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Interview with Nigel Bayliff, Aqua Comms

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With more than 25 years of experience, industry veteran Nigel Bayliff is a familiar figure to many in the subsea communications community, having previously held senior positions in both cable operator/owner and supplier organisations and also as a consultant where he worked with several global telecoms businesses. More recently, he was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of Aqua Comms and is now spearheading the company’s efforts in becoming a key networking solutions provider, particularly for the transatlantic and European region.

We caught up with Nigel recently where he shared his thoughts on his (almost) 1-year tenure as CEO of Aqua Comms so far, and how he sees the subsea communications industry evolving.

1. Tell us more about yourself (and your organisation).

Aqua Comms DAC is the owner and operator of the transatlantic cable America-Europe Connect (AEConnect) and the Irish Sea cable CeltixConnect-1. Aqua Comms is also developing CeltixConnect-2, a diverse, high capacity subsea cable system crossing the Irish Sea from Dublin to Manchester and connecting to the Isle of Man. Preparation works for CeltixConnect-2 are complete for foreshore, and territorial waters survey will begin in the next few months. We’re also in preliminary stages of development on North Sea Connect, the first modern, high capacity subsea cable system crossing the North Sea from the North East UK to Denmark.

Image courtesy of Aqua Comms

Image courtesy of Aqua Comms

Aqua Comms was established with the vision to build, acquire or merge with subsea fibre-optic cable networks to provide capacity networking solutions to carriers, global data centres, global media, and cloud and content providers, including Web-scale providers and Over-the-Top (OTT) companies that require exceptional reliability and performance.

Aqua Comms has evolved, and continues to evolve, since AEConnect went live in January 2016. This evolution was validated when we received Capacity Media’s 2016 Global Carrier Award for ‘Best Subsea Innovation’ for the AEConnect subsea cable system. Additionally, Aqua Comms and Megaport were joint winners of a Global Telecoms Business (GTB) award in the Innovative Infrastructure category this past May.

As for my background, I joined Aqua Comms in October 2016, having previously provided consultancy services to global telecoms companies through SIN Medida Limited, a consultancy business I established in 2008 to capitalise on more than 25 years of experience in senior technical, operational and executive roles in the global telecommunications industry.

I continue to serve as Vice-Chairman of the joint United Nations agencies task force that looked at providing disaster relief and climate information from the global web of undersea cables. Between 2009 and 2013, I served as Chief Executive Officer and Board Member of Huawei Marine Networks (HMN). And from 2002 to 2008, I was a member of the executive team of FLAG Telecom, where I served as an Officer and Deputy Chairman for a number of group companies and was responsible for construction and operation of the FLAG Global Network. I’ve also held senior roles at NTL (now Virgin Media) and Cable & Wireless/Mercury Communications (now Vodafone).

2. In one sentence, how would you describe the state of the subsea communications industry today?

With Internet traffic expected to reach 14 gigabytes per capita by next year, and given the rate at which new subsea cable projects are announced, subsea communications — which remains the most efficient, reliable and secure way to transmit information between continents and cities — will continue to experience significant growth.

“While the transatlantic, Africa and Asia markets comprised the majority of recent submarine cable investments, the focus is shifting, with new cables expected to come online in Latin America and on the Europe-Asia route during the next few years.”

3. How do you see the industry evolving in the next 5 years?

Private network operators, largely content providers, will continue to focus their network planning on linking their data centres and major interconnection points, making the terrestrial segments of subsea networks and data centre interconnectivity (DCI) even more critical to solving their needs.

In the immediate years to come, new cables will be built to improve route diversity and to reach new and underserved markets. While the transatlantic, Africa and Asia markets comprised the majority of recent submarine cable investments, the focus is shifting, with new cables expected to come online in Latin America and on the Europe-Asia route during the next few years. We can also anticipate that Chinese state-owned telecom companies will actively expand their network of cable consortium partnerships.

As for technology, the introduction of higher capacity transmission schemes will continue to reduce the cost per bit of bandwidth. In many cases, the new transmission technology will expand the design capacity of existing cable systems.

With the MAREA cable scheduled to connect the U.S. to Southern Europe later this year, and as we observe some subsea cable retirements in the near future, we can anticipate that the Atlantic will return to a more predictable model of cable owner-operators building new capacity every five years to increase the capability and diversity of what is the most important transoceanic communications route in the world.

4. What do you think is one key challenge facing the industry today? How do you think it can be overcome?

As companies rely more and more upon the cloud, it’s important to remember that the cloud resides beneath the world’s oceans. Meaning the globalisation of business and communications will rely more and more upon the existing and new undersea arteries of connectivity. The advent of coherent technology, software-defined networking, 8-QAM and 16-QAM technology and the commercial adoption of PCS (probabilistic Constellation Shaping) will all contribute to subsea cable systems’ ability to extend long-haul network capacity to meet the present and future needs of international web-scale customers.

Web-scale and content providers’ need for higher capacity, greater reach and more network flexibility perfectly aligns with the interests of Aqua Comms to push the boundaries of technology on our networks, extend existing systems and build new cable routes.

5. You’ll be moderating the panel “Relooking at maintenance models to achieve greater efficacy,” can you give us a preview of what you’ll be discussing with the panelists?

Given the increased dependence upon subsea networks for global connectivity, the pressure to rapidly restore damaged cable systems to service is greater than ever. The needs of global cable operators change rapidly and maintenance providers must be both flexible and innovative throughout the entire lifecycle of a subsea cable system.

One point of discussion we will explore is the migration path toward mesh networking. As networks evolve toward a global mesh, this will improve network survivability, increase network automation and reduce costs. Due to the critical nature of international bandwidth, many subsea cable operators are now looking toward mesh restoration to guarantee network resiliency, instead of relying on pre-existing submarine cable network restoration plans and their associated high costs, limited protection and slow restoration times.

6. Why are you excited to be at Submarine Networks World 2017?

Aqua Comms believes it’s essential to attend as many industry events as possible to meet with our customers, partners, prospects and other key stakeholders in the communications community.

I would also add that this year’s Submarine Networks World conference theme “Breaking Boundaries” resonates deeply with Aqua Comms, particularly its emphasis on future-proofed, resilient networks and diverse route options.

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Nigel will be participating in the following two panel discussions –

  • Building cables at a lower cost, how much are you willing to give up? (26 Sept, 2PM)
  • Relooking at maintenance models to achieve greater efficacy (27 Sept, 2:55PM)

at Submarine Networks World 2017  (25-27 September, Suntec Singapore Convention Centre).

Join him together with over 500 industry leaders at the only annual platform dedicated for the subsea communications community to meet, exchange knowledge and develop new strategies and partnerships.

For more information, download the latest conference brochure.  Early bird discounts are still available, so get your passes here

Keen to learn more? Get in touch with the team:

Hazel Chen | +65 6322 2730
Regina Koh | +65 6322 2308

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