An interview with Olivier Courtois, Director of Product Strategy, Management & Marketing at Alcatel Submarine Networks


Ahead of Submarine Networks EMEA 2020, Total Telecom caught up with Olivier Courtois, Director of Product Strategy, Management & Marketing at Alcatel Submarine Networks, who shared his insights on the impact of Spatial Division Multiplexing on the future of the submarine cable industry. Find out what he thinks.


What do you consider to be the most exciting region in the submarine industry right now?

All regions are exciting in terms of market dynamics, even if the level of investment may be different between the routes. However, in terms of Product Strategy and new product introduction, we can see different drivers in different regions, in addition to the global demand for optimization of the cost per bit and cost per fiber pair.

Transatlantic and Transpacific routes are mainly driven by the need for absolute maximum capacity per cable, which is obviously a bigger challenge for the new direct and extremely long routes from South East Asia to North America.

EMEA region, and more specifically Middle East and Africa, is more focused in providing connectivity which requires the deployment of new generation WSS ROADM units including its 3 Degree version recently announced.

We also expect a set of new projects in the intra-Asia region, that combine high capacity and complex topologies to serve all countries in the area.

In parallel, the North to South America route has been quieter, following the implementation of several large capacity networks in parallel.


How are big tech companies, like Google and Facebook, changing the paradigm for investment in the subsea industry?

The big OTT companies, and more specifically Google and Facebook, are currently the major customers for all Subsea network suppliers including ASN. They have supported innovative solution and implementation methods and are challenging us for more cost effective, flexible and easy to deploy systems. This is a very positive driver, impacting all parts of the supplier’s organization. Our role is to satisfy these new requirements and anticipate the increase of volumes, while keeping the same level of system performance and reliability that has been at the core of our industry for decades.


What key technologies are increasing capacity right now and why are they necessary?

Initially invented by ASN, SDM, Spatial Division Multiplexing, is the key technology that is supporting the capacity increase for the next few years. Increasing the cable systems bandwidth, with SDM, is mandatory as the capacity per fiber pair is approaching the Shannon limit thanks to the coherent modems and new modulation schemes. Looking at traffic projections for the next ten years, further increase the SDM capacity will be mandatory across the main transoceanic routes to absorb the large volume of DCI and PoP-to-PoP traffic.


What potential developments can we look forward to in the next year and the following decade? 

As a full turnkey supplier, ASN has different fields of potential development under study across the different labs.

In the field of cable and submerged plant, increase of the number of fiber pairs is continuing. It will require the combination of higher power and the use of aluminum conductor to support the longer routes.

In the field of terminal equipment and transmission, the increase of the baud rate will drive the cost per bit for the coming years. In addition, we are monitoring the introduction of 400GZR+ technology on terrestrial that could impact the convergence between submarine and terrestrial for future.

Clearly the flexibility and intelligence will become a top priority. Following the trend from the terrestrial networks, intelligence will be introduced at different levels thanks to SDN interfaces and machine learning algorithms.


What makes an event like Submarine Networks EMEA such a great opportunity for professionals interested in the subsea industry? 

Submarine Networks EMEA is a key opportunity to meet with customer and peers and understand the major trends in the industry. Product Strategy is all about balancing the different inputs, from labs and internal teams, from established or potential customers, from competitors, from consultants and analysts. Attending large industry events enables to understand the different trends and exchange ideas, which is key to define the systems of the future.

Alcatel Submarine Networks, part of Nokia, leads the industry in terms of transmission capacity and installed base with more than 600,000 km of optical submarine systems deployed worldwide, enough to circumnavigate the globe 15 times. From traditional Telecom applications to Content and “Over The Top” Service Provider infrastructures, as well as to offshore Oil and Gas applications, ASN provides all elements of a turnkey global undersea transmission systems, tailored to individual customer’s needs. An extensive Service portfolio completes its comprehensive offering for the submarine business, including project management, installation and commissioning, along with marine and maintenance operations performed by ASN’s fully owned fleet of cable ships. To learn more, please visit
We are proud to welcome Alcatel Submarine Networks as our Gold Sponsor again at Submarine Networks EMEA 2020, 18-19 February 2020 in London. Meet with Olivier Courtois and the team to learn the latest innovations in submarine cable design. Head over to the event website to keep up to date with the conference.