Riding the data wave and pioneering connectivity under and beyond the sea

27/09/2023

Behind the scenes of live streaming, instant search and communications are the unsung secure and interconnected heroes, the cable landing stations (CLS). While subsea cables are the invisible force powering the internet, data is arguably the lifeblood of our globalised world. EXA Infrastructure’s Optical Systems Architect, David Lloyd looks at the industry evolution and shares his insights on what’s next for global connectivity.

In the late 2000’s the digital landscape as we knew it would exist no more as the industry witnessed an unprecedented surge in data traffic. This shift in the ecosystem was largely driven by rapidly growing hyperscale businesses. Data transmission was set to explode as more and more content went online with a tsunami effect on submarine cable operators such as EXA Infrastructure (EXA). This surge in data traffic not only reshaped the industry but revolutionised global connectivity and EXA was at the forefront of this paradigm shift.

Building data transmission links over long submarine networks across the Atlantic for example, is a profoundly different task than traditional terrestrial builds. Subsea projects require an understanding of how submarine systems work and what is required to achieve the best performance.

Navigating unchartered territory

Pioneering a new chapter of change, EXA partnered with its customers leading the charge with engineering and planning teams in lock step to ensure the technical aspects, design, planning and implementation of this new era of subsea connectivity was guaranteed to be successful. EXA’s state-of-the-art network is built with leading optical technology, spanning 127,000 kilometres and operates with more than 500 optical points of presence (PoPs). Our routes extend throughout Europe and North America, crossing the Atlantic via three wholly owned and operated subsea cables. This includes EXA Express, a 4,600 km high-performance subsea fibre route, quite simply, the fastest transatlantic route available on the market today.

Delivering the highest quality of service and operations has been in EXA’s DNA since well before it launched in September 2021, with more than 22 years of subsea experience from its roots in Hibernia Networks, Interoute Communications and KPN International. Our team have not only delivered complex and ground-breaking projects but have led the way for subsea expertise.

Today, EXA is the number one CLS operator in Europe having successfully permitted and landed 11 cables and has built and operates 18 landing station facilities. EXA also owns and operates 8 subsea cables across the world, with 9 landing party agreements, 10 subsea cable segments and more than 18,000 kilometres of subsea plant operated.

Powering potential through partnerships

The demand for faster and more reliable data transmission continues to grow; so too does the need for visionary partners who can spearhead the development of critical subsea CLS’s and connectivity solutions. EXA is the industry trailblazer that has affirmed its reputation as the ideal industry partner by delivering on its mission to be the best partner in delivering challenging and complex projects in a timely manner.

While EXA has consistently expanded and enhanced its ultra-low-latency, high-speed connectivity digital infrastructure in the last 24 months, it was its partnership with Cinturion’s TEAS – Trans Europe Asia System that successfully linked two expansive infrastructure assets. A significant milestone for the routing of digital traffic between Europe, the Middle East and India. The partnership represents a further strategic milestone for both companies in their investments to expand routes, provide increased bandwidth to customers across international markets and deliver global reach.

Cinturion chose EXA to land one of its dual path connections of the TEAS in Pescara, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, to provide the lowest latency and most diversely routed links. Two separate open access sub-sea and terrestrial links cross the Middle Eastern region, one via the Red Sea, and the other via Jordan, continuing along the Arabian Peninsula and under the Arab Gulf and Indian Ocean. TEAS aims to provide an alternative to global data traffic patterns with cutting-edge digital infrastructure that strengthens connectivity between India, the Middle East and Europe.

While in 2022, EXA was the chosen partner to become the key landing and terrestrial services partner in Italy and anchor tenant in the IONIAN Cable System with a joint partnership with Islalink. The partnership, enabled EXA to offer Islalink a fibre route between Crotone and the Italian data centre hubs of Milan and Rome. It also constructed the beach manhole and front-haul ducts in Crotone, and provided maintenance services for the CLS. EXA is also a main anchor customer on the new cable, to further strengthen the most robust and reliable network infrastructure connecting the two countries, and will also construct a new 345-kilometre high fibre-count G.652D cable between its existing network in Bari and Crotone, to ensure that the quality of the IONIAN fibre cable can be matched by that of the terrestrial backhaul.

Data growth has surged in the region, particularly driven by hyperscalers needing capacity for social media applications and cloud computing services. To date, businesses wanting long haul data connectivity in the region have to either use sub-sea cables that are around 20 years old or terrestrial routes via Bulgaria and the Balkans.

Trusted to deliver

Whether it’s a mission critical research network, a fully customised Hyperscale Edge data centre, or an international subsea cable system, EXA delivers on its promises. Our technical services encompass:

  • Service Management – helping customers with bespoke reporting requirements, performance management, change management and inventory management.
  • Submarine Services - provide specialist services including CLS design-build-operate, landing party agreements, permitting, and construction of BMH and Fronthaul.
  • First Line Maintenance - EXA’s field engineers are experienced in supporting customer equipment located anywhere on our network foot-print. They act as a skilled ‘remote hands’ service. Fully competent in working with multi-vendor transmission equipment, SLTE and PFE, performing installation, hardware replacement, diagnostics, patching and configuration tasks.
  • Network Outsource – support international customers to operate networks in countries where they may not possess the necessary personnel or legal entities to deploy and maintain a network themselves. This includes network design, equipment procurement, installation, maintenance, and spares management.
  • Engineering Services - Our engineering services team has implemented over 1,100 network solutions for enterprise customers, carriers, and partners.

EXA also provides network operational services and support to its customers across the lifecycle of the project. This in fact, was the first step as the industry moved in response to the growing data coming from the hyperscalers in the submarine cable industry.

We are proud to work with customers who are driving the global connectivity and communication and inject our rich experience as a leading industry provider. EXA’s extensive and fully meshed backbone provides the required bandwidth, robustness and management from our team of experts.

Diversity, redundancy and remaining competitive

EXA’s continued commitment to providing its customers with innovative, reliable and diverse connectivity solutions available on the market means our ambition is limitless to help support and drive this growth.

The submarine cable industry has become a significant contributor to the global economy, as it has facilitated not only international trade but supported the growth of digital businesses, and created jobs that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

What’s next for the submarine cable industry? Ongoing innovation, collaboration and a united commitment to security and connectivity, we can look forward to a future where the digital seas remain open, offering boundless opportunities for connectivity and progress.

Looking Ahead

What can we expect in the coming years? On top of the foregoing, the era of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has truly begun. AI is now a reality and is being designed into many traditional applications as well as enabling completely new ones. AI and Machine Learning (ML) is set to transform the way we work and do business in the coming years.  They require vast volumes of current data to crunch and analyse which is located in many datacentres around the world. EXA are ready at the forefront providing next generation communications Infrastructure to support this new wave of technological development.

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