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

 

 investment.

“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.