Enabling Connectivity with Express
Lanes for the World’s Data

By: Noah Drake

The next time you’re riding along a highway or traveling by train, take note of how similar the nation’s transportation infrastructure is to the foundation of a global telecommunications network.

Across the country, there are different types of roads and highways with varying speed limits and numbers of lanes. Passenger vehicles take people from point A to point B, as they go to work or visit family and friends. Commercial trucks deliver products to stores. In parallel, a national railroad grid works with the over-the-road transit system. Without this interwoven transportation network, commerce would grind to a halt.

It's no different with a global subsea fiber optic cable infrastructure—the transportation system that Internet data rides across, with different “lanes” and different modes of transmission to get data where it needs to be.

Depth of understanding

A common perspective is that the vast majority of data traffic around the world is carried on satellites or through the cloud. That’s not the case—99 percent of international data is actually carried on subsea fiber that sits on the ocean floor, forming the backbone of the Internet.

For a telecommunications company, this type of network—when managed and leveraged properly—is a powerful asset in more ways than one.

These cable systems are essentially highways for all inter-country and intercontinental commercial communications across the Internet. When a company has ownership of this highway, it has the ability to truly add value to growing markets that need to be served with this bandwidth. It’s an opportunity to be a change-maker for good, directly impacting markets traditionally underserved when it comes to connectivity.

Many of these markets are in regions that don't have any subsea assets and may be completely reliant on one connectivity method, such as satellite. Satellite is a proven network edge technology that will continue to augment and complement other delivery options by providing network diversity and access to remote locations.

Despite ongoing improvements in cost and quality, however, satellite technology is limited in bandwidth and robustness compared to its cable counterparts. These limitations, for now, are preventing satellite from advancing to the point where it's an end-all, be-all connectivity solution—at least not without mutually beneficial partnerships with telcos to leverage their terrestrial system assets. For example, a satellite ground station will still have to connect to a remote data center to access an Internet Point of Presence (PoP), which is done via fiber optic cables.

Serving new communities by investing in cable systems and offering access to modern technology experiences enhances people’s lives. It also provides a wealth of opportunities, culturally and economically, that were previously unavailable.

Advantages of subsea cable network ownership

From an entirely different perspective, companies that own cable systems have a definite strategic and competitive marketplace advantage, not only for them, but also for their customers.

Owners can reduce latency by creating branching units to equip different markets that might be of interest to certain enterprises.

A cable system owner can directly control the paths for large anchor customers needing particular routing requirements as part of their business. For over-the-top (OTT) platforms and global content owners, their whole network is dependent on the way these cable systems are routed. The cable owner can directly influence that, giving those types of customers a truly compelling reason to work with them.

Anchor tenants can have a say in where the path is built as well as specific engineering details that may be tailored to their unique needs. But other types of tenants can still benefit from the work the anchor tenants do with the system owner in terms of system routing to provide access to new regions, for example.

There is a great deal more flexibility and control when you're actually designing the cable system and owning it versus purchasing capacity as a tenant. Then you're limited to using available bandwidth versus controlling your own destiny. Essentially, you can adapt and modify for market changes more easily.

Subsea cable network challenges

The telecommunications industry has a limited number of players building and managing subsea cables, due to the complexity and difficulty of creating, building, and maintaining these systems. If you can do it well and maintain a leading position within


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