We caught up with Sean Bergin, Co-Founder and President of APTelecom, to discuss the evolution of the EMEA region and the impact of hyperscalers like Google and Facebook entering the market

When people think of the globally increasing data demand, their minds are drawn to the more advanced markets in the world, like those in Europe and the US. However, digitalisation is also taking place rapidly in many of the less developed markets and this has necessitated the creation of numerous new submarine cable systems.
For Africa, this growth has been meteoric in recent years, even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, with submarine investment in the region blossoming. But beyond simply improving the connectivity infrastructure in Africa itself, these new cables are also having a major impact on neighbouring countries in the EMEA region.
“The EMEA region is changing massively at the moment. We’re seeing a lot of investment in Africa in particular, with cable systems like 2Africa, Africa-1, even PEACE. The impact that has on the landscape of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, Asia, and Europe, will be interesting to watch,” explained Co-Founder and President of APTelecom. “There’s no investment of this magnitude going on in any other continent like it is in Africa.”

You can watch our full interview with Sean Bergin from the link above.

Part of this rapid growth is due to the increasingly large role that hyperscalers, like Google and Facebook, are playing in the industry. As the companies generating a huge amount of data traffic, these giants need effective global infrastructure to support their commercial growth, with developing markets like Africa especially appealing. 
As a result, we are now seeing these enormous corporations taking a leading role in the creation of new cable projects throughout the EMEA region. 
“One of the big challenges has always been how to connect Africa effectively and I doubt that these projects would be going ahead without the hyperscalers,” said Bergin.
The scale of these players puts them in a unique position when it comes to cable planning. Their vast resources and finances mean that they require far fewer consortium partners in order to see a cable through to completion.
“It’s forcing people to rethink consortia models,” explained Bergin. “If you look at a project like the 2Africa cable, as a case in point, the decision-making process is much quicker – you won’t have three-day ONM meetings and seventeen people fighting for their own agendas! The process will be a lot smoother.”
For Bergin, far from being disruptive new entrants to a market, the presence of the hyperscalers has been beneficial for the industry. “Everybody wins,” he said.
Of course, it is not only Africa that is growing quickly. The Middle East also increasingly a region of interest, with many exciting landing points in Oman, Djibouti, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Situated on key trade routes and at the intersection between Africa, Asia, and Europe, these locations represent a key hub for international data traffic. For now, these sites are still vying for supremacy, seeking to become the gatekeeper for regional connectivity. 
“The opportunity right now is in the data centre space for those countries who are emerging as hubs to solidify their positions,” said Bergin. “One of the key challenges that needs to be addressed, especially in the GCC region, is the simplification and commercialisation of the cross-connect arrangements. If they can get down to fibre-pair cross-connect charges instead of 100G or 10G cross-connect charges, I think this region will just continue to grow.”
To hear more from Sean about the EMEA regions ongoing evolution, you can watch him in discussion with peers from PCCW Global, Arc Solutions and Batelco in an on-demand session entitled"Trends and patterns in cable route planning in the EMEA and beyond" at this year’s Submarine Networks EMEA 
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