Industry leaders brought a dose of reality to PTC’17, Sunday.

Once again, the submarine cable industry made its presence felt in the annual Pacific Telecoms Conference as more than two hundred industry professionals gathered to hear 17 speakers give their take on the current state of the industry and its future.

The first three workshops, held Sunday morning through lunch, dealt with a variety of issues.

The first workshop was titled simply “A Reality Check!”  The workshop included a regional roundup by Wayne Nielsen, of Submarine Telecoms Forum, Inc., who spoke on the North Atlantic; Erik Contag, of Globenet, who spoke on Latin America and the Caribbean; Jonathan Kriegel of NTT DOCOMO Pacific, who spoke on the Pacific and Oceania; and Loïc Le Fur of Axiom, who spoke on Europe, the Middle East and Asia. 

The workshop was wrapped up by Kent Bressie of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP, who gave an overview of regulatory updates.

The workshop was moderated by Paul McCann, Managing Director of McCann Consulting International, Australia.

While the speakers agreed that there is new development coming this year, there is some question about future prospects.

“There’s a considerable jump in the number of systems from 2017 and beyond,” Nielsen said.  “Up to 5 possible systems [across the Atlantic]. The question then is: if this system goes in a new route… is there room for another system in short order?”

Nielsen also drew parallels between current planned development and the industry crash in the early 2000s.

“It might be we’re looking at a similar pattern of overbuilds that we saw with the last industry crash,” he said.

He concluded that, while members of the industry may not know what the future holds, regardless, the submarine telecoms industry is entering an exciting period.

“Right now, we are in some of our busiest times that we’ve been in in a generation,” Nielsen said.

Contag had similar misgivings about the current state of the cable industry in Latin America and the Carribean.


“What we saw in 2016, we had a very negative outlook,” he said. “So the good news is 2016 is done.”

According to Contag, the region is beginning to see growth again, and the average consumption of users is going up.  However, future development may or may not continue.


“Latin America has gone through a very interesting trend.  It goes really, great, great, great, and then it fizzles,“ he said.

Among other highlights of the workshop are that five new projects may be coming to East Africa, according to Le Fur; Over the Top (OTT) companies are beginning to invest in Tran-Pacific systems, according to Kriegel; and that 8 regional systems are planned to go active in the next two years as Pacific Island nations are actively pursuing connectivity, also according to Kriegel.


In his segment on regulations, Bressie touched on the current uncertainty as President-elect Trump prepares to take office as it remains to be seen how his nationalism and skepticism about foreign investment will affect the industry.

Bressie also said that Team Telecom reviews have become even more dysfunctional.  A review now routinely lasts more than a year due to DHS having limited staff and internal disorganization.

While Team Telecom reform has been planned, it seems to be continually delayed.  “Unfortunately, the political change seems to have stalled the FCC from making Team Tele

com reform,” Bressie said. 

As the first workshop of the day ended, the stage was taken by Yves Ruggeri, President of SubOptic.  On behalf of his organization, Ruggeri announced that SubOptic 2019 will be held in New Orleans and that SubOptic will be reformed as a trade association, open to all companies of the submarine telecoms industry.

The second workshop of the day was titled “The Many Keys to Global Network Security.”  The workshop included speakers Panagiota Bosdogianni of OTEGLOBE, Catherine Creese of the US Naval Seafloor Cable Protection Office, Susannah Larson of Harris Wiltshire & Grannis LLP, Yali Liu of ChinaCache International Holdings Ltd, Amy Marks, of XSite Modular, and Alice Shelton of Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks.

The workshop was moderated by Elaine Stafford of The David Ross Group (DRG).


For this workshop, speakers touched on the various aspects of security that companies should consider when installing and operating a system.

These include physical security, like a building’s security, electronic security, operational security, planned preparations for natural disasters and plans for equipment failure in landing stations.

The speakers also talked about cable network security.  According to Shelton, there generally aren’t stringent requirements for security, including encryption.  However, companies tend to use encryption and other security measure regardless.  What she has been seeing is an increase in Request for Proposal (RFP) requirements including anti-virus measures.

The third submarine telecoms workshop was held as a luncheon and was titled “More Capacity? Do We Build or Buy?”

The panel of speakers included Eric Handa of APTelecom, Rajesh Kheny of Facebook, Randy Neals of Amazon, Frank Rey of Microsoft, Jeff McHardy of Telstra, and Michael Rieger of TE SubCom.  It was moderated by 


Edward McCormack of Ciena.


The panel touched on the difficulties of choosing to build a new system over buying capacity on an existing cable.  Making the right choice could vastly change the profit of a project, but could also make for an unprofitable



“It all depends on different customers’ demands,” McHardy said.

Handa commented that if a system doesn’t return on an investment within 36 months, it most likely isn’t going to.


Join STF Today for a live stream of the Sunday morning submarine cable workshop sessions at PTC '17.

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Welcome, once again, to the annual gathering of engineers, program managers, executives and the myriad other professionals that comprise the Pacific communications industry — PTC '16.  For the conference's first session, seven submarine fiber industry specialists will be participating in a workshop addressing the state of submarine cable infrastructure and its future.

Submarine fiber criss-crosses our world's oceans in a spider's web of data traffic, comprising the bulk of international communication — 98 percent.  Requirements and technology continue to change, however, and an active industry continues to be critical to meeting demand.

For this opening workshop, "Waves of Change," seven presenters representing various corners and skill-sets of the industry are weighing in on the regional issues.  Presenters are Wayne Nielsen from WFNStrategies, speaking on the Americas, Atlantic and Europe; Shota Masuda of NEC, on Asia Pacific; Byron Clatterbuck from SEACOM, on India, Middle East and Africa; Joel Ogren from Ocean Networks, inc., speaking on Latin America and Caribbean; Dean Veverka of Southern Cross Cable Network, on cable operations and maintenance, and cable ship issues; Kent Bressie from the law firm Harris, Wiltshire, Grannis LLP, speaking on regulatory issues; and John Mariano of The David Ross Group, inc., presenting "Think Smart:" Science Monitoring and Reliable Telecommunications.

The workshop is moderated by Paul McCann, managing director of McCann Consulting International.


The workshop opened with Wayne Nielsen.

"I'm going to talk a little bit about the Trans Atlantic world... Looking at the Trans Atlantic, at the moment we have 11 current systems ... we have our first new cables in about 12 years ... We also have a new push for low latency"

He began with a short breakdown of the recent history of the industry in the area.  There were a number of new systems from 1999 to 2002, then nothing new for a long time.  There were a number of new upgrades however.

In recent years, however, growth has picked up.  In a recent article in Subtel Forum, new data showed that a number of cables are now available.

"By brining these systems in, we're looking at a new southern connectivity."

Potential systems  show a possibly positive future for the area, but there are concerns, including sustainability of business in the area due to drop in oil prices, effecting the global economy.


The conversation was taken up by Byron Clatterbuck.

"The common theme ... all the traffic flow went to Europe to get content," referring to Africa, India and the Middle East.

"Markets in these regions have seen a varying degree of liberalization and competition, often with only one incumbent being the "gate keeper," according to his slide presentation.

Clatterbuck raises the question on is there a need for two new cables that have similar landing points in the area, both of which are due to be RFS in the near future.

G2A, Dare, O2C, Liquid Sea, Australia West Express are upcoming cables planned for East Africa.

"West Africa, we're sing a couple things happening there"

Clatterbuck comments on the more than 15 planned Africa cables.

"Some of them will materialize and some of them will not.  Some of them don't make much sense, economically."

"Announcement for new cables will continue as players position themselves in the market.  Not all will materialize and consolidation of projects is likely."


Shota Masuda takes over to talk on the Asia Pacific region.

"Most of the cables are 15 years old ...  In the very near future we will be needing new cables between Japan and U.S. and between China and U.S."

Also looking at new cables from New Zealand and Australia to the U.S.  His presentation includes eight possible new projects, which are only part of the announced projects.

"These underserved makers [in inter-Asia] need connectivity."

"The Pacific Islands, usually, are now served by satellite or by one specific cable."

Islands have lower capacity needs, but need broadband global connectivity.  This can be served by hooking up to existing cable networks.

Finished with talking about permitting.

"Every country has its own different procedure and we have to know what those procedures are."

He suggests that Purchasers begin the permitting process early.

"Everyone must know that sovereignty and geo-politics can stop a cable from happening."  Doing the leg work in the planning faze is important.


Next up is Joel Ogren, speaking on Latin America and the Caribbean.  He focussed on what is driving investment and development in the region, which is similar to the growth in Africa.

Part of the driving force is the tourism in the area.

"The Latin America area is probably the greatest development in the 4G area in the world."

The growth can be attributed to mobile devices, data center growth, consumer demand, wire/wireless comms, however overall economic growth projections have been downgraded down to 0.f percent in 2015, which may hurt growth.

"Economies across the board are actually on a downturn right now."

Good news is the vast majority of investment is in telecoms, but general investment and the economy is down.

New systems in the last few years include AMX-1, PCCS.  There are six large systems planned over the this and next year.

Next two years will see the completion of several new "Greenfield" cables that will allow direct connection to both Asia, Oceana, Europe and Africa.

"The wireless development trend is increasingly effecting development.  I think the focus in this particular region in the future will be based on the development of systems."


Kent Bressie takes the podium to speak on regulatory development.  Much of it focuses on the U.S., because U.S. landings are still an important part of the infrastructure and in part serves as a leader in regulatory issues.

Began with media reports that Russian submarines had been reconnoitering U.S. cables, which may have been meant to jumpstart a government cable protection group.

"I think we're going to see more stringent security reviews."

Team Telecom continue to review applications for new licenses and merger consents where submarine cables either connect beyond the U.S. or have material foreign ownership.

Team telecoms has increased the number of site inspections for the submarine cable operators subject to security mitigations — including visits to non-U.S. landing sites.

Also increasingly focused on compliance with the U.S. digital wiretap law.

Bressie turned his focus to FCC proposals for outage reporting.

Most industry interests have called for significant medication of the FCC's proposals prior to any implementation as well as an ample transition period.

"There's a lot of concern about the mechanics of this with consortium systems.  The FCC, if it had its way, would adopt this in the summer of 2016."

There has been a decrease in 2015 for FCC's annual regulatory fees, but it's uncertain is there will be further decreases.

"I think it's likely we see a drop in regulatory fees in the future."


Dean Viverka turns the conversation to cable operations and maintenance.

His presentation covers two parts: Southern Cross and ICPC.

"Southern Cross has been doing updates for all its 15 years existence.  We've now added the first 200gbps wavelengths."

When upgrading, Viverka explains, there is a checklist that should be followed to get the necessary upgrades: Define Requirements, Tender and Evaluation, Operational Impact and Risk Assessment, Sofware Upgrades, Hardware Upgrades, Systems Integrations, Staff Training, and Testing Equipment.

From the ICPC perspective, Viverka turns attention to zone maintenance.

There are three traditions of zone maintenance.  Zone agreements is one of the lowest cost, where is a contractual agreement between companies.  Another is the Private Maintenance agreement, which includes a private contract for a system with a maintenance provider.  Lowest Cost and highest risk is to not have an agreement with a maintenance provider, meaning no up-front cost, but may cause problems if there's an issue with the system that needs fixing.

Viverka turns the presentation to an explanation of the International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC) and the work it does to protect systems internationally.  Information can be found here.


The final presentation is by  John Mariano of The David Ross Group, inc., presenting "Think Smart:" Science Monitoring and Reliable Telecommunications.  The program SMART is to cooperate with the science community and the commercial telecoms industry to implement a more global subsea environment sensor system.

The sensors are already used all over the globe, but would add cost to systems if added to cables.

"Of course there's skepticism and focus on reliability."

The project has already had U.S. approval and an endorsement by NASA.  The program would achieve climate change data, sea level data, seasonal variation, instantaneous tidal data and instantaneous tsunami warnings.

"We are in a position, together, to achieve an early warning system."

It would be applied to most scientifically significant cable routes.

"We really need this industry's support."

Following the opening session of PTC '16, "Waves of Change" is refocusing on the growing demand for global connectivity and bandwidth, and the future of the submarine cable industry as systems reach their 25 year shelf life.

This session will have five presenters addressing the issues: Neal Bergano, vice president of research and development at TE SubCom; Ahmad Fathi Husairi, executive vice president of coporate strategy and investment Telekomunikasi Indonesia International; Frank Rey, director of the Global Acquisition Group of Microsoft; Tim Stronge, vice president of research for TeleGeography; and Greg Varisco, chief operating officer of AquaComms Limited.

The session is moderated by Elaine Stafford, managing partner of The David Ross Group, inc.


Tim Stronge started off the panel.

"Lets start off by talking about where we stand with demand."

Relatively speaking, growth hasn't fallen of much since 2009.

"A lot of us were anticipating a much larger fall off."

Also, development of the technology has been impressive.  In the near future, 300 - 400 tbps systems will be required.


Neal Bergano took up the conversation, explaining that new systems are 10x more capacity versus previous technology.

"Now that we have these systems ...  it makes sense to share that capacity among many users." This explains the growth of OADM networks.

Current technology is also effect by the Shannon Capacity, meaning that there is a fundamental limit to optical amplifier technology, which until recently hasn't been an issue. This will be a problem as those cables working upwards of 100 channels begin to near their limit.

This can be deal with using new technology to provide more efficiency, increasing capacity by 4-8x, temporarily fixing the problem.  All isn't lost, however.

"We're not going to break Shannon, but we don't need to to get orders of magnitude more cable capacity."

New developments in cable technology will create new opportunities for capacity.

When answer a question about whether these improvements would be available by 2018-19, Bergano said they could be available within a few years.

"I could easily see the next 2x coming quickly."


Tim Stronge took over again to talk about who is buying bandwidth.  The answer is: not many companies.  In fact, there is a large demand for bandwidth being driven by only a few companies like Google.


Ahmad Fathi Husairi took over to speak about diversity of projects in the industry.



At 9AM HST we will begin our coverage of the Submarine Cable Workshop: Waves of Change!