Ahead of Submarine Networks EMEA 2022 in May, Total Telecom caught up with Crosslake Fibre‘s CEO Mike Cunningham to hear more about their recently completed CrossChannel Fibre project as well as to understand what’s next for the business.

Congratulations on the recent completion of the CrossChannel Fibre project. Please can you tell us more about the system?
Many thanks, it is always an exciting time when you place a new system into service.  The launch of the CrossChannel Fibre system in 2021Q4 comes after two years of focused development and construction. It is a very challenging region of the world to develop a new system given the number of constituents and how busy the English Channel is, which is one of the reasons why CrossChannel is the first new system that has been developed across the English Channel between the UK and France in over 20 years. The route was designed to provide physical diversity between these two large data centre hubs. At 550km, the 96 fibre pair system provides the shortest distance between Slough and Paris with 4 amplification sites along the route, which allows for a low total cost of ownership. 

What do the next 12 months look like for Crosslake Fibre?
This past year has been a very transformational one for the company and we expect that to continue this year. Our team has grown materially in size as we have expanded in Europe and we are focused on building a best-in-class operating platform. This will continue in 2022 as we further grow our team as we continue to grow our network. In addition to a number of smaller builds in metro regions to expand our network, we have begun development of the Maple Leaf Fibre system. Maple Leaf Fibre is a joint venture between Crosslake Fibre and Metro Optic, and will be a new, physically diverse longhaul system connecting Toronto to Montreal.
Crosslake Fibre has recently spoken about the importance of being a customer-centric carrier as a means of differentiation in a crowded market. Can you explain what this means for your business?
Our customers are the lifeblood of our business and in this in every aspect of our company. It starts at the design phase when we interact with customers to ensure that our design meets their requirements in terms of diversity, endpoints, methods of construction etc… When we contract with customers, we are always strive to have a fair and equitable agreement with clear expectations that we can easily meet. While contracts underpin our business and industry, we operate on trust where all that is really needed is our handshake as we don’t oversell. This approach inherently allows us to exceed expectations and provide a customer oriented service. In instances where we fail to, which can happen to any network provider through no fault of your own, we communicate with our customers in a transparent fashion to enable them to effectively plan. Our customers can always deal with a person that they know. Being a small, customer-focused network provider allows us to do this. We also strive to do things a bit differently in terms of product offering where we have listened to our customers to understand what their needs and drivers really are. The result is we have developed some very innovative offerings, like metered dark fibre, which is new to the industry and directly addresses customer needs.
At Submarine Networks EMEA in May, you’ll be joining a panel on “The changing landscape of the subsea industry” and discussing the evolution of commercial models within the subsea sector. Can you share some insights into the key issues you expect to come up during the discussion?
I think the subsea industry has changed significantly over the last number of years and it is still evolving, being driven by a number of factors. From a technological point of view you have higher fibre count repeatered systems where 24 fibre pairs are in a cable, versus a maximum of just 8 fibre pairs a couple of years ago. This change alone can have a very material impact on commercial models as the cost per fibre pair on a repeatered system drops materially and the amount of capacity that a repeatered system can support increases materially. The net impact is that you could have a greater than cost plus pricing model for fibre, and a dramatic quantity of new lit capacity supply entering the market on certain routes. While it is still early and few 24 fibre pair systems have been installed to date, it represents a big step forward in terms of the commercial models of repeatered systems being more akin to non-repeatered systems.  I think this change is still underappreciated in the industry and the true impact of higher fibre count repeatered systems will be seen in the years to come.
What are you most looking forward to about attending Submarine Networks EMEA?
First and foremost I am very much looking forward to attending the Submarine Networks EMEA in person, as I know a lot of others are. People are itching to get back to life as normal and I think that many people are looking forward to attending the event in person. The subsea industry is relatively small, so it will be great to see so many familiar faces again for the first time.
Join us in London on 17th and 18th May for the EMEA region’s leading subsea conference, Submarine Networks EMEA. Head to the event website for more information on how to get involved.