Article: The Final Frontier

Originally published in the eBook ‘Submarine Networks in Evolution’ in association with Submarine Networks

What are some of the trends you’re seeing with respect to how modular cable landing stations and data centres are being used and built, and how will this develop over time?

In order to serve emerging markets lacking access to next-generation connectivity, we’re seeing more and more new cable builds and expansions of existing systems. As this continues, there will be an increased need for cable landing stations constructed using modular technology to reach remote and often challenging environments.

These Modular Cable Landing Stations (MCLS) provide critical services including cooling, ventilation, fire detection and suppression, AC backup power, cable management, access control, video surveillance, and building management systems, among other capabilities.

Additionally, in emerging markets where there’s an absence of existing data centres located near cable landing points into which cable system owner operators can directly connect their networks in Point of Presence (PoP) to PoP configurations, we’ll see more hybrid MCLS that will have data centre capabilities.

Meanwhile, to keep pace with the rapid transformations of the Internet of Everything (IoE) and its demands of low latency connectivity at the edge of the network, we’ll see more modular edge and micro data centres, given their speed of deployment, scalability and reduced cost.

Lastly, with the introduction of more and more Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning industrial applications, the use of modular edge and micro data centres, especially in remote, urban, arid or marine environments, will become critical.

What are the potential terrestrial bottlenecks in the subsea value chain and how can the industry work to mitigate them?

It’s important to remember that subsea cable and terrestrial network operators have a symbiotic relationship. Submarine data traffic landing at the shoreline must be reliably transported over a highperformance network to its inland destination, whether that’s a data centre, central office or other terrestrial location.
We discuss the development of cable landing stations, new technologies and growing workforce diversity in the industry with Amy Marks of XSite Modular

As this interdependent relationship allows for intercontinental end-to-end services to be reliably and securely delivered, I believe we’ll see more partnerships between subsea cable and terrestrial network operators, especially in view of the exponential rise in Over-the-Top content traffic, and the ongoing Internet growth in Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.

How do you foresee the subsea industry evolving in the next 5 years, particularly with the development of new technologies or advances in current ones?

Undoubtedly, we’ll see increasingly higher design capacity, lower latency through direct connectivity, and the availability of lower bandwidth unit costs, which is especially important in emerging and underserved markets. Microsoft claims that Marea, the highest-capacity subsea cable to cross the Atlantic, provides speeds that are more than 16 million times faster than the average home Internet connection.

However, with ongoing advances in real-time spectral efficiency, we can reasonably expect that this is only the beginning, and even greater speed and capacity will soon become standard in transoceanic cable systems.

What are some of the new or potentially disruptive technologies that could have an impact on the subsea industry? How do you think we can best take advantage of them?

I would point to cloud-dependent technologies such as Big Data and the IoT. We are witnessing an explosion of cloud-fueled data. In just two years, the level of data traffic worldwide is expected to hit 2.3 zettabytes.

As a builder who has experience constructing mission-critical structures all over the world, I’ll borrow an analogy from Cisco to help us better understand this surge in global data traffic. If each gigabyte in a zettabyte were a brick, you could build 258 Great Walls of China, which has more than 3.8 billion bricks.

To serve the transoceanic and regional subsea networks carrying this explosive amount of global data to its ultimate endpoints, we’ll need more modular cable landing stations and modular edge and micro data centres.

Let’s talk about female representation in the industry. How can the industry work collectively to grow the female talent pool?

I believe that it’s essential for women in the industry to take advantage of every platform and opportunity to share their thought leadership and expertise in their respective telecom and technology sectors.

One example is JSA’s Women’s Speaking Initiative (WSI), whose goal is to get more qualified women in leadership roles on the telecom and tech speaking circuit. When women are given the opportunity to take a leadership role, they excel.

Research by the Kauffman Foundation showed that tech companies led by women achieve a 35 percent higher return on investment than firms led by men. Hence, growing the female talent pool is not just a question of diversity, it’s about sound business decision making and profitability.

I’m also the lead for SubOptic’s Diversity and Inclusion working group which seeks to understand and overcome some of the challenges in attracting and retaining more women, people of color, orientation, and younger workers to our industry. In order to innovate and stay relevant, we need to attract a diverse workforce for this industry.

What are some of the challenges associated with attracting and retaining more female talent in the industry?

There are very few females in visible leadership roles, number one. The other challenges are that, in general, it’s been a very male dominated industry, and it’s hard to break that cycle.

Many of these companies really haven’t mined their resources and pollinated diversity into leadership roles. So, it’s really about breaking that cycle and seeing the value in diversity. That’s a tough nut to crack.