EXA Infrastructure, the largest dedicated digital infrastructure platform connecting Europe and North America, and Islalink, a neutral fibre infrastructure operator specialising in submarine cables, today announced a partnership whereby EXA will become the key landing and terrestrial services partner in Italy and anchor tenant in IONIAN.

Islalink is building IONIAN, a 24 fibre pair ultra-low-loss fibre optic cable across the Ionian Sea from Crotone in southern Italy to Preveza in Greece, offering an alternative to the existing ageing sub-sea cables in the region. While Bari and Genoa, along with several cities in Sicily, are well-established landing sites, Crotone is a new and diverse landing location offering faster and more resilient network links. IONIAN has Contract In Force and is due to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Through the partnership, EXA Infrastructure will offer Islalink a fibre route between Crotone and the Italian data centre hubs of Milan and Rome. It will also construct the beach manhole and front-haul ducts in Crotone, and provide maintenance services for the Cable Landing Station (CLS). EXA Infrastructure will also be 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.

“Our partnership with Islalink forms the first phase of our expansion with a high-quality, geographically-differentiated route. We continuously invest in network expansion where our customers need it most. The ability to offer much greater and more robust sub-sea capacity is a huge step forward for our customers in the infrastructure capability we can deliver in south-eastern Europe,” said Martijn Blanken, CEO of EXA Infrastructure.

“IONIAN will offer far greater capacity than existing sub-sea routes, and for EXA Infrastructure forms part of our wider plan not only to serve the growing demand of services between the two countries, but also improving connectivity to the Balkan region and the high-growth Turkish market, as well as surrounding Middle Eastern nations,” he said.

Esther Garcés, CEO of Islalink, stated: “Islalink has taken a major step in its international expansion by building IONIAN, the most advanced fibre route directly connecting Athens and Thessaloniki with Milan and Rome. With our landing infrastructure in Crotone, designed to accommodate multiple cables, Crotone becomes an alternative and secure landing point in south Italy. Having EXA Infrastructure as a partner is key for the project: its strong presence in Italy, with a nation-wide fibre network, its extensive pan-European network infrastructure footprint and its expertise in the deployment of terrestrial infrastructure for submarine cables give us a lot of confidence in such a challenging endeavour.”

The marine and geographical conditions in Crotone, combined with the network investments made by Islalink and EXA Infrastructure, make it an ideal landing location for international subsea cables with robust, high-speed interconnectivity to the traditional sub-sea hubs of Mazara, Palermo and Bari, as well as the data centre clusters of Milan and Rome. Full surveys have been carried out to safeguard wildlife and ensure routing that minimises impact on the marine environment.

Back in December, IslaLink also signed a deal with Grid Telecom in Greece to extend the system overland to Athens and Thessaloniki.


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