Thursday, 06 May 2021

The Simplicity of Unrepeatered Solutions – continuing your terrestrial network along the seabed?

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Monday 24 August 20

Total Telecom talks to Hexatronic’s Business Manager Submarine Solutions, Anders Ljung, ahead of their forthcoming virtual panel

  Tell us more about the panel, in particular why it is so important to start more discussions about unrepeatered solutions? For a long time now the repeatered side of the subsea business has been the focus of the market. Connecting Data Centers is the main driver for new transoceanic systems, and existing unrepeatered systems have largely been able to support the growth by providing local interconnects. Improvements in repeatered system technology and the advent of SDM cables, coupled with the ageing and retirement of existing unrepeatered systems, has meant that there is fresh demand for new unrepeatered links. We wanted to bring together industry experts from the supply side, system developers and operators to discuss the latest advancements in cable design…

 

Tell us more about the panel, in particular why it is so important to start more discussions about unrepeatered solutions?

For a long time now the repeatered side of the subsea business has been the focus of the market. Connecting Data Centers is the main driver for new transoceanic systems, and existing unrepeatered systems have largely been able to support the growth by providing local interconnects. Improvements in repeatered system technology and the advent of SDM cables, coupled with the ageing and retirement of existing unrepeatered systems, has meant that there is fresh demand for new unrepeatered links. We wanted to bring together industry experts from the supply side, system developers and operators to discuss the latest advancements in cable design, market activity and challenges that are specific to unrepeatered systems.  The panel will seek to review the many ways that unrepeatered systems benefit their owners including from an optical design, vessel operations, sensor potential and commercial perspective. The panellists will also discuss forthcoming advancements in unrepeatered technology and the potential benefits of disaggregated system supply in today’s market. With experts from NSW, Nexans, Telia Carrier, Baltic Offshore and Deep Sea Fibre Networks participating in the panel we feel sure it will be a lively discussion.  

Moving forwards we would all really like to see industry groups such as ICPC and SubOptic creating  separate forum/working groups for unrepeatered systems, and cable database holders, such as Telegeography, Infrapedia and SubTel Forum, assisting by including all the existing unrepeatered systems in their cable maps.

 

The title of the panel relates to ‘continuing your terrestrial network along the seabed’, do you see having a portfolio of subsea and terrestrial products to be an advantage?

As you know the subsea market has moved away from ‘pure’ submarine cable systems which terminate at the beach. The increasing desire for direct optical transmission links between Data Centers means that an ability to provide both submarine and high-quality terrestrial cable is hugely advantageous. Here at Hexatronic we offer a complete package in terms of fiber optic connectivity for projects where unrepeatered subsea cables are required to connect neighbouring regions and countries.  We supply passive solutions for the FTTH market and are specialists in air blown installation, in addition we offer products for metro and transport fiber networks.  

Today’s busy subsea market means that many turnkey suppliers have over-loaded manufacturing lines and limited vessel availability. Having a disaggregated supply method means we can offer reduced lead times for cable plus an ability to enable our customers to select vessels with greater availability, such as ships of opportunity, to install their submarine systems – it will be interesting to discuss this approach further with Telia Carrier and Deep Sea Fibre Networks during the panel. 

 

You mention disaggregation, tell us how this approach to supply is particularly relevant for unrepeatered systems, and what benefits it could offer?

Disaggregation means to break into constituent parts; in the case of a submarine cable system this results in separate supply of cable, repeaters or ROPAs, branching units, submarine line terminating equipment and all the other small parts and widgets in between.  Interestingly, for many years, unrepeatered systems have been disaggregated: procured and installed in separate contracts. The very nature of their unpowered design results in a largely straightforward design and procurement process. As mentioned above, in a time when the market is busy and turnkey suppliers have full order books a disaggregated approach can be advantageous. This article “Disaggregated Supply - Commercially advantageous or too much to hassle?”, which we co-write with Pioneer Consulting, dives deeper into this interesting topic.

 

We see Hexatronic has recently reported successful Q2 results, can you tell us more?

Despite the recent challenges we saw 5% growth in the second quarter and our EBITDA was 10.5%, which is well above our goal. From a strategic perspective we grew 13% in Europe (outside Sweden), our primary driver being development in England, but also in Germany. Looking at North America, growth amounted to 9%, so our solid trend continues.  Overall Hexatronic’s financial position is strong and grew even stronger during half of the year.  

On the submarine side of the business it has been a constructive start to 2020 with several new contracts awarded in the first and second quarter, including cable supply for subsea projects in Iceland and Colombia. The team have also secured a number of orders for planned cable systems in Norway and Sweden, and delivered projects to the Philippines and Honduras.  We see a significant number of opportunities across the EMEA region and also further afield such as in AsiaPac.   Hexatronic will continue to support the power, offshore wind and oil & gas industries globally as well. Our focus on the subsea cable sector remains strong and we plan to continue working with our customers and partners embracing the significant global growth that we see across the market for the next few years. 

Looking beyond Covid-19 our anticipated outlook remains very positive, with strong developments in our strategic growth markets. There is a huge need to expand bandwidth availability; the importance of fast, reliable, internet connections is really coming to the fore in these times of working from home, online schooling and virtual panels. Join us for the next one on the 27th August!

 

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