Ahead of Submarine Networks EMEA 2020, Total Telecom interviewed Mohamed Nasr, Vice President of Subsea Cable Infrastructure at PCCW Global to find out his predictions for the submarine cable market over the next 12 months.

What would you say is the biggest challenge that cable operators are facing in 2020?

Challenges are opportunities, so the cable operators may face some challenges but it comes with opportunities as well. Once of the biggest challenges I foresee, is the shortage of enough resources to deploy the cables. There are quite a number of subsea systems that are due to start deployment in 2020, however the supply side hasn’t expanded much and this might create delays on some systems and may also affect the build cost efficiency. This will of course create opportunities for operators with enough reserve to serve the market until the completion of the new systems, but with the multiple and concurrent cable cuts we’ve seen recently, this might be another challenge which needs attention i.e. providing diversity on subsea routes. We were lucky to have started the PEACE cable deployment in 2019 before the resource challenge manifested itself.

In which regions do you expect to see the most activity in the coming months?

From EMEA, I expect to see the most activity on the Singapore to Europe express route, which we call Euro-Asia.  We have not seen any new systems since AAE-1 and SeaMeWe-5. Both systems C&MA’s were signed in 2014 with an RFS in 2017, so we are almost 6-7 years apart from the next system’s RFS. I also foresee more activity on the African East coast – PEACE and PCCW Global have recently announced the extension of the PEACE cable to South Africa, “PEACE South”, and I see more upcoming activities as well.  If we look globally, we’ll also see a lot of activities in Intra-Asia over the coming months. It’s one of the routes in high demand and I can say that subsea investment in this route is justified. 

Why is an event such as Submarine Networks EMEA important for you and the wider industry?

The development of subsea cables in the EMEA region is remarkable, particularly when we consider how much attention we see from Internet Content and Cloud Providers, towards expansion in the region. Having an event dedicated to the EMEA region like Submarine Networks EMEA is very important and allows a tailored discussion around the region, since it has different models compared to other regions.In PCCW Global we understand the specific nature and opportunities of the region, that’s why we’ve created a subsea team focused specially on EMEA. We call it EMEA Cable Development, and the team has succeeded over the past few years in achieving major subsea expansions in the region including MEDEX, MARS and PEACE cables. 

Which part of the Subsea ecosystem is still in need of more attention?

The automation of the provisioning and activation of circuits, still follow a legacy model. We can all see the innovation and advancement in pushing as many Tb’s on a single fiber pair, and technology suppliers compete with each other to have the maximum design capacity over longest distance. However, at the same time I see that the activation of a subsea link between two end point cable stations is more or less the same way it was 10 years ago, especially where the link passes through different segments of Subsea and Terrestrial links. Another point is the upgrade process – we push for open system and flexibility, but the upgrade process is still very time-consuming especially over multi-landing point consortium systems, which involve many parties. This is one of the drivers for changing the business model towards private build systems.

Submarine Networks EMEA 2020

Mohamed Nasr will be joining the day one plenary session at Submarine Networks EMEA 2020, giving a presentation on strategies for moving "Towards an efficient subsea cable infrastructure" as well as joining a keynote panel on "The evolution and transformation of the subsea cable industry". Now in its fourth year, Submarine Networks EMEA will be returning to the Business Design Centre in London on 18th and 19th February. Head over to the event website to keep up to date with the conference agenda and find out how to attend.