Ahead of Hexatronic’s virtual panel on unrepeatered cable systems next month, Total Telecom spoke to Gavin Tully of Pioneer Consulting about his experience working as a Project Manager for Crosslake Fibre’s unrepeatered system across Lake Ontario. 

 Join Anders Ljung on the 27th August as the panel discuss The Simplicity of Unrepeatered Solutions – continuing your terrestrial network along the seabed.


Gavin, tell us about your role on the Crosslake Fibre project?
Pioneer Consulting was hired by Crosslake Fibre in 2017 to support the preliminary planning of the system and ultimately the entire procurement and integration chain.  From my first conversations with Crosslake Fibre it became clear that they saw themselves as a provider who had built their business plan around the concept of disaggregation.  This was a few years ago when the buzzword “disaggregation” was certainly less prevalent in the industry compared to today.  Crosslake Fibre’s project would be the first communications cable across Lake Ontario, and the business model was based on high fiber count cables.  The big-name turnkey providers were focused elsewhere so it quickly became clear that we would need to buy the individual pieces ourselves and put the system together.  Because the distance across the lake was only about 60km we didn’t need any repeaters, instead choosing to build an in-land amplification hut, which simplified the process.  
That all sounds very positive but what are the key things that owners (and project managers) need to look out for?
Actually, I think it is what they need to look “in” for, so to speak.  At the end of the day, the success of the project rests in what you have chosen to do.  There’s really no one to blame when/if things go wrong.  I hear many people in the industry talk about a contract with a turnkey provider like it is a magical shield.  “Well we have a very strong contract!” is the answer I get sometimes when problems arise.  A good contract is absolutely essential whether buying turnkey or disaggregated, but because there are so many different contracts, the real risks are outside the contracts.  If you have a rock solid contract with both your installer and your cable supplier but you haven’t anticipated your cable getting stuck in customs because you filled out the paperwork wrong you might have an installation contractor sitting there waiting to load the cable.  And all of a sudden you could be paying your freighter demurrage fees while paying your installer to be on standby.  At that point no one has breached any contract but yet the owner has a huge problem on its hands.  Oh, and by the way, that’s just an example of what could happen.  To avoid that kind of problem, we planned ahead for Crosslake Fibre!
Additionally, for project managers/integrators I think it is important to make sure you are always thinking ahead, anticipating, planning, worrying even.  It’s easy to focus on the scope at hand because you’re comfortable with it but you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  That’s something I learned early on.  There will always be something to worry about, some problem looming ahead that has no answer.  Surrounding yourself with an adaptable, strong team is essential.  No one person can do it all.  
Gavin Tully is a Managing Partner at Pioneer Consulting bringing a diverse set of skills from the undersea telecommunications industry. Previously employed at SubCom, Gavin’s career began in Mechanical Engineering of undersea cables before growing into System Engineering and then evolving into Global Sales for the offshore oil and gas, scientific and renewables markets. Having been responsible for “non-traditional” submarine telecoms, Gavin’s unique insights into the market allow for customized client solutions that range from broad commercialization concepts to important technical details. Gavin holds a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Villanova University.