and Express was already funded.”

Hibernia expects the Express cable to launch in the summer of next year.