Southern Cross Cable Networks are seeking ultra-reliability by adding a third cable to their two existing subsea cables linking Australia with the US. Anthony Briscoe, CEO of SCCN, gave us the lowdown.
At a time of rising capacity demand, and increased reliance of countries on stable international communications, Southern Cross are well aware that the ability to provide access to diverse and secure international capacity links is becoming ever more critical. Recently the company awarded the tender for the next fibre pair upgrade on their existing 3 fibre pair cable to connect between Australia and the US. This should allow them to provide sufficient capacity to meet market demand until 2019-2020.
But Southern Cross also have their eyes firmly fixed on the horizon beyond, and as such they are choosing to invest in a new project, to be known as “Southern Cross NEXT”. This will be a high capacity express route providing data-centre connectivity between Sydney, Auckland, and Los Angeles. Given its design and route, it will be the lowest latency path to the United States by some considerable margin.
The system is being designed to be able to support at least 60 Tbps with a route that is as near as possible to Great Circle Distance (subject to the necessary avoidance of certain subsea obstacles). Once the new cable is installed, Southern Cross will be able to cost effectively offer 3 paths with automated failover between them in the event that one of the paths undergoes a cable break. Even with the only dual system out of Australia, and one of very few in the world, Southern Cross are already able to route around a cable break or similar issue as it occurs. The addition of the NEXT route will offer customers a unique and unprecedented capability for resilience in the event of unforeseen physical challenges. But being unique is not unusual for Southern Cross. Southern Cross has always worked very closely with its suppliers in understanding and providing input into their development roadmaps, as well as trying to better understand how they can take advantage of those developments to offer enhanced service and reduced cost.
To this end Southern Cross has managed a number of industry regional or world firsts. They were one of the first submarine cables to introduce Ethernet services; the first to utilise 100Gbs wavelength long haul technology; the first in the region to deploy 200Gbs technology on the network; and, the first to expand their backplane switching capability to 15Tbs to support protected and restored services. Given the early stages of the project, there will undoubtedly be many operational headaches to come. Already they have faced ample challenges in simply trying to review all the options available and narrow down on a system design, route, and functionality that underpins the needs of the customer. Additional issues seem to crop up every day which require careful but decisive action so as not to slow the project down.
For this, having a small, highly professional team with a strong Sponsor Board group that shares a single common vision for Southern Cross has helped them to meet these challenges as they occur. At present Southern Cross have a total of 15 access points across the network, with 7 of them being on the US West Coast, including the key content sites at the Westin Building Seattle, Palo Alto Internet Exchange (Equinix SV8), CoreSite SV1 facility in San Jose, 1 Wilshire (CoreSite LA1) in Los Angeles, and Equinix LA1 (600 West 7th) in Los Angeles, as well as the cable station locations in Morro Bay, California and Hillsboro, Oregon.
Asked about the choice of landing points for the new project, Southern Cross responded that they are focused on servicing the prime content centres of the US West Coast, those being the Oregon / Washington State area, Southern California around San Jose and Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles. Since the two existing systems already effectively link into the Oregon / Washington area, and Silicon Valley, it seemed an obvious choice to map the new route into Los Angeles. As for any other development plans, Southern Cross are in discussions with the Pacific Islands of Fiji, Samoa, Kiribati and Tokelau on a project that would greatly enhance the connectivity of the Pacific community to the global internet.
Furthermore by 2025, or shortly after, plans will be in progress for the commencement of the NEXT2
program, which will build a second route, allowing for the complete replacement of the existing Southern Cross 1 & 2 systems by the time they meet projected end of life in 2030.
This article is part of a series of 15 interviews with leading cable project owners around the world, which we’ve compiled into the ebook “Submarine Networks Projects 2017”. Download a free copy of it here.
If you’d like to meet these cable owners and operators together with other leaders from the industry, you should join us at Submarine Networks World 2018, which takes place 24 – 26 September in Singapore. Firmly established as the must-attend annual meeting for industry players from all around the world, preparations are already underway for another year of inspiring ideas, extensive networking and lively debates, with a conference programme covering key industry issues ranging from New Demand Drivers to Marine Operations, as well as a brand new Innovation Zone featuring presentations on the latest R&D projects.
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