Specialist partnerships key to meeting demand for global content delivery

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Growing submarine cable investment from content providers highlights the importance of specialist terrestrial connectivity, to distribute that content to the end consumer.

Originally it was the need to long-haul voice traffic that drove investment in submarine connectivity. But as traditional voice traffic declined, the rapid growth of video and content coming out of the US became a significant driver for intercontinental bandwidth demand.

Since Google’s 2008 investment in the Unity transpacific cable kick started subsea network investment from outside of the telco sector, the ‘Over The Top’ (OTT) reference has become less relevant by the day.

In January, Google announced co-funding three submarine cable networks to further support its Google Cloud Platform business. The three networks – the Curie Submarine Cable, HAVFRUE, and the Hong Kong-Guam Cable systems – should be online in 2019, increasing connectivity between North and South America, North America and Europe, and within Asia.

It’s this changing landscape that was the subject of much discussion at the Submarine Networks Europe event in London last month, with many of the service providers and infrastructure owners talking about the need to specialise to remain relevant.

This is an approach that resonates very clearly with Colt and with myself. While these investments demonstrate an increasing demand in the developed world, as well as the developing world, for intercontinental connectivity, they also highlight the necessary collaboration required between submarine networks and specialist terrestrial networks that can provide access to key data centres inland.

Coastal data centre clusters are attractive targets for subsea cable landing points, with places like Marseille fulfilling a role as the gateway between Europe and the Middle East and Asia, Helsinki providing access to Russian traffic and booming data centre clusters expanding across the Nordics and Iceland. There is a similar situation in Hong Kong and Singapore, with the latter acting as the new hub for Asia subsea interconnectivity. So, it’s no coincidence that two of Colt’s most recent metro build outs are in those city states, adding to the company’s portfolio of 860+ on net data centres worldwide.

Facebook is another investor in HAVFRUE and is also a member of a consortium financing construction of a new transpacific cable that will link the US to Hong Kong.

It’s partnerships between specialist players that are critical, and these partnerships will need to extend across several disparate ecosystems. For the GAAFMs (Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft) of the world, the subsea cables will only get traffic so far. Once they hit land, a specialist terrestrial network will need to step in to provide access and increasingly an on-demand capability, to all of the key data centres inland for that content to be aggregated and stored.

This strategy is further supported by Colt’s planned 2018 investment in subsea capacity, with three 100Gbps transatlantic and three 100Gbps transpacific cables intended to carry significant OTT traffic from the west coast of the US and financial services traffic from the east coast into Europe and Asia.

Andrew Edison is VP Wholesale at Colt

Learn more about the opportunities for specialist global connectivity providers by downloading the white paper, East meets West: The digital business opportunity for multinational expansion

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