Hitching a lift on Aqua Comms’ global subsea cable transport

James Pearce
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We talked to Nigel Bayliff, CEO, Aqua Comms, about its expansion plans and where all the IP traffic comes from to necessitate a new subsea cable

As Bayliff says, neatly anticipating one of my more obvious questions: “We are building the train lines along which the railway will take its varied multitudes of passengers. We don’t know who they will be, we don’t know in what combinations they will travel – all we know is that there are many of them and that they will be exponentially increasing in volume by the time Aqua Comms’ next subsea cable hits the bottom of the sea.” 

The company specialises in subsea telecoms and is owner and operator of CeltixConnect, originally one of Europe’s most advanced subsea telecoms networks. Aqua Comms also built AEConnect (America Europe Connect) one of the first transatlantic cables to be built in the last 12 years. 

Their latest subsea cable system extends from a cable landing station in Shirley, Long Island, and travels 5536km to a cable landing station in Killala, County Mayo, Ireland. 

On the US side, various backhaul fibre is in place to points of presence (PoPs) at 32 Ave of the Americas, 111/8th Avenue and 60 Hudson.

On the European side backhaul fibre leads from Killala to its PoPs in the major data centres in Dublin. From Dublin, the cable takes two different routes across the Irish Sea to England and Wales and interconnects with all London’s data centre PoPs. 

Aqua Comms, with its unique business model, allows end users to buy or lease dedicated dark fibre or spectrum on the subsea cable or alternatively lease high capacity managed services on this uniquely designed route. The AEConnect system is designed to provide the most secure transatlantic cable system possible. The AEConnect cable still delivers one of the lowest latency crossings of the Atlantic.

The cable system was designed to provide the shortest, secure crossing of the Irish Sea. Its landfall at Clontarf in Dublin provides one of the safest landfalls on the east coast, located within kilometres of the city centre with connection to Dublin Metro fibre providers at East Point Business Park. 

There is already a second Irish Sea crossing being planned from Dublin to connect Blackpool, and potentially Scotland and the prospects which Bayliff sees in the growth of Silicon Glen and Scotland to US traffic. Bayliff says there is a clear business case for this new cable, which is at an advance stage of development: “The BBC in Manchester and many other Northern Powerhouses such as post-production houses have huge needs for converting computer generated images (CGI) from their raw format into fully-fledged digital images – this takes up enormous processing power and they need to move, quickly, huge amounts of data. We help with that.”  

He says: “One of the newest is demand from gamers to watch celebrity-gamers play each other in games such as Call of Duty. They need volume and dynamism with no latency.”

Aqua Comms has two other projects in the pipeline. It is building out across the northern North Sea from Newcastle to Esbjerg, a seaport town on the west coast of the Jutland peninsula in southwest Denmark. It is the fifth largest city in Denmark, and the largest in west Jutland. Bayliff says: “This area is where large content players are building up what it calls a mega-cluster of data centres which will have connectivity from Denmark to Ireland then the US.” This is obviously a great place to be a subsea cable player.

However that’s not all. “In early development is a new route – Cork in Ireland to Bilbao in Spain. This ties the two legs of Atlantic cable together, helping resilience and restoration.”

Bayliff adds: “Now I’m not a politician, but I do think that after [UK] Prime Minister Theresa May sets Article 50 running, what this new cable would allow is direct connectivity from Ireland to the rest of the EU, bypassing the UK – this will be of value to some.” []