Crosslake ventures into Europe

Crosslake ventures into Europe

28 August 2020 | Natalie Bannerman

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Let’s start at the beginning. No subsea cable exists in insolation, they form part of a bigger ecosystem and driven by a clear set of needs and requirements.

Crosslake Fibre CEO Mike Cunningham says that diversity is a big driver of the new CrossChannel Fibre cable system connecting the UK to France, along with the need for new infrastructure.

“We’re talking two big metros, two key data centre hubs, with a lot of international data transiting those two hubs.”

“Essentially this is about creating a new infrastructure that can replace or augment existing infrastructure that is nearing its end of life, as well as to the sector developing it, you want to ensure that you can enable as much resiliency as possible.”

As a private, but carrier neutral subsea system development of this new cable has been in the works for a number of years, meaning that for the most part has remained unaffected by the impact of Covid-19. It has however required certain changes to ensure business continuity.

“We’ve definitely had to undertake a number of measures to ensure the uninterrupted execution of the development of the cable itself, just due to Covid restrictions.”

Such restrictions include the day to day implications caused by travel restrictions, because as Cunningham puts it “workers where we are not able to help people move freely between locations, so we’ve in some instances had to change contractors”.

On the marine side of things, they have had to implement a change in protocols so that work on the cable does not impact the ships and the people that are on the ships.

“Those that are out there doing this work for a long period of time, there’s considerations about whether they’ll be able to get off the ship at the end of it,” he added.

Long-term Cunningham sees the Covid situation as a “mild positive” for demand explaining “It really just continues the ongoing and continual trend of increased digitalisation, and increased bandwidth requirements. So that long-term I think that is being accelerated by Covid.”

He adds that Covid has caused a change in traffic patterns for different carriers in terms of how they “adjust to ensure that they can meet the new peak demand. But I think it definitely has had kind of a negative impact on the overall economy, and that’s something that hurts demand, at least in the short-run.”

As a non-repeatered system, the CrossChannel Fibre cable will feature a number of amplification sites along its route, acting as a cable landing station would.

“They really just function in the same manner as a traditional amplifier site. So from our perspective, kind of the two ends of the cable are at data centres in London and Paris, as opposed to the cable landing station being a point of connectivity,” he continues.

Unlike some systems in the most remote parts of the world, CrossChannel selected its route do to the abundance of existing connectivity, meaning although it will be a welcome addition, its unlikely to create any major new opportunities as a result.

“We selected those two regions [Slough, UK and Paris, France] simply because they themselves are large data centre hubs today,” says Cunningham.

“We’ve definitely played into that ecosystem, and definitely contribute to those as being continued hubs. But they’re very big hubs to begin with and I don’t think any individual connectivity project would really change it.”

As conversation turned to more topical subjects like the impact of gaming which we know is causing havoc in the data centre and IX space, so that has to have a knock-on effect in subsea right?

“I think the rates of gaming have increased markedly for a while, and I think especially with gaming applications, latency is a key aspect, which means subsea cables are a key aspect of that in that,” explains Cunningham.

“From a gaming perspective, I think it’s something that we’re absolutely seeing increased demand from gaming companies, and some of the companies that also play in that ecosystem as well.”

Due to go into service in 2021, Cunningham says that CrossChannel Fibre will serve as an “additional network extension” for Crosslake’s existing global network.  

“We’re very much focused on long-haul point to point connectivity, and this project fits very nicely into that,” he continues.

“We will be expanding our network to be able to provide that long-haul point to point connectivity between London and Paris, and effectively, our offering is very much the same, which is low latency, high bandwidth connectivity.”

As for the project itself Cunningham shares that they’ve got “terrestrial construction in both the UK and France underway” and that the marine has almost been completed. After this it’ll be “the manufacture of the cable, then installation next summer, that’ll allow us to put it into service next fall.”

As for Crosslake as a whole “we’ve got a pipeline of projects that we’re working on” so watch this space.