Crosslake Fibre builds physically diverse routes
05 December 2017 | Natalie Bannerman
Mike Cunningham, CEO of Crosslake Fibre, talks to Capacity about the latest developments with the company's subsea cable projects and discusses the infamous 'Brexit cable'
Known for its niche subsea cable routes, Crosslake Fibre was started by CEO Mike Cunningham with “the purpose of forming the lake Ontario project subsea projects in North America.”
Driven by “the need for dark fibre into Canada” Cunningham says that the “specific route through the lake is psychically diverse from the other routes that go around the lake and share a right of way”.
He adds that by going through the lake are creating a shorter path between Toronto, Canada and Buffalo, New York “which by its very nature is low latency”.
Launched in 2016, Cunningham says that a lot of time went into deciding whether or not to form this new company and particularly the Lake Ontario cable, saying: “We really began to look at whether or not it was feasible to build it, operate it and sell it, we began socialising it to different customers.”
Now almost a year on, Cunningham says that “last September, we formally established the entity to develop it and we recently started the marine survey. And we will install in July/August 2018 and it will be ready-for-service in September 2018.”
As a submarine company that operates in Canada, how does that territory differ from other locations? Speaking on the difficulties of coastline landings in Toronto, surrounding the Lake Ontario project, Cunningham says: “It’s in the middle of the city and it’s very active shoreline. There’s lots of infrastructure to be conscious of and even just in the construction stage you have to try and minimise the impact it has on users of the space. Also it’s a relatively shallow shoreline so the civil works to ensure we have a protected shore end are material undertakings.”
He’s quick to underscore the many advantages of the location adding: there are no commercial fishing ships – reducing to damage to cables. There are only small vessels and defined fishing lanes as well. Also from a geological perspective it’s pretty benign.”
As for one of its other much-talked about subsea cable projects linking New Jersey and Long Island, Cunningham says that the intention behind there “is to provide a more direct route between the two points to transatlantic cables coming from South America, creating an Eastern bypass route of Manhattan”.
How does Crosslake find and identify these niche builds? “We’re playing in a typically terrestrial market but we’re subsea developers - pairing the two together to find these smaller opportunities where they exist”, explains Cunningham. “The only reason why most carriers don’t is because a lot won’t build in the water.”
A topic that has garnered much attention is the debate over subsea projects forgoing cable landing stations and connecting directly into data centres. When questioned on how important locality to data centres is to Crosslake Fibre, Cunningham replies: What really determines the end points for us is ensuring that there’s fibre connectivity and multiple different potential suppliers from our end points. If we just got to a cable landing station, that doesn’t necessarily enable us to go and provide a solution for our customer. Sometimes there are limited options from that cable landing station onwards.”
Adding “That’s why NJFX and 1025Connect are our two primary interconnect points - because there is lots of connectivity from those different businesses that allow our customers to connect with onwards.”
The conversation then turned to the now infamous ‘Brexit cable’ - the subsea cable project linking Ireland and France, bypassing London. Cunningham says that IFSC - the company behind the cable, of which Cunnigham is chairman - never intended for the cable to be known in association with Brexit and that it "didn’t think it [Brexit] would happen.” But as a result of the UK deciding to leave the EU “we are now actively seeing people make decisions based upon that. That’s because forward thinking people understand that you can’t develop a new route overnight - it’s a multiyear process, so if you need that requirement by x date you need to start thinking about it yesterday.”
Beyond Brexit, he says that missing out London “bypasses the hub, the single point of failure as it were in terms of a network design. It’s a physically diverse, geopolitically diverse route around London.”
But Ireland isn’t exactly top of the list when we think of connectivity and interconnection rich locations, a fact that Cunningham says we’d be surprised about: “Dublin is the hub,” he explained. “But you’d be surprised as there’s a lot of economic literature that shows Ireland proving what it has to offer and it’s fast becoming the preferred jurisdiction for tech companies.“
As for a timeline for the various projects on the go, Cunningham says that the Lake Ontario project is to be RFS by September 2018, the IFSC cable is due for installation in May 2019 and the New Jersey to Long Island cable also has an installation date of 2019.
In Cunningham’s view the driver of the surge in subsea cable projects is down to two factors. Firstly, he says there was a death of projects for a while. There were “10 years or so when nothing came in and that’s being made up now” and the second reason is demand for increased bandwidth. “OTT’s and increased bandwidth intense users are driving this need and that’s only going up and that’ll go up," he adds.
He ends in saying that unlike the series of overbuilds that occurred during the dot.com era, “the builds that are coming to fruition today have been de-risked, and there won’t be any hangover of systems that should not have been built in the first place.”
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