This week Total Telecom caught up with Anders Ljung, Business Manager for Submarine Cable Solutions at Hexatronic, to learn about the company’s progress and applaud the Swedish supplier for putting sustainability at the forefront of its agenda
Welcome Anders. What do you consider to be the most exciting markets for the submarine cable industry right now?
Across the globe the subsea cable business is booming; entering 2022 the demand for capacity is as insistent as it was in preceding years. We’ve seen advances in technology for the repeatered market facilitating higher fiber count systems, ROADM technology and in some cases Aluminium cables. Unrepeatered technology continues to be the strong sibling to the active side of the business – already well developed technically, with high fiber count (192) cables in existence for several years now, and a robust mechanical design that is well qualified.
Different countries and regions require different submarine cable system designs, with festoons and interlinks typically leaning towards more economic passive solutions. This means that in certain regions, such as within Europe, the Caribbean or the Pacific Islands, we see a lot of activity on our side of the business, whilst trans-oceanic demand continues to preoccupy suppliers of repeatered systems.
Our approach to all aspects of our work, from the manufacturing lines to our customer service, is focused on providing the best experience for the end user – this is as important as ever in a busy market, where resource and capability are stretched for many companies. In the subsea industry there are different types of suppliers, those that provide full turnkey solutions, those that focus on active components and transmission, and of course all the different combinations in between. Here at Hexatronic our focus is on what we do best, providing durable and reliable high fiber count cable solutions, and we are happy to partner with marine installers and equipment vendors alike in order to help our customers achieve the end-to-end system they need.
Hexatronic recently launched the Fiber Pod, can you tell us a little more about the idea behind it?
Yes, it is a great initiative from our management team in Sweden; a series of podcasts aimed at sharing insights from around and within the fiber optic industry. In the first episode we heard from Vincent Garnier who is the General Director of the FTTH Council Europe, about the mission to advance full fiber-based connectivity to the whole of Europe, something which is close to the heart of our business.
Most people associate Hexatronic with terrestrial fiber optic cables and solutions, servicing markets such as FTTH, 5G and the sensor industry, but not everyone is aware of our extensive expertise in submarine cable systems, so our team have produced an episode of the Fiber Pod dedicated to this fascinating market. In recent times we’ve seen our submarine cable business grow. Increasing bandwidth demands and the need for improved connectivity, low latency and route diversity have all contributed to a surge in customer requirements globally. Our order book is a mixture of submarine cables for telecoms and offshore energy purposes, and integrated fiber optic parts for power cables, all of which are covered in the latest podcast.
You mention offshore energy, we see Hexatronic continue to participate in the other subsea markets such as power systems and renewable energy, how is this side of the business performing?
Hexatronic has delivered over 5000km of fiber optic cable in the offshore energy market to date. We supply a number of energy utilities with interlinks between countries, as well as solutions for offshore wind farms. Hexatronic have also been contracted recently by a number of power cable manufacturers for deliveries of our integrated fiber optic product in Northern Europe and in the Middle East. Our team continues to drive the offshore energy side of the business in parallel with our successful unrepeatered submarine cable product family. We pride ourselves on designing and manufacturing all our cable to the high standards you would expect from any Swedish supplier. Our approach to all aspects of our work, from the manufacturing lines to our customer service, is focused on providing the best experience for the end user.
Hexatronic’s integrated fiber optic solution for power cables
Sustainability has been key focus for Hexatronic for a number of years now – economically, environmentally, and socially. Can you tell us a little more about what the company’s sustainability goals and initiatives and any key takeaways so far?
In short, we take a holistic approach to sustainable development, we want to contribute to a more sustainable society and know that how we run our company and do business matters. Over the last few years, we have created a Sustainability Roadmap to guide our journey towards sustainability for the coming decade. The roadmap demonstrates our contribution to the UN 17 Global Goals, it outlines Hexatronic Group’s desired position for 2030 and explains the goals, targets and key actions to get us there. Our six priority areas are i) Strong business ethics ii) Low climate impact iii) Social involvement iv) Sustainable supply chain v) Diversity and gender equality, and vi) Good health, safety and working environment.
Priority areas for Hexatronic’s Sustainability Roadmap
Our business aims to protect the environment for present and future generations by preventing emissions and minimizing the use of resources in our product handling. We also intend to work with contractors and suppliers who share our values when it comes to sustainability and business ethics. And I am proud to say that we see differences as an asset; working with diversity strengthens our expertise and thereby our competitiveness. We strive to offer an inspiring working environment that contributes to job satisfaction and enjoyment – our workplaces shall be equal, safe and secure.
A sustainable business needs a quality product at its core, how does Hexatronic fulfil this requirement?
The subsea sea cable industry in particular, is hugely reliant on high quality durable cable products due to harsh nature of the seabed and the requirement for high reliability over prolonged system lifetimes. A robust cable is required to withstand not only the tough underwater environment but also the many forms of external aggression that can exist in its 25+ year life.
Quality is the single most important feature of Hexatronic products and our technology department works systematically to drive quality-related issues out of our processes. In terms of submarine products, Hexatronic’s range of cables is based on our extensive experience in cable projects, including design and project management. We have a very flexible approach to cable supply, which suits a lot of customers especially in these busy times. From our dedicated manufacturing facility in Hudiksvall, Sweden, we are able to provide smaller lengths of cable for shorter systems, and our team support fast turnaround times for manufacturing and supply, which is critical in an industry where time-to-market is key. Cables can be loaded directly onto a cable ship from our dedicated pier in Hudiksvall, or they can be shipped via a freighter or transported on a lorry.
Hexatronic’s dedicated loading pier in Hudiksvall
We’ve read a lot in the press about the various acquisitions made by Hexatronic over the last year, can you tell us how the business is doing?
In 2021 we saw strong growth, unprecedented margins, and an even stronger order book. Entering into Q1 2022 the order book was 179% compared to last year. Investments that were made in the UK, Germany and the North America to enable growth, have started to pay off. On the subsea side there were a couple of new orders in for the English Channel and the Baltic Sea and repeat orders in for Asia and the offshore wind industry.
Hexatronic also completed a number of new acquisitions including, The Fibre Optic Shop, based in Australia, who manufacture fiber optic cabling for telecoms operators and “harsh environments”, and Data Center Systems in the US, who supply complete fiber connectivity system solutions to the data center market, including infrastructure design solutions, installation and managed services, mainly to telecoms, financial and technology companies.
Hexatronic’s subsea team – looking forward to meeting you in person again!
Although there have been plenty of challenges throughout the pandemic, we are fortunate that as a team we have been able to keep working successfully and have managed to deliver all our orders on time and to our customer’s satisfaction. Travel restrictions made it harder for us to meet with existing and potential clients around the globe, but our company’s reach is wide and we continue to place new contracts on a regular basis. We have started 2022 positively, with our aim to keep pushing development forwards and to maintain our reputation as easy to do business with, at the forefront of our agenda.
Anders Ljung is the Business Manager Submarine Cable Solutions at Hexatronic in Hudiksvall, Sweden. Anders holds an MSc in Polymer Mechanics. Anders has been employed for 29 years in the fiber optic cable industry. More than twenty of these years he was in Ericsson’s organization where he held several managerial positions within sales, project management and manufacturing of fiber optic submarine cables. When Hexatronic acquired Ericsson’s telecom cable plant in 2013 Anders was employed in his current position with a worldwide responsibility for Hexatronic’s fiber optic submarine cable portfolio.