Eagle cable plans scrapped, says Global Cloud Xchange

Exclusive: Eagle cable plans scrapped, says Global Cloud Xchange

19 July 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Subsea carrier Global Cloud Xchange (GCX) has officially abandoned its plan to build a 20Tbps cable from Europe to India to Singapore.

Carl Grivner (pictured), who took over as CEO of GCX a year ago, told Capacity in an exclusive interview that “Eagle has flown the nest”.

“We looked at the business case and it needed an anchor tenant,” he said. But it didn’t have one.

The previous management of GCX announced the plans for Eagle in 2017, initially to carry 100Gbps from Sicily eastwards to Asia.

GCX was then part of Reliance Communications (RCom), the Indian telecoms company that, four years later, is still negotiating its way through Indian bankruptcy law.

In June 2018 GCX completed work on IDC-5, its new Indian data centre, in preparation for the Eagle network, which by then had been upgraded to 20Tbps with terminations in Marseille and Singapore, via Mumbai.

In August 2019 Bill Barney, the then CEO of GCX, told Capacity that the company had three quotes to build the cable, from “American, French and Japanese companies” – taken to mean SubCom, Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) and NEC, but Barney would not confirm names.

But GCX was overtaken by events, and reality: it went into restructuring, separately from RCom, and is now owned by its lenders. Grivner, formerly CEO of Colt, joined the board in April 2020 and became CEO three months later.  RCom is not connected with Reliance Industries, which owns the successful Indian mobile operator, Jio. 

The big problem with Eagle was, he told Capacity in the interview, which will be published shortly, was the failure to find an anchor tenant. The old adage of “build it and they will come” no longer works, he said in the interview.

As an alternative GCX might acquire capacity from other subsea operators on the route. “We can swap capacity or we can acquire half a fibre pair here or a fibre pair there,” he said.

“There was nothing wrong with Eagle – just no anchor tenant. It’s an OTT [over-the-top] world and if you’re getting a consortium of wholesale carriers together you need an anchor tenant. I looked at the business case and it wasn’t working.”

GCX does have the ability to build something like Eagle for another company, he suggested.