Submarine Cable Technology, Strategy, Regulations and Politics Actionable Intelligence
TRAI, DoT Scared Of Taking On Extremely Powerful Indian Carriers
The buck stops with His Excellency Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Minister of Communications of India (and of Railways and Electronics) who will be judged on the decision he takes on the recommendations put forth by TRAI on the most substantial changes in the submarine cable industry since its birth in 1991 in India. I was there negotiating the Flag Telecom deal so believe I have the historical perspective probably at least as much as those from TRAI and DoT.
TRAi knows more than anyone how difficult it is to take on the extremely powerful Indian carriers who dragged it in Indian courts for almost 20 years on the issue of the last mile AFA/RIO charges which are still not resolved. This was the best time for once and all to make legal changes in the laws to address that issue which has stymied the growth of the Indian submarine cable industry. To my horror, TRAI remained completely silent on this issue and made no recommendations for any changes. For India’s sake, the RIO charges need to be brought down to Zero. There is no basis for the Indian carriers to hold Indian companies and citizens hostage by imposing a ransom fee just because they happen to land a submarine cable.
Which brings us to the issue of India becoming the heart of the global Internet which is very much possible except the TRAI decided to remain silent on this issue too. Let me give a real life example. While it costs around $30,000 per month for a 100G circuit between Singapore and Europe on a direct path, it costs $130,000 if that same circuit were to be routed via India. That is why scores of tiny countries around India like Djibouti, UAE, Oman and Singapore are taking advantage of the situation and feeding off of traffic destined for India by building hubs and data centers worth billions of dollars in total. Shame on TRAI for not addressing this issue.
The third major issue where TRAI is silent is the issue of LIMs — the equipment mandated by the Indian spooks to monitor all the traffic coming in to India. I am not against that as they need to do what they need to do to keep India safe. What I am against is their requirement that the carriers pay for all of that equipment which is extremely expensive and therefore further increases the cost of bandwidth in to India. And of course, the carriers pass on that expense to the customers. But as I have repeatedly said in my blog, there is a lot of cheating going on as the rules are not clear as to whether all the circuits need to be monitored or only a handful. And this is where the carriers get creative in order to get business especially from the OTTs. While the interpretation initially was that 100% of the circuits need to be monitored, the creative artists within the carriers have slowly and steadily brought it down to 2% in the latest deal signed between Meta and Bharti Airtel with respect to 2Africa. So DoT must put their foot down and tell the spooks to buy their own LIM equipment. This will solve this gray area problem immediately.
TRAI and DoT don’t understand the practical realities of the submarine cable business. Yes, they mandate that all CLS’s should provide equal access to all carriers. But all of a sudden, a carrier will say they don’t have space in their CLS for a competing carrier. Or the files got lost and they need to reapply which will take 6 months, etc., etc. So the basic bottleneck in India are the carriers — specifically Bharti Airtel, Jio and Tata Communications — along with their AFA/RIO rates. So my recommendation was to mandate third party carrier-neutral data centers like Equinix, Digital Realty, Ctrl S, etc. to directly land a cable with only an ISP license completely bypassing the carriers. This is the only way out of this cesspool of carrier control of the submarine cables.
Another major issue TRAI has fallen prey to is to mandate that the landing party will own 100% of the traffic within the Indian EEZ zone of 20Km. How stupid is that? And what does that achieve? It only enables the carriers to become monopolies on their respective cables. Which country in the world has this law? Typically, the ILDO owning 100% of that domestic cable traffic does not even buy that bandwidth — it is manipulated somehow as a gift which it can use to throttle competition.
On the issue of domestic cables, TRAI says that it may give permission for the cable in certain cases to be outside of the EEZ domain. All I can smell is corruption. Which entrepreneur will want to take a risk of a billion dollars on a cable where the law itself is completely ambiguous? Which bank will provide financing for such a cable?
On the issue of a stub cable, TRAI wants to regulate the pricing, etc. and will not allow the stub owner to sell the cables at market prices. Who in their right mind would build a stub cable?
I am convinced that Bharti Airtel and Jio at a minimum and possibly Tata Communications sat down with TRAI to come up with these regulations which are totally anti-India and anti-submarine cable industry. I am truly disappointed with Jio in particular as I was hoping they would put India’s interests above themselves especially since they were the newest entrants and did not have the baggage that Bharti and Tata did.
Ashwini Vaishnaw’s legacy is at stake. If DoT agrees to TRAI’s recommendations without taking all these issues in to account, history will blame the Ashwini Vaishnaw for not doing the right thing for the people of India. I have spent a lot of time in New Delhi and tried multiple times to get an appointment with him to explain these issues but was not successful. Read More………
Indian Carriers & US OTT’s Win The Battle; India Loses The War
2023 has been a lost year for the submarine cable industry worldwide but more so for India as everyone has been eagerly waiting for TRAI’s recommendations on the most comprehensive changes it wants to make for the industry pretty much for the first time since the birth of the industry in the early 1990’s.
While I was extremely hopeful that the dynamic and forward-looking Narendra Modi government would hit the ball out of the park, deep inside me I was fearing the worst — that the oligopoly of carriers and OTTs would win and India would lose. That’s exactly what has happened even though to be fair, a lot of positive changes have also been suggested.
So let me start with the good news:
1.) This is a potential good news regarding Indian-flag cableship. DoT will institute a committee consisting of half-a-dozen or so government ministries to study various financial models and potentially provide incentives from the government. While normally I would have laughed at this, I think it is fair to give the government a chance to do the right thing.
2.) In addition, the government will study similar financial and other incentives to build two cable depots on both sides of the coasts. I would not doubt the government’s sincerity in this.
3.) Crew members of the survey/repair vessels will be given long term visas and will not need to reapply every time they enter Indian waters. Yoohoo!!!
4.) Not sure what to make of this but DoT will not examine all the data every time the install/repair cableship turns up but only the new data that was acquired. Seems like good news.
5.) Finally, good news for someone (me?) who wants to build a domestic submarine cable. Now it is legal! Main CLS owners will be forced to give equal access for those who want to land domestic submarine cables (sure, sounds good on paper). And the domestic cable may be permitted to go outside of EEZ zone as required (this seems seriously iffy — may be permitted?).
6.) International submarine cables will be allowed to carry domestic traffic. And two CLS’s can be connected to each via via terrestrial landline cables (Sankalp issue solved between Chennai and Kochi).
7.) Stub-cables are now legal! They have to stay within EEZ distance. Stubs can only be sold to other ILDO operators on a fair an non-discriminatory basis! (no market-based pricing? Unclear)
8.) The best news is submarine cable repairs now falls under “Essential Services Category” and as “Critical Information Infrastructure”.
9.) And even better news — vendors won’t have to post a $50 million bond every time an install or repair cableship comes in to Indian waters! That bond is now waived. No comments on this except to say — long overdue.
And this is the bad news:
1.) There will now be two kinds of CLS’s — the main CLS and CLS-PoP’s. The main CLS needs an ILDO license whereas the CLS-PoP needs an ISP license. Both need to take care of all security and LIM requirements. So now instead of one CLS license, you need two licenses. The main CLS license owner needs to own 100% of the capacity in the Indian territorial waters as well as the main CLS.
2.) The only companies that either have CLS’s or have the negotiating power to land cables in existing or new ones they build are the 3 Indian carriers — Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Tata Communications. Bharti is the biggest culprit — having cheated carriers of at least $200 million from it’s ownership of CLS’s. Only the Indian carriers have the financial might to buy capacity on any cables landing in India. There is no chance any new cable will be landed in a non-carrier CLS.
3.) I have a big problem with the ruling that the landing party has to own 100% of the capacity in Indian domestic waters. How do you promote competition in any cable? I don’t buy the view that just by decreeing a CLS to be open, it becomes one. The GoI has tried that for 30 years and has not been successful. Now in addition to that, you are requiring that the landing party own 100% capacity on 20Km of cable in Indian waters. So the 20Km tail now will wag the 10,000Km dog?
4.) TRAI did not address the elephant in the room at all — LIM equipment which has been a gray area since its inception and the OTTs have had a field day trying to cheat the system for hundreds of millions of dollars. How does keeping that a gray area in eternity help India?
5.) TRAI also did not address the issue of AFA/RIO charges which I was hoping would be brought down to zero. This is the main issue that has hounded the industry for the last 3 decades especially since the 3 carriers had dragged TRAI to court on this issue, refusing to give an inch. Being silent on this topic is a very bad sign.
The bottom line is that nothing will change in India other than to further line the pockets of the Indian carriers and US OTTs. India will not become the world’s biggest hub of submarine cables which was my dream. India will not be besieged by entrepreneurs falling over themselves to build new cables. And the neighboring countries like Djibouti, Oman, UAE and Singapore will continue to leech away traffic and data center business from India worth billions of dollars. I am extremely pissed at TRAI for losing this one and only golden opportunity to make India the indispensable hub for the global Internet.
The Indian carriers and US OTTs won. India lost. Somehow I get the feeling that the Indian carriers wrote the script. Read More………
China Makes Its Move In Political Submarine Cable Chess Board
After Team Telecom through the US Embassy in Singapore forced SingTel to cancel the Sea-Me-We-6 contract awarded to China-based HMN Technologies in a competitive bidding lasting a couple of years, all of the 3 Chinese carriers in Sea-Me-We-6 left the consortium. And announced a new cable called EMA (Europe-Middle East-Asia) along the SMW-6 path plus an extension to Hong Kong and China and awarded its contract to HMN.
HMN’s bid for Sea-Me-We-6 was $400 million, about 30% less than the nearest bid of $600 million by Subcom. Subcom was forced by Team Telecom to take a loss of around $200 million on the SMW-6 deal and since then, it has shied away from bidding on other cables if HMN was also bidding fearing that Team Telecom would force it to reduce prices and forcefully award the contract to them.
It is possible that the US Government will make up for Subcom’s losses by awarding some DoD contracts but Subcom is quite unhappy with the intervention of Team Telecom. Subcom is now owned by Private Equity firms and they are only interested in making profits so they can flip the company in a few years. It is widely believed that the PE firms are quite reluctant to invest in new technologies such as multi-core fiber unless the business is profitable. And at Suboptic, Bevan Slaterry had predicted that there would be only 2 major customers (Google and Meta) and 1 vendor left in the industry within 5 years and Subcom was not it. I would bet on NEC being the survivor.
EMA is backed not only by the Chinese carriers but also SingTel, PTCL from Pakistan, Zain in Saudi Arabia, Telecom Egypt and Orange. And frankly speaking, as long as EMA is in carrier-neutral data centers like Digital Realty in Marseilles and Equinix in Singapore, customers are going to show up. Wholesale prices are cut-throat and after all, bandwidth is a pure commodity so there will be ample takers for EMA to be successful.
Unfortunately, Team Telecom does not understand the submarine cable industry dynamics. Let me give an example of what is wrong with the industry. In India, SMW-6’s only landing party is Bharti Airtel. So no other carrier in India has access to the cable. What are they supposed to do? Well, Jio built its own cable IAX/IEX. What are other carriers supposed to do? Each one build its own cables? Repeat this in every country along the route. So EMA will be sold out even before the cable is in the water.
In response to EMA, the US Government along with Google and Subcom are planning a fiberoptic link around the globe connecting all the US allies. Wait a minute……..wasn’t that called FLAG? So the US-China submarine cable war continues. More details forthcoming. Read More………
China Forces US OTTs To Work With Each Other
The US OTTs, especially the submarine cable groups of Google and Facebook hate each other with a passion. They would rather work with monopoly carriers than work with each other. But the politics in Asia as it relates to China has changed everything. Alas they have no choice but to tolerate each other and even smile in public.
Team Telecom’s decision to kill all submarine cable projects landing in Hong Kong completely changed the political and regulatory atmosphere in Asia. That move by Team Telecom resulted in China taking a firm position that they would not allow any OTT cables to cross the 9-dash line which pretty much is the entire South China sea.
That coupled with the hatred Asian carriers have towards the OTTs resulted in them not getting invited to Asian carrier-led cables. So they had no choice but to forcefully work with each other. This has resulted in 2 new cables — AUG and Candle — which essentially go from Singapore to Japan via a much longer route outside of the 9-dash and South China Sea corridor. Let’s not discuss the latency. The AUG cable will also be extended to India from Singapore. AUG stands for Asia United Gateway.
While Meta and Google have no choice but to participate, Amazon and Microsoft are also in the game. In particular, Microsoft is expected to be a huge player in the submarine cable industry as the Teams app success has resulted in them being way short of capacity especially in Asia.
I have been proposing that the OTTs work with each other not only in Asia but other parts of the world as well for more than a decade. My only condition is that they bring in at least 3 carriers in every country they land the cable to make sure they don’t build monopolies and warehouse massive amounts of capacities. While the two consortia are being planned and headed by Meta and Google, I will continue to report their inclusion of carriers so as to level the playing field.
If the OTTs can live with each other’s ego’s in Asia, I fully expect they will also start working with each other in other parts of the world. I am hopeful they do that. It will be good for the submarine cable industry especially if they bring in at least 3 carriers along with them in every country. If they do not, it is a monopoly cable in my books.
So what can go wrong? Philippines. Just like in the last decade, the OTTs put all their eggs in one basket in Hong Kong, they are doing the same thing in Philippines. Those like me who have dealt with Filipino telecom mafia can only hope that this time its different. Read More………
The Best Submarine Cable Negotiator In The World
You would think the best negotiators in the world would be The Masters Of The Universe from the OTTs. After all, that is the only one job they have — to negotiate with vendors. They are not even close. Ah then, you might say it must be the Chinese or the Indians or the Arabs or the Jews or a combination thereof. Nope. Not even close.
The Runners Up prize actually goes to SingTel who is so crafty that the vendors who get scammed don’t even realize it until they read it on my blog! Sea-Me-We-6 deal is a case in point. SingTel’s negotiation tactics are so prized that every cable in Asia wants SingTel on their team even if for half a fiber pair like in AUG and Candle.
And the Oscar goes to — none other than Jean-Luc Vuillemin from Orange whose unique negotiation style has no parallel anywhere in the world.
In a dingy cold conference room in a 14th century near-depleted building on the outskirts of Paris, the entire submarine cable team from ASN is on one side of the table and Jean-Luc alone is on the other side negotiating what ASN thought was a $500 million contract.
Both sides are sweating profusely even in the cold room without heaters and are all looking at their screens. The ASN team is sweating because they have a contract in front of them whose value was reduced from $500 million to $300 million by Jean-Luc without giving any reason.
Jean-Luc is also sweating profusely looking at his screen because he has been losing his game of Candy Crush every day this week and unless he wins today, he will have to pay to buy boosters and power-ups to stay at his level. And the real shame is his own grandson has superseded his skill level 2 weeks ago. And the brat keeps on publicly making fun of him every time they meet. There is no way Jean-Luc is going to lose today. He has to face his grandson tomorrow at his cottage in the mountains.
So the ASN team start their presentation. They have several graphs and tables showing how the $500 million price is justified. They compare all of the recent cable contracts they won and show that no matter how one compares — either on a per fiber pair basis or bandwidth basis or per Km basis, the price they offered to Orange is still the best. However, given the relationship with Orange, they are willing to bring down the price to $450 million. The ASN team looks at Jean-Luc in anticipation this will please him. But he is engrossed looking at his screen. He must be calculating something.
Jean-Luc just lost another round. He is pissed. Once upon a time, he ran a Navy ship as its commander. Hell, he built the largest network of submarine cable fiber in the world — even bigger than all the OTTs combined. When he goes to the former French colonies in Africa, they treat him like a God — that he is. And yet he is losing this stupid game. He looks up from his screen really angry.
The ASN team is confused. What did Jean-Luc see on his computer that he is so upset? They cannot afford to lose their biggest customer. They will all be fired if they lose this contract. Paul Gabla makes an executive decision to reduce the price by another $50 million to $400 million.
Everyone go back to their screens. Jean-Luc has decided he will win this round no matter what and will not tolerate any disruptions. An hour later, looks like he is finally winning the round. He needs to focus. The ASN team is now scared they will lose the contract. Paul silently signs the $300 million contract in front of him and the ASN team leave quietly making sure they do not disturb Jean-Luc. Maybe next time, they will get a better deal.
As Jean-Luc steps down from his operational position at Orange and takes on an Advisory role reporting to the CEO, ASN announced a week-long celebration at the Palace of Versailles. On behalf of the powers vested in me by unknown forces, I will anoint Jean-Luc there as Candy Crush Vuillemin.
On a more serious note, my dear friend Jean-Luc — part genius, part-eccentric, part strategist extraordinaire, part visionary — has had an immense positive impact on the submarine cable industry and on behalf of the industry, I thank him for his contribution and wish him the best of luck — as he tries to solve some serious problems in Quantum Communications. Good luck, my friend. Happy April Fool’s Day! Read More………
NEC Leapfrogs The Industry With Multi-Core Fiber Technology
While all the other vendors are working on the next leap in technology, NEC is way ahead of the pack and is offering two cores for purchase immediately. NEC already has one order for a 2-core cable in Asia. Multi-core fiber technology is as big an advancement in fiber technology as DWDM was 25 years ago. This will change all the economics we know of in the industry.
So in simple terms, the Shannon limit to how much bandwidth one can push on a single fiber is reaching its ceiling. To counter that, ASN took the lead in SDM technology which increased the number of fiber pairs to 24 and could go up even more over time. Although important, but this was an incremental change.
The real change is the multi-core fiber technology which enables more than one path on a single fiber pair. NEC estimates that the number of cores could double every 3 years. I think it is not going to be a linear path. It will take an exponential path within a decade. How many cores can one have on a fiber pair ultimately? Try 300 or even higher. So with a single core, you can get 0.5 Pbps on a long distance cable. You can do the math. A 5-10Pbps cable is within eyesight and a 100Pbps cable is not a dream anymore.
But what do we do with so much bandwidth? When carriers like SingTel are buying cables less than 10 fiber pairs when 24 is easily available? And who needs multi-core fiber? Trust me, people are not buying multiple-core cable for the bandwidth increase. If you are not buying multi-core cable today, your cable could be economically bankrupt before it is in the water. Let me tell you why you cannot afford not to buy multi-core fiber without even without the benefits of the bandwidth increase. Read More………
Who Names Their Submarine Cable “Determination”?
As a second cable for backup and restoration of IAX & IEX cables, Jio is calling their new cable “Sankalp” which literally translates to “Determination” or “Firm Resolution”.
Yes, one does need a lot of determination and perseverance to build a cable to India. It took anywhere from 5 to 7 years to build IAX/IEX depending on who is counting (I am counting 7). And going by the name, Jio is probably thinking of a similar timeframe to build this cable out. Even though Jio’s partners in the old and new cables are Meta and Google. Money obviously is a non-issue.
Now something does not make sense here. There are less than half a dozen companies in India that control the country and the government and almost all of them are in the telecommunications industry. It is impossible for me to believe that the top management of one or more of these companies or CEO’s of Google or Meta cannot pick up the phone and call Hon Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji and tell him that there is a crisis in the submarine cable industry. Do you not think he will act immediately?
It is particularly weird since by all counts, the Govt of India is hell bent on changing all of the other industries and they are leapfrogging the Western world — industries such as roadways, railroads, airports, fintech including Real Time Payments, healthcare, cleantech, agritech, 5G, 6G — you name it.
Trust me, I have tried by visiting New Delhi multiple times in the last few months but frankly, I do not have the reach to be heard by the Honorable Prime Minister. Maybe next time, I will take a bull horn outside 7 Lok Kalyan Marg where he lives and try to send him the message.
ASN has already told me and Indian carriers they will not bid on any new submarine cable projects in India until the permitting issues are resolved. And other vendors have to be dragged in kicking, screaming and wailing to the table — so they can be awarded contracts worth billions of dollars. Nobody would believe this unless they belonged to the industry and were living the horror.
The only vendor gladly willing to work in India is NEC which just charges double the market price for having to put up with the nonsense and unprofessional behavior on part of the Indian Government.
So why is the submarine cable industry — which has the potential to drop prices further by orders of magnitude and which could make India the epicenter of the global Internet being neglected? One wonders whether the existing carriers want to continue with the oligopoly and do not want to bring in competition at the expense of India’s future. To get a sense of their thinking, you should read Jio’s comments on TRAI’s consultation paper and my counter comments. You can make your own judgement.
Do the Indian carriers and US OTTs know something we do not know? Why call a cable “Determination” or “Firm Resolution” when TRAI is trying its best to change the industry? Should we expect a whitewash of laws from the Govt of India that seem good on paper but in reality nothing has changed? To prevent new players from coming in? Read More………
Suboptic 2023 Was Really Disappointing
Let me get the niceties out of the way. Suboptic 2023 held in Bangkok was very well organized. It was well attended by over 800 people and the technical sessions were fantastic. From a technology perspective, it really was a need of the hour since the last Suboptic was held 3 years ago and techie nerds like me were desperate to see where we were headed. So what was the problem?
As the only organization representing the submarine cable industry, there were two elephants in the room that nobody talked about.
One was the in-your-face political divide between the Chinese vendors/carriers who were chairing the conference and Google/Facebook who were running it. It was as if there were two conferences going on in the same venue with neither side talking to the other. While there were tens of panels and talks on every topic, there was no discussion on the two Internets dividing the world.
There were no discussions on how to address this issue or how the industry plans to deal with the Chinese aggression on the 9-dash line and Team Telecom’s belligerence on Hong Kong including PLCN, HKG and others on one hand and refusing to connect Cuba to the US on the other hand. Or the US Government’s direct involvement in yanking the supply contract from HMN and awarding it to Subcom.
The other elephant in the room was the issue of personnel with all the OTTs sitting around the table blaming each other for not hiring 100 18-year old interns so the average age would reduce by 10 years. Seriously? Seemed to me like a check mark for getting higher bonuses. In reality, all the OTTs are engaged in stealing the topmost talent they can find from each other and from other carriers. Most recently, while Google was firing thousands of people from other divisions, they were stealing C-level 60+ year old talent from other carriers. Hypocrisy much?
I am not the one to point out problems and not offer solutions. I think Suboptic as an institution should hire about a dozen full-time personnel to solely focus on problems of the industry and come up with industry-specific positions on various issues including politics and regulations rather than depending on Google and Facebook to push their own narrative. These professionals should represent the voices of everyone including those of submarine cable entrepreneurs who have no voice to speak of.
On the issue of personnel, while lowering the mean age will get internal brownie points and bonuses, the real issue is that every person is molded from the same cast and there is no diversity of thought leave alone diversity of gender, etc. So if Google hires 100 18-year old interns, they will turn in to the same kind of people that are leading Google today — let me spare the description.
In stead, the OTTs should hire 20-30% people at the top from diverse industries such as people who have managed large construction projects, large chemical plants, massive real estate developments, etc. So these people will have an open mind while making decisions otherwise it is going to be an echo chamber for decades to come. Read More………
Govt Of India Needs To Buy Its Own LIM’s
Once upon a time, there were 6 school friends who used to go to a candy store every day after school was over. One day, one of them stole a candy and was not caught. Of course, he bragged to his friends about his accomplishment. Few days later, a second boy stole 2 candies and not only bragged about it but shamed the first kid. Pretty soon, each one of them was stealing more and more candies until they started stealing a bag each. One day one of them was caught. He immediately pointed his finger at the rest of them and said since all of them were taking the candy bags, he did not think there was anything wrong with it.
Something identical is going on with the LIM situation in India. The first OTT went to a carrier and signed up to buy 100% of the LIM equipment based on the bandwidth he had. The second OTT went to another carrier who said the first carrier did not know the rules and he could do it for 50% of the equipment. Now of course the second one had to brag and call out the idiot first person who signed up for 100%. Then it was 30% — then 10% for a while, then 5% and now 2%. Nobody is getting caught. So at this rate, by next year it will probably be 0.2% or less.
How much money are we talking about? Hundreds of millions of dollars given there are 17 cables existing and deals have already taken place for 6 more. If caught, there will be a lot of finger pointing going around between the carriers and the OTTs. The point is while there is a lot of blame to go around, the main party to blame is the Govt of India for 4 reasons:
1.) If you are going to have laws that are not clear and black & white, this is expected to happen.
2.) If you have a law that specifies certain amount of equipment be bought, where is the monitoring and making sure everyone is working as per the law?
3.) If someone is found guilty, how come they have not been punished?
4.) If the carriers are right and the real number is 2%, why is this not stated explicitly? And is the government going to reimburse the carriers who invested in more than 2% equipment in earlier years?
Would this happen in any EU country? Of course not. Because the OTTs know that there would be a billion dollar fine and serious threat of expulsion from the European market and a public hearing where the CEO would be called and shamed. And a few people definitely going to jail.
And how come this happens in India? Because in India, the OTTs are like sacred cows. Everyone knows that worst case situation, there will be a slap on the wrist and some minister saying “Hum kadi ninda karte hain” — “We are really disappointed, Don’t do it again.”
I am really upset with Google and Meta that instead of trying to improve the system, they have embraced the filth in the system.
So I strongly suggest that since the government is incapable of managing and monitoring the situation, they should buy their own LIM equipment. If they want to snoop on 100% of the circuits, so be it. In any case, why should the carriers and OTTs be burdened with this unnecessary expense which benefits no one except the government? The carriers and OTTs need to come out in the open and demand this from the government.
Why am I saying all this? Because unless the filth in the system is removed, India will always be the worst country in the world in the submarine cable space. Someone needs to point out the flaws and hope the government cleans up its act. Shoot the messenger if you wish but clean up your act. Read More………
Google And Meta Did Not Participate In India’s Consultation Process
I am really upset at Google and Meta for not participating in the dialog on how to change India’s submarine cable industry regulations. Everyone knows that India’s current submarine cable regulations are the worst in the world and to the government’s benefit, they are going through a genuine attempt at understanding all the problems so they can address them to the extent possible.
The following companies have actively participated in the process: OpenCables, Broadband India Forum, TEMA, Microsoft, GCX, Asian Cable, GBI, ICPC, V H Securities, Vas KSS, BSNL, TATA, TCIL, Bharti, Sify, Reliance Jio, Vodafone, Lightstorm, Adani and Datawave.
Why am I upset about Google and Meta’s non-participation? Because they are the largest users and investors of submarine cable bandwidth in to India. Each of the above participants hopes to land them as a customer without which it is impossible to build a cable to India. And ironically, each one of the participants is bending over backwards to create a new law which will enable the OTTs to land a cable without a license. Irony much?
So why are they not participating? Pure arrogance. They believe and they know that no matter what the laws ultimately turn out to be, they can use the Indian Jugaad methods they have honed over the years to get exactly what they want — good or bad regulations notwithstanding — legal or illegal notwithstanding. Do they not have a desire for India to have better submarine cable laws? Do they not want to help India based on their global experience? Do they even care if India succeeds or not?
I would not have mentioned Amazon’s non-participation except they have bought a fiber pair on 2Africa Pearls to India so I am upset about them too. Are these 3 companies so big and so rich that they do not want to participate in a dialog on how India can improve its submarine cable industry? Afterall, their participation in India has increased their market cap by tens of billions of dollars.
I can come up with a number of examples of how they are getting away with what they want even when the regulations say otherwise. But let me give one solid example. The Indian Government is wrong in establishing the rules that every circuit coming in to the country should have a LIM (security device) enabled. It is extremely expensive and is unwarranted. But that is the law of the land.
And like all Indian laws, there are grey areas. Both these companies have stretched their definition of grey areas to the maximum extent possible. Meta for example in a recent deal, signed up to paying for only 2% of the required LIM equipment purchases they are expected to make. This is savings (or fraud depending on how you perceive it) of more than $100 million on all the cables they are involved in. In a Western country, someone would definitely be in jail. But they can get away with it because after all, it is India. Anything goes. Chalta hai (Life goes on).
Just because an Indian law is flawed, it does not give any company the right to cheat the system. Two wrongs do not make a right.
So my sincere appeal to GoI is to make sensible and clear laws (with no grey areas) and to implement them and throw companies out if they are not following Indian laws — even if it is Google or Meta — so nobody takes India for granted anymore. Read More………
Counter Comments On The TRAI Consultation Paper
I urge GoI to make difficult decisions and change the submarine cable laws of India. Already, one vendor (out of 3) has made a decision internally not to bid on any submarine cable projects touching India due to significant losses it has incurred emanating from outdated laws that push project deadlines by up to 2 years – not to mention the fear of cableships being impounded every time they enter Indian waters. At the risk of upsetting some people, I have to reiterate that I have been told by multiple stakeholders that Indian submarine cable laws are the worst in the world. This is my humble attempt to contribute towards changing them so as to make India the best in class in this space.
1.) The most important issue for all parties is the ability to land a cable without the CLS owner being forced to buy any bandwidth on the cable. I feel the government should agree to this critical issue conditional on the following:
(i) CLS ownership should be treated like a real estate investment. Any ISP or Data Center without having an ILDO license should be able to host the cable landing as long as they are carrier-neutral with completely open access meet-me rooms from where any carrier can take the traffic wherever they want. Such CLS’s should also have Zero RIO (AFC and Colocation charges).
(ii) In addition, an ILDO licensee should be required to terminate the cable within the country.
(iii) A cable owner (or part owner) should be able to have agreements with more than one ILDO to terminate his traffic and should be able to fire any ILDO or change him later if things do not work out.
(iv). It is possible that some customers will want their PFE and SLTE equipment in the CLS itself whereas some of them will want to place the SLTE equipment in a data center far away from the CLS. So a single cable may have multiple ILDO’s taking fiber pairs to various destinations.
(v). If GoI is not willing to give multiple ILDO licenses per cable, then it should designate one ILDO provider and other carriers need not apply for any licenses specific to that cable.
(vi). This also means that one does not need to sign up with an ILDO licensee in case of transit traffic.
(vii). Cables owned 100% by OTTs coming into the country should have ownership of at least one fiber pair offered to all ILDO operators and at least 3 of them should be chosen to buy the fiber pair at cost price. This will eliminate monopolization of the cable by the OTTs and significantly lower prices to consumers. Nowadays each cable has up to 24 fiber pairs with a total of up to 1Pbps on the entire cable. Hoarding of such large amounts of bandwidth by OTTs while not allowing carriers to buy the capacity at cost price will significantly hurt the country.
viii). Some legacy carriers want to restrict ownership of the CLS based on net worth and experience of the landing party. This is really dangerous as it will then restrict the innovators and entrepreneurs from building CLS’s where one expects a lot of innovation to come from. By agreeing to this condition, GoI will then be forced to depend upon the legacy carriers alone to land a cable which is exactly opposite of what is needed in India. A CLS is just a real estate property. It should not be given any more importance than that and certainly does not need an ILDO license.
2.) Some legacy carriers also want domestic cables to be restricted to within 12 nautical miles of India. This is absolutely a bad idea since it will make the cable susceptible to significant breaks as most of the breaks happen in shallow territorial waters. I think the GoI should not distinguish between domestic and international cables only based on physical location.
The best way to determine a domestic or submarine cable should be purely based on traffic flows. If for example, IAX/IEX which is an international cable but also has a cable connecting Mumbai and Chennai should have domestic traffic flows designated as such while the rest of the traffic flows are international.
Also a cable that may start off as a domestic cable today could end up expanding to an international location. It would not be fair to subject the entire cable to be international at that point.
3.) Some legacy carriers also are against giving permission for cable owners to build out stubs in the ocean citing rapid technology change which could make the stubs unusable and India’s need to build out more CLS locations than concentration of cables in one location.
I totally disagree with this stand. First of all, there are connectors manufactured by vendors which will enable two cables of different technologies to be connected to each other. Secondly, if that is a risk the cable owner is willing to take, then let them take that risk. GoI has no business in banning this based on the reason mentioned.
With regards to having multiple CLS’s, I completely agree however it is ironical for the legacy carriers to use this reasoning given that they themselves have created the situation India is in today with only Mumbai and Chennai as the international hubs. Why did the legacy carriers not have 17 CLS’s for the 17 cables coming in or why are they not building 6 more CLS’s for the 6 new cables coming in? These are two different issues and should not be put in the same basket
4.) Some legacy carriers are also insisting that the 12 nautical miles of cable within Indian waters should be owned by the ILDO licensee. I think this is totally wrong and is probably the single-worst rule that is preventing India from becoming a hub. Think of it this way. An ILDO owner which is just an owner of the 12nm of the cable on paper now controls who can buy bandwidth on the 10,000 Km cable all the way to Europe.
This is precisely how monopolies are formed and encouraged. GoI should do some serious soul searching and reverse this law which is useless. If GoI is using the law to tax entities based on their ownership in Indian waters, there are other ways to extract the tax without enforcing this rule. By not allowing one company to own 100% of the cable within its territory, competition will thrive as the bottleneck is removed and more entities can now buy unused capacity on the cable thereby decreasing prices.
5.) With regards to LIM requirements, there should be no such requirement for transit traffic or for domestic traffic. Also, as per my comments earlier, the official LIM requirements should be for 2% of the total bandwidth coming in as per the current practice with some of the legacy carriers.
6.) Access Facilitation Charges (AFC) and Annual O&M Charges for the CLS should be made Zero and Colocation charges should be no more than those charged by data center colocation in India. Unless the AFC charges are officially made Zero the RIO issue in India will never change as TRAI knows very well. There should be no grey areas for these charges.
7.) When someone builds a cable depot in India, it should be set up either at a STPI facility or in a bonded area where there are no customs charges to be levied. In case there are any customs charges, they should be levied at the time of usage rather than on entry in to Indian waters.
8.) GoI must encourage all future cable landings to be in carrier-neutral, open access CLS’s rather than closed loop legacy carrier owned CLS’s which makes it impossible for other carriers to participate. Cables landing in such CLS’s should be given $5 million by the government to encourage such behavior and a fine for $5 million to those cables that will land in other legacy facilities.
9.) The NLD license for carrying domestic traffic should be amended to specifically address domestic submarine cables and cable landing stations. As long as the traffic stays domestic even if the cable is physically beyond the 12nm limit, the NLD license should be able to cover it. Any transit traffic (even if international) should be considered as domestic under the jurisdiction of the NLD license.
10.) Permitting of cables which has been extended to 200 nautical miles need to be kept at the legal limit of 12 nautical miles in order to save significant time, money and resources.
11.) Cableships should be given 2-year permits and approvals from government entities such as Navy, DG Shipping, MOD/MOHA, port clearances, ONGC and DOT (total of 11 clearances). Customs can be done every time a ship comes in but asking for a bond for entire ship price is ridiculous and should be stopped immediately. Custom duties can be levied on the cable actually used for the repairs.
12.) Technology is now available where if a ship comes close to a cable, notification can be sent to the ship owner and the cable owner so potential cable breaks can be avoided.
13.) Domestic and international cables should be operated from the same CLS. And same cable can be both – a domestic cable and an international cable depending on the ingress and egress points.
14.) Ability to sell dark fibers on both domestic and international cables is necessary to advance submarine cables in India.
15.) GoI should offer land for cable depot to a party willing to set it up and should offer tax holiday for the entity willing to buy the cableship as it will save significant foreign exchange. GoI should also take a small equity in the entity and create a private-public JV. I am ready to present my business plans for both. Indian carriers and cables landing in India should not be forced to become customers of this new entity. Market forces will naturally align them towards the Indian solution.
16.) All approvals for new cables (Permits In Principle) should be given in 3 months or less and permits for cable repair in 15 days maximum through a fast-track process using digital media with reports going directly to the Minister in case of any delays.
17.) GoI should encourage building of a domestic submarine cable by taking a small equity in the company wanting to build the cable in a private-public JV. I am ready to present my proposal and business plan.
18.) As far as connectivity between existing CLS’s is concerned – “all is well” signal from Indian carriers not withstanding – GoI should not fight that battle but rather focus on the new cables that will come to India it is important that all new cables land only in carrier-neutral CLS’s with completely open and free meet-me rooms.
19.) GoI should open up the market to Chinese vendors for cable only. In Sea-Me-We-6, just allowing HMN to bid on the cable dropped the price of the cable by almost 30% even if in the end the contract went to Subcom. As long as HMN bids only on the cable and not on any electronics, from a security perspective it should be fine even if some contracts are awarded to HMN. But it will surely create a hyper competitive environment with every vendor forced to lowering their prices.
20.) GoI should open up the market to Chinese carriers for transit traffic. In IAX/IEX, China Mobile is allowed to own fiber pairs as long as they do not go through India. Why not allow them to transit India as long as they are not allowed to drop traffic in India? This will give a huge boost to the Indian transit market without compromising its internal security.
21.) Bandwidth as a strategic asset. In a post-globalization world where the buzzword coined by Hon Prime Minister Narendra Modi is Atmanirbhar Bharat, the GoI should look at Internet Access similar to how it looks at storing foodgrains in case of a disaster. In case India is cut off by the OTTs (most highly unlikely but not an impossible scenario), do the Indian carriers have enough bandwidth and networks to continue providing uninterrupted service to its citizens? The GoI should have an audit of its global bandwidth and should also invest in certain cables as an emergency backup plan.
22.) All decisions taken by GoI should take in to account the possibility of a Living Cable Network similar to a domestic network where each cable is not a unique cable with a unique name but rather part of a network. It is quite possible that a new submarine cable coming in to India can continue to grow under the same name but at different locations in India.
23.) Every new cable coming out of India should use SMART cable technology at least until the 200 nautical mile range so that it will help India in weather detection, prediction and climate change initiatives.
24.) Even if all of the above issues are resolved, India can never be a global hub until Telecom Egypt’s transit ransom pricing is addressed. It costs more to transit 200Km of Egyptian land than the cost of the entire cable from India to Europe. GoI must force Telecom Egypt to reduce its transit pricing by 98% using all the political resources available. Unless this issue is resolved, India will always be more expensive compared to the US and Europe.
25.) Instead of mandating that the carriers and its customers provide LIM equipment for government monitoring, I highly recommend that all of the LIM equipment be bought and provided by the Indian government to the landing parties. This way, the government can precisely allocate as many LIMs as they really want without any misunderstanding with the carriers. In any case, this is an imposition on the carriers financially and otherwise and it is best that the government provides as much equipment as needed from time to time. Read More………
Why Was Ricardo Orcero Elbowed Out Of Meta?
At PTC this year, this was the most discussed topic and my views are based on the general consensus of the industry and my opinion based on all my discussions with close to 50 executives.
So the OTTs have the privilege of pointing to any person in the industry and hiring him (mostly men) because they pay anywhere from 3 to 10 times that paid by the carriers. And consequently they have accumulated the best people in the industry on their payroll. The carriers have lost their best people and continue losing them as soon as anyone looks promising.
And yet, there is Zero creativity coming out of the OTTs. I am specifically talking about the submarine cable industry (not software or chatGPT, etc.). Why one may ask? Because they don’t have to be creative. Big Daddy is always there with a blank check to build any cable they want and they don’t have to worry about revenues as they don’t have to sell anything. All revenues come from ad or cloud revenues — not from sale of bandwidth. In fact, nobody wants to think out of the box fearing they would lose their coveted job.
In this context, when Ricardo started working on the 2Africa cable, everyone laughed at him. While Google even joined the consortium, they left within months convinced that Ricardo was digging his own grave and the project would never see the light of the day. Ricardo also did something that was blasphemous to the OTTs. He signed up with half a dozen other carriers where Meta had no monetary advantage being the founder. Everyone was equal. Executives at Meta were dumbfounded as most of their bonuses are derived from their nickel and diming carriers, partners, vendors and so on. Ricardo’s fate was sealed about a year ago.
To make matters worse, 2Africa became the single-most successful cable ever conceived in the world and all of a sudden everyone in Meta wanted to share the fame. As they say, success has many fathers. Even Google came back with their tail under the butt and picked up a fiber pair on the 2Africa Pearls link to India. As 2Africa’s fame shot up to unbelievable heights, Ricardo was put out to pasture on a Garden Leave.
I am really happy that Google has picked up Ricardo and several other luminaries in the industry. But if they are not given a free rein to use their creativity and think out of the box — even if they fail — and there will be a lot of failures, all of this hiring will be futile. Read More………
My Recommendations To The Indian Government
Here are my recommendations to the Indian Government (TRAI) to change India’s submarine cable industry from the worst to the best in the world. India has a unique opportunity to become the hub of the world’s Internet and I believe these changes will enable India to do so in less than 5 years.
1.) License to own and operate a submarine cable
Cable owners should only notify the Indian Govt their intention to build a new submarine cable. There should be no license required for anyone to build and operate one. A submarine cable should be defined as the cable all the way to the SLTE. The only time they would need an ILDO (International Long Distance Operator) license would be if they want to sell the capacity within the country. If the cable owners want to terminate their traffic, they can use an ILDO partner for termination alone.
2.) License for private networks to terminate traffic in India
Private networks need to work with an Indian ILDO operator to terminate traffic within the country on terms agreed to between them. The ILDO operator need not own any capacity on the cable.
3.) License for transit traffic
There should be no license or LIM required for any kind of transit traffic either through domestic landline cables or submarine cables for traffic that does not terminate in India.
4.) License for Cable Landing Station
Any data center operator with an ISP license should be allowed to build and operate a Cable Landing Station. There should be no requirement for a CLS operator to have an ILDO license. Basically a CLS owner should be treated like a real estate owner – no more no less.
5.) Ability to sell fiber pairs (dark as well as managed)
Cable owners should be able to sell dark fibers to public and private networks and those networks should be allowed to use their own equipment (certified by the GoI) to operate their networks. Private networks should not need a license whereas public networks should require an ILDO license. European regulations regarding this issue are the best in this regard and has enabled massive growth in traffic in Europe.
6.) No taxes on transit traffic and transit infra
In order to encourage India to become a global hub and a traffic transit country, there should be no Indian regulations, LIM requirements or taxes imposed on transit traffic even if the traffic is flowing on domestic cables partially (submarine or landline)
7.) Taxes on sale of wholesale fiber pairs or capacity
A submarine cable owner should be allowed to sell capacity or fiber pairs to ILDO operators and charged only for 40 Nautical miles worth of the cable on a percentage basis of the total length of the cable.
8.) Single-window of clearance for submarine cable deals
GoI should create a single-window of clearance for all submarine cable permits and a requirement that such clearances will be given within 6 months of application. The Govt of Portugal is creating such a single-window clearance for submarine cables and it is willing to share their knowledge of the same with the GoI. GoI should create a portal where cable owners can register and monitor the developments of each permit. Also currently, application to certain permits is on a serial path and a lot of time is lost waiting for one permit to come through before applying for the next. It is recommended that a parallel path be followed for all permits in order to save time.
9.) Creation of a corridor where ships are not allowed to anchor
Look to Marseilles which has created a submarine cable-safe corridor where ships are not allowed to anchor. India should create multiple such corridors to encourage more cables coming through.
10.) Diversification of international POP’s
About a year ago, one cable cut near the Prabhadevi CLS cut Tata’s entire connectivity to Europe. All of India’s international traffic goes through either Mumbai or Chennai. GoI should encourage building of at least 10 International POP’s to create diversification and ensure security of traffic. Also it is important that Tier 2 cities along the coastline enjoy the same connectivity as Mumbai and Chennai.
11.) Creation of a cable depot on either side of India along with India’s own cableship
It is absolutely important to build a cable depot initially on the Western coast of India but within a few years on the Eastern coast as well. GoI should also invest in an encourage buying at least one cableship to maintain all of India’s cables. This will create an Atmanirbhar Bharat for the submarine cable industry. All of the existing cables should be made part of the IMZ “Indian Maintenance Zone” with GoI taking a small stake in the entity to encourage FDI to come in.
a.) Retroactive tax policies will drive away every investor coming to India
b.) Changes in ownership structure at the parent level should not create a tax liability at the Indian entity level
c.) In order to encourage India to become a global hub and a traffic transit country, there should be no Indian regulations or taxes imposed on transit traffic even if the traffic is flowing on domestic cables partially (submarine or landline)
d.) A submarine cable should not be declared domestic or international. Taxation should be based on traffic ingress and egress points and not on the physical infrastructure of the cable
e.) There should be no requirement for a CLS owner to physically own the Indian portion of the cable. While the cable can be owned by a foreign entity, taxation should be based on the physical cable inside 40 nautical miles of India. GoI should not charge cables on the EEZ limit of 200 nautical miles.
f.) There should be no double taxation, The CLS owner should be charged only on the real estate income whereas the cable owner can be charged on the revenues of the cable if sold in the retail or wholesale market to other ILDO’s.
g.) A submarine cable owner should be allowed to sell capacity or fiber pairs on a wholesale basis to ILDO operators and charged only for 40 Nautical miles worth of the cable on a percentage basis of the total length of the cable.
h.) A company which owns both the data centers and cables should not be forced to pay telecom taxes (12%) on the entire revenue but only on the revenue generated from cable operations. This is critical as it will then encourage companies to invest in multiple vertical businesses without worrying about having to pay unnecessary telecom taxes on all of the revenues (ie cables, cableships, data centers, etc.). This can be achieved by forming various independent entities but I believe that synergies arising from everything to be under the same roof are extraordinary.
i.) Taxes should not be levied on the cable but on the business generated within India from that cable.
(j) There should not be no taxes on transit traffic either at the cable level or managed traffic level.
13.) Landing Party
The concept of a Landing Party should be taken out of the cable landing requirements. A cable owner should be able to choose his LIM provider or an ILDO operator to terminate his traffic and if things don’t work out, should be able to change such provider at any time. A Landing Party designated for 25 years is a big drag on both sides and is bound to create major conflicts and abuse.
The biggest impediment to India’s rise as a global Internet hub is Egypt’s onerous transit pricing for submarine cables. It costs more to cross 200Km of Egyptian territory than the cost of the entire cable from India to Marseilles. This puts India at a major disadvantage viz-a-viz the US and Europe when it comes to IP transit pricing.
It is very important that GoI take up this issue with the Egyptian government and make them cut prices for all traffic terminating or transiting through India by at least 95% and up to 98%. Without such a drastic cut, India can never compete globally and will always be at a disadvantage even if all other issues are addressed.
15.) AAE-1 vs other cables Branch issue
As the founder of AAE-1 (formerly called the Tagare Cable), I developed a unique ownership structure. In all other cables, the branch terminating in India is 100% owned by the Indian carrier. So they own 100% traffic on the branch even if they may own 5% of the traffic on the main cable. In AAE-1, the Indian carrier owns the same amount of traffic on the branch as it owns on the main cable, thereby enabling other carriers to terminate traffic in India at any point in the future.
On all other cables, even if another Indian carrier bought capacity on the main cable, he is unable to terminate it in India as the landing carrier will not sell the branch capacity to him to keep competition away. This issue along with the CLS ownership of the carrier makes it impossible for anyone else to access the cable.
It is suggested that a law be enacted to bring all cables on the same rules as AAE-1 as it pertains to the Indian branch so that a lot of unused capacity is opened up. This can be done by requiring carriers to sell unused capacity on the branches to their competitors at cost price.
This rule should also apply to ILDO operators owning the cable within 40nm of India, thereby making it impossible for other carriers to buy capacity on the cable or at exorbitant prices. In this instance, someone owning 40 miles of fiber creates an obstacle for a carrier to buy on the 10,000 mile cable.
RIO charges are really hurting the Indian telecom industry and should be abolished going forward at least on all new cables. All new cables should have Zero RIO charges.
17.) Oman, Djibouti, etc. taking advantage of Indian traffic and making money.
With a population of 4 million, Oman has the same number of cables as India does. With an even smaller population, Djibouti also has approximately the same number of cables as India. In addition, UAE and Singapore also take advantage of India’s current regulatory system and siphon away money not only in terms of bandwidth transit but more importantly as massive owners of data centers which should reside in India.
If the Indian laws are made submarine cable investor friendly, there is no need for these countries to siphon off billions of dollars of business from India.
18.) Sensors and SMART cables
It is suggested that all cables terminating in India should use SMART cable technology at least within Indian waters. It is suggested that GoI decree that all cables coming out of India should have sensors at least until the EEZ limits of India. This will significantly help the climate change and green movement in India and will become a huge magnet for big data companies to analyze the predict the climate and also for the defense industry to monitor each ship coming in to India.
19.) LIM (Lawful Interception Monitoring) issues
The fine art of “Jugaad” is working quite well in this regard. Since the LIM equipment is very expensive, everyone is trying to game the system and consequently in some cables, only 2% of the total capacity coming in has LIM equipment dedicated to it. This is unfair to other ILDO operators who want to go by the book and insist on 100% LIM coverage and thereby do not get the business from private parties. In my opinion, if the only need for the LIM equipment is to monitor the VOIP on a cable, then it is a moot point as all of the capacity coming is data. I strongly suggest that the LIM requirement be removed to make it a fair playing field for all operators. If GoI insists on continuing with the LIM service, at a minimum it should be a competitive service and cable owners should be able to change their LIM provider. Also they should be able to work with multiple LIM operators if they choose to. Currently the Landing Party is automatically defined as their only LIM provider for 25 years and carriers are often at their mercy with no recourse to changing them even in cases of abuse. Also GoI should make it legal to have the LIM equipment on only 2% of the bandwidth coming in since from a practical perspective, that is the reality. GoI needs to remove all grey areas of potential dispute and try to make laws as black and white as possible to make a fair playing field to all players.
20.) Living Cable Network concept
All decisions taken by GoI should take in to account the possibility of a Living Cable Network similar to a domestic network where each cable is not a unique cable with a unique name but rather part of a network. It is quite possible that a new submarine cable coming in to India can continue to grow under the same name but at different locations in India.
21.) Cabotage Issue
The biggest problem facing the Indian submarine cable industry is the treatment of installation and maintenance cableships that come in to India from overseas. It seems that there is an unwritten Cabotage law in effect and these cableships are always in violation of Indian laws especially with the customs department. One of the vendors whose cableship was charged an atrocious customs duty has already stated it will no longer to business in India. Another vendor’s cableship was impounded for several months and Bharti Airtel had to bail out the ship by posting a bond worth tens of millions of dollars. This one issue has the potential of completely destroying the Indian submarine cable industry. I strongly suggest that submarine cable repair and installation cableships should be exempt from such Cabotage laws. In fact, there should be a new law specifically for installation, maintenance and survey of submarine cables which enables all types of specialized cableships to come in to India without any restrictions.
22.) Cableship personnel
Similar to the issue above, cableship personnel who are on these foreign cableships are subjected to what is termed as harassment and takes long lead times to get their visas approved. At $100,000 per day to run the cableship, such delays are very costly ultimately to the cable owners. It takes weeks or sometimes months to repair cables in India due to all these regulatory and supply chain issues. It seems that the Egyptian law on cableship personnel is quite good and GoI should study that carefully and implement it immediately.
23.) Domestic cable vs International cable
Even though IAX/IEX are international cables, there will be traffic flowing from Chennai to Mumbai and vice versa. Other cables in the future will also carry both domestic and international traffic. So it is wrong to describe a cable as domestic or international. Rather for taxation, licensing and other issues, the traffic flows on a cable and not the physical cable should determine whether it is domestic or international.
24.) GoI should encourage new cable landings in carrier-neutral CLS’s with open and free meet-me rooms
To prevent carriers from building moats around their CLS’s and prohibiting other carriers to access the cables they land, GoI should have a carrot and stick policy. New cables that land in carrier-neutral CLS’s with open and free meet-me rooms, should be awarded $5 million from the government. And those that land cables in closed CLS’s should be fined $5 million unless those carriers open up their legacy CLS’s with open and free meet-me rooms (under strict monitoring) in which case, they can also be given $5 million.
25.) Should the CLS operator have stakes in cables they land?
First of all, any data center operator should be able to land a submarine cable in its CLS. The data center should not be forced to carry the ILDO license. Secondly, there should be no requirement for such an entity to own any capacity on the cable it lands in its CLS facility. Treat a CLS operator like a real estate operator. It should also not be responsible for any LIM equipment or monitoring. That responsibility should rest of the licensed carrier who will terminate the traffic.
26.) Stop giving SOP’s to CLS operators
In India, there is a wrong perception that if someone builds a CLS, submarine cables will come and several state governments are offering significant incentives for people to build CLS’s without any promise of building a submarine cable. All that will result in is a lot of buildings with no cables connecting to them.
27.) Should GoI allow stub-cables?
Stub-cables are absolutely important for fast construction of new cables as they save years trying to get permits within India.
28.) Connectivity between existing CLS’s
GoI should not fight that battle but focus on new cables and make sure that mistakes of the past are not repeated. That is the reason it is important that all new cables land only in carrier-neutral CLS’s with completely open and free meet-me rooms.
29.) GoI should minimize the number of permits required to build submarine cables
Under the current scenario, it takes a minimum of 2 years to obtain all the permits in India. GoI should try to minimize the permits required and should make sure that all such permits are given within 6 months by creating a single window of clearance for all new submarine cables.
30.) GoI should open up the market to Chinese vendors
In Sea-Me-We-6, just allowing HMN to bid on the cable dropped the price of the cable by almost 30% even if in the end the contract went to Subcom. As long as HMN bids only on the cable and not on any electronics, from a security perspective it should be fine even if some contracts are awarded to HMN. But it will surely create a hyper competitive environment with every vendor forced to lowering their prices.
31.) GoI should open up the market to Chinese carriers for transit traffic
In IAX/IEX, China Mobile is allowed to own fiber pairs as long as they do not go through India. Why not allow them to transit India as long as they are not allowed to drop traffic in India? This will give a huge boost to the Indian transit market without compromising its internal security.
32.) Creating an even competing field for all Indian carriers
Every cable planned to originate or terminate in India must offer at least one fiber pair at cost price to all carriers as well as OTT players. The problem is that no Indian carrier or smaller OTT can build a cable on its own due to the high cost and therefore most carriers are left out of participating in a cable system at cost price. This will level the playing field for all carriers and OTTs and significantly lower prices.
33.) Warehousing of capacity
Under the guise of building out a private network, some entities end up warehousing capacity they may never need or may not need for several years perhaps with the intention of not enabling their competitors to get access to it. GoI must pass a law that any fiber pair which is not lit or used, should be made available to other carriers or OTTs until the owner of the capacity starts using it.
34.) Bandwidth As A Strategic Asset
In a post-globalization world where the buzzword coined by Hon Prime Minister Narendra Modi is Atmanirbhar Bharat, the GoI should look at Internet Access similar to how it looks at storing foodgrains in case of a disaster. In case India is cut off by the OTTs (most highly unlikely but not an impossible scenario), do the Indian carriers have enough bandwidth and networks to continue providing uninterrupted service to its citizens? The GoI should have an audit of its global bandwidth and should also invest in certain cables as an emergency backup plan. Read More………
How Bad Is India’s Regulatory Climate?
So by now, everyone knows I am working on a India submarine cable deal. So I met with 2 out of the 3 vendors at PTC to get pricing and discuss technology, timing, etc.
I did not meet the first vendor because I thought it would be unnecessarily biased against India. After all, one of its cableship was impounded for a few months several years ago and the $50 million bond to release the cableship apparently is still not released by the Indian Government 10 years after the cable started working.
So I met Vendor #2 who told me that they will never bid on an Indian submarine cable deal. Ouch. Why one may ask? Well, it so happens that when their ship entered Indian waters, the government thought they were trying to smuggle the ship in to India and so they charged them duty on the entire ship instead of just on the submarine cables. They said they never made any money on any of their Indian projects and so the company has blacklisted India unless the regulatory environment completely changed.
Vendor #2 told me quite categorically that in their opinion, India was the worst country in the world to do submarine cable business other than China and only because a non-Chinese company just cannot cross the Nine dash line.
With great hopes, I went to Vendor #3 who was quite excited to work on my deal except told me to come back after 2-3 years for the bid after I got all my permits and licenses in India. They would not touch an Indian project until all the licenses were in place and the list of licenses and permits they read out to me was quite extensive and made me sweat.
Leave alone me, I am a nobody. Even IAX/IEX owned by Jio, Facebook and Google took 7 years from concept to reality. So, if the Indian government does not get its act together very quickly, India is doomed to be a pariah in the submarine cable business. I hope the Indian Government reads this in a positive light and gets its act together as soon as possible.
Google Hiring In Subsea Cables Like There Is No Tomorrow
Reporting from the trenches of the PTC in Hawaii, there is an eerie silence as other than a couple of Facebook execs, no other OTT is present — Google, Microsoft or Amazon. Not a single person where normally they would fill up the entire Modern Hotel where a beeline of execs would form queues to meet the most powerful Masters of the Universe of the submarine cable industry.
In that spirit, it is very strange that Google is in a mad rush to hire some of the best people in the industry — Ricardo Orcero, Founder 2Africa — Facebook, Nigel Bayliff, CEO — AquaComms, Ian Clarke, Subsea VP — Ciena and many other big names are coming up. This is especially significant as Google has a hiring freeze in the rest of the company.
So something big is up at Google. I think Google, under the new leadership of Vivek Jhamb has realized that the old strategy of building monopolies in the subsea world has fallen flat and they are desperately trying to replace the old crew with fresh blood which is completely opposed to the monopoly building strategy of the past decade or more.
This is excellent news for the submarine cable industry. Finally looks like Google is accepting failure and moving on to a new world of cooperation with the rest of the industry. Finally the ghosts of the AT&T era will be lost forever and a new era will begin at Google which will bring a fresh wave of vitality to the industry. Read More………
As US Becomes Submarine Cable Pariah, Indian Regulator Looks At A Moonshot
Dr. P. D. Vaghela, Chairman of TRAI, the telecom regulator of India, is an intensely driven man. He has realized that India is far from reaching its potential in the submarine cable industry — something I have been writing for years — and he wants to change that in a hurry. His goal is nothing but spectacular — to make India the center of the world’s Internet traffic by making it the world’s biggest hub. I had the pleasure of meeting up with him recently.
And it is a tall order. Internet transit is similar to international airports. While some airports are 100% incoming local traffic, others like Dubai have 98% transit passengers. India today is all 100% incoming traffic. To change that, you need someone like Vaghela who comes from Hon Prime Minister’s home state of Gujarat.
For years, I have also criticized the Indian carriers who were the stumbling block for advancement of submarine cables. But for Vaghela, there are no holy cows. Everything is on the table. To that end, he has circulated a consultation paper in which he seeks opinions and views of the entire submarine cable industry worldwide on how to achieve his goal. If you want to do business in India, this is probably your best chance to let him know of all the changes you seek in India whether it is taxes, cableship issues, RIO, open CLS’s — you get the picture. If you don’t participate, do not complain about India anymore and hold your peace forever. Or if you want to go anonymous, send your comments to me and I will pass on.
If he is successful and I am 100% rooting for him, we can expect at least a dozen new submarine cables to India in the next decade or less. And politically, it falls in to place as he has less than 2 years before the next elections to implement his vision and clear up all regulatory hurdles for new submarine cables to start coming in.
With the US having pretty much given up on submarine cables with an incompetent regulator, the battle in the next decade is going to be between Europe and India. For India, there is only one way to go — and that is up. I would not bet against the intensely driven Vaghela from India. Read More………
Let’s Meet At PTC 2023 In Hawaii
I am going to PTC after 3 years — a lot has changed since the last time I was there. The industry was brimming with optimism, vendors were not returning phone calls, traffic was surging to new highs and the OTTs were hiring like there was no tomorrow.
Unfortunately, other than the fact that the traffic is still growing by double digits, everything else has changed for the worse. Most importantly, many people have been calling me to find out if this is the end of the road for the industry. Certainly, Facebook and Google’s takeover of the industry and now the sudden silence is worrisome. More importantly, the carriers and the entrepreneurs have lost the enthusiasm as everyone had resigned to the fact that unless one of the OTTs participated in a new cable deal, there was no deal.
I have been a huge critic of the OTTs for a long time and I have always believed that if you were dependent on the OTTs to get a deal done, it certainly would not be done or they would skin you alive in the process.
I am one of the believers that this great industry will make a comeback with or without the OTTs. I would like to meet as many of you as possible to figure out a way forward. I do have a few ideas and would like to discuss them with you. Let’s get on our mutual calendars and have a discussion over a Mai Tai or a Piña Colada.
R.I.P The US Submarine Cable Industry
I am officially calling the death of the US submarine cable industry in December 2022. I am not qualified to comment on its impact on the future GDP growth of the US or on its standing as the sole superpower of the world but I urge the McKinsey’s of the world to analyze it. Historically it has been the leading indicator. Does this mean that no more cables will be built connecting the US to other countries? Of course not. But they will be an exception rather than the rule and built out of desperation rather than a well thought out strategy.
This month, as soon as Team Telecom announced that it would not grant a license for ARCOS-1 to connect to Cuba, French operator Orange immediately announced that it would build a new submarine cable connecting Cuba to Martinique with the intention of bringing Cuba’s traffic directly to Europe bypassing the US. Orange also recently landed the Chinese cable PEACE cable in Marseille in the largest data center there owned by Digital Realty. The Europeans also subsidized EllaLink, a cable connecting South America to Europe — bypassing the US. So Europe, US’s biggest ally has been working for years trying to unseat the US as the center of gravity of the global submarine cable industry.
Europe for all practical purposes is now at the center of the global Internet mostly because they know that global politics and submarine cable politics are not related in any way and denying submarine cable landings is the same as signing your own death warrant. My prediction is that the next submarine cable wars for control over the global Internet will be played in the Europe to Asia corridor — which happens to be my stomping ground. Asian carriers have already come together denying any spots on new submarine cables to the US OTTs. Let us see how the battle shapes up from now on.
There is not a single bank in the world that will lend money to a private submarine cable to the US given the insecurity in obtaining a cable landing license from Team Telecom. Employees of the OTTs — the masters of the universe — are fighting to keep their jobs. And the carriers who have been treated like dirt by the OTTs are in no mood to help.
Telecom history will not be kind to the greedy OTTs and the incompetent Team Telecom who are collectively responsible for killing the US submarine cable industry. Not only has the US lost the leadership, it will not even be a minor player in the global submarine cable industry going forward. Read More………
There Goes Team Telecom Again
If you were not part of the industry and knew better, you would think Team Telecom was an agency of Russia or some other enemy country of the US — because it is hell bent on making sure to destroy the US submarine cable industry.
First of all, it sat on the application of ARCOS-1, a puny cable that would connect the US to Cuba by incorporating a new segment for more than 2 years and now has denied the application citing “significant counterintelligence threat to the United States by virtue of espionage and other counter intelligence activities.”
Seriously? The richest and the most technically sophisticated country in the world is afraid that Cuba would spy on a cable that is connected to the US directly and monitored 24/7 by the spooks in the US? I am sorry I just don’t buy that argument.
So is Team Telecom saying that every cable connecting US with a foreign country is not monitored? Like in the UK, France, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Italy, Singapore, Japan, Korea? Seriously, which world do they live in?
If the only super-power in the world is afraid that a 50 Km fiber optic cable to Cuba, probably the poorest and smallest country in the world would breach its intelligence, I think we have a much bigger problem. This is what happens when non-elected politicians are given carte blanche to make decisions that will impact the future of the US for decades to come. Read More………
Meta Has Stopped Investing In New Submarine Cables
Meta’s development budget for new submarine cables for 2023 is Zero. Now the question really is will they continue to support cables they had already announced or working on so far?
Meta is also looking at already announced cables to see if they can extradite themselves from some of them. For example, I think the trans-Atlantic cable Meta has been working on which never got traction because of disagreement with Google, will also be canned.
But a number of cables that are already under construction and especially the consortium cables will be hard to get out of — like the trans-Pacific cables that are almost completed but are stuck in Team Telecom-related regulatory hassles.
Even in the already contracted cables, Meta is having significant problems dealing with the vendors as high inflation has completely thrown apart the economics of the industry. The issue is who is responsible for the increased prices due to inflation — the vendors or the OTTs. Read More………
Regular Fiber Cuts inside Egypt A Huge Impediment For India’s Growth Story
India, like the rest of the world have resigned to the single point of failure story of Egypt where every cable connecting India with Europe passes through. While Egypt charges more to cross the 200Km stretch in Egypt than the cost of the entire India/Singapore to Europe cable, the least everyone expects is flawless connectivity within Egypt. And Thief Telecom Egypt has been proudly extolling it’s so-called mesh network within Egypt to prevent cables from going through Israel.
But ground reality cannot be any more different. When a couple of European banks called to find a non-Egyptian route to India, I was all ears. It seems like they have been experiencing traffic issues in Egypt every other day and complete darkness at least twice this year for several hours. The banks wanted to find an alternate route to Egypt — and money was no object to find a solution.
So Egypt has three routes connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and majority of the 20-odd cables are on two of them. Thief Telecom Egypt wants everyone to buy capacity on the third route as well — the festoon connecting Suez to Zafarana to Ras Ghareb — also known as the Golden Route as it will bring untold riches to the Thief.
So the regular fiber cuts are either just negligence or sabotage by disgruntled employees/ contractors or intentional by the Thief to force everyone to buy on the Golden Route. Take your pick. It’s terrible whichever one is reality. Personally I think it is the latter but then people might think I am biased. Imagine that! And just to be clear, the Golden Route is being sold as a backup route to the backup route of the original route which is supposed to have carrier-grade SLA’s.
The situation hopefully will improve when Blue Raman will start operating in early 2025. In the meantime, India is screwed as traffic to Europe continues to remain super expensive and super unreliable. And the reality is the Golden Route will make tens of millions of dollars to cater to the FIFA games in Qatar as carriers and OTTs have no choice but to buy on the new route. Isn’t it quite a coincidence that the cable breaks in Egypt started accelerating as the FIFA games came closer and closer? Read More………
OTTs Denied Membership in Asian Cable Consortium
The war between the US OTTs and Asian carriers continues in full swing as a consortium of carriers led by SingTel and China Telecom have denied membership to any of the US OTTs in a new submarine cable called Asia Link Cable (ALC).
ALC will connect Singapore and Hong Kong with China, Philippines and Brunei. This is a $300-$400 million cable and about 6,000Km in length.
The vendor chosen has been HMN as it was the only vendor to bid on the contract. SubCom refused to bid on it fearing that Team Telecom would get involved and force it take a $100 million loss as it did in the Sea-Me-We-6 cable where it lost $200 million. Team Telecom has its head under the sand as usual and will not get involved unless it can figure out a way to hurt US interests. Team Telecom got involved in the Sea-Me-We-6 negotiations through the US Embassy in Singapore and forced SingTel to give the contract to SubCom. But it will not use its prowess to force SingTel to let the US OTTs participate in the ALC deal.
I have seen my share of incompetent and stupid regulators around the world but Team Telecom is a whole different level of stupidity. Read More………
Digital Realty’s Major Strategy Change In Marseille
One of the biggest success stories in the data center industry has been Interxion with its Marseille data center which resulted in it being acquired by Data Realty for $8.4 Billion — the bulk of the valuation being mostly associated with Marseille. And as they say, with huge success comes its own complications — Marseille becoming the biggest single-point-of-failure at least in Southern Europe if not all of Europe.
That caused a lot of customers especially from the Middle East and Asia starting to become very uneasy — as they would have to deal with 2 single-point-of-failures on the route — Egypt and Marseille. And they started looking at other options such as Italy and more recently Greece. Which caused a lot of pain Digital Realty’s HQ and hence a major change in strategy.
Now Digital Realty wants to recreate Marseille in multiple locations in the Mediterranean and sell it to customers as a mesh solution. So you could land in any Digital Realty facility in the Med and still be connected to Marseille — which over time would no longer be a single-point-of-failure.
So Digital Realty is investing heavily in data centers in the Med away from Marseille — it already has 2 data centers in Athens and multiple ones in the pipeline — in Crete, Tel Aviv, Rome, Genoa, Barcelona, and also in Lisbon (although just outside the Med but connecting the Med to the Atlantic Ocean).
Just like Interxion was visionary and way ahead of the market investing in Marseille, I think Digital Realty is doing the same in the Med — staying well ahead of competition. This has massive implications for future cables as you can tell which countries the best minds in the industry are betting billions of dollars on — and which ones they are not (hint: Egypt). Read More………
Why Is Google The Laughing Stock Of The Submarine Cable Industry?
If there is one company in the submarine cable industry I am truly disappointed with, it is Google. When they started sniffing around the industry with its first submarine cable investment in Unity — the industry had already gone belly up in the telecom crash of 2000 and everyone knew who the culprits were — AT&T, KDDi, Orange, BT and SingTel — but mostly AT&T who had completely monopolized the industry with the others as their partners in crime.
Now this is a time when Google could have really taken a leadership role in the industry globally and brought all the carriers and other OTT’s along with them and created history. It was the obvious thing to do given Google’s humble beginnings as a Silicon Valley startup and its egalitarian leanings.
But what does Google do? It goes and hires people from AT&T and others who oversaw the destruction of the industry earlier — the remnants of whom still are at decision-making positions at Google. They convinced Google that working with other carriers was a bad idea and the only way to control the industry was to create a monopoly. And as cloud started looking like a viable business, the top networking folks at Google were also convinced that a monopoly in submarine cables could be the ticket for a monopoly or at least a top ranking in the cloud business.
20 years in, they are still number 3 in the cloud business and the interesting thing is that Amazon and Microsoft are minor players if that in the submarine cable business — they lease from the carriers or buy IRU’s as required. And Google ended up creating a lot of enemies in the carrier world as Google went around and started asking for up to 100% markup on wholesale bandwidth — from the same carriers who Google had offered Cost minus 10% on their cable investments.
The problem is this — the industry is in big trouble — inflation has hurt the industry more than any other because of the long lead times it takes to build cables and nobody wants to pay Google their markup — not even in the case of Blue Raman which is a very unique route. On the other hand, traffic is increasing in double digits and ad revenues are decreasing by double digits. Google is on its own. It has no friends left in the industry. The carriers just laugh at Google when they try to offload their unused capacity. Read More………
Now The Submarine Cable Industry Has Covid
The global submarine cable industry is sick. Really sick. And it is going to get worse in the next couple of years especially if inflation is not tamed quickly.
So as I have said before, the concept to reality stage of a cable on average is 7 years beyond which it is supposed to work for 25 years. And submarine cable vendors are often forced to accept fixed prices with the assumption of the permitting getting done on time. Well, a number of cables are now delayed due to all kinds of reasons including permitting, fights between the co-owners and so on. For example, Jio’s IAX/IEX cable has been delayed by as many as 4 years. And Google’s Blue Raman cable is similarly delayed which forced the supplier from passing on the 10% inflation price increase to OmanTel, Google and Sparkle — which resulted in a big fight wherein Google is refusing to pick up the excess cost and is forcing its other two partners to eat the difference.
There are multiple problems involving the suppliers too. They make this mistake every time business is looking good — they go all in and increase the capacity. And every time they make a wrong call. Now they have excess capacity but the demand has fallen significantly as Meta has clearly scaled back its investments in new cables. Google is still in the game although it still lives in a fantasy land where it wants to make a 100% profit on its investments — by selling excess capacity to the carriers as a whole seller. So bottom line is both the leads are now no longer leading new cables other than those announced and Amazon and Microsoft don’t have the desire or the guts to step in to take the lead role. The carriers are stuck in an impossible situation as without the lead, they are unable to proceed on their own — except in Asia where the carriers band together and keep the OTTs out of the game.
If inflation is not controlled, the submarine cable vendors will be in trouble as they are already down to a 5% margin and will surely start losing money on the fixed-price contracts. So expect a lot of fights between the vendors and the OTTs each blaming the other and trying to pass the buck to each other. Other than Meta’s already announced 24-fiber cable across the Atlantic, no new cables other than already announced are in the works. And there are 2 cables in the Pacific that are not working yet — even though all construction is completed — my estimate is $3 Billion worth of capital is in some kind of a limbo in the APAC and trans-Pacific regions — most likely over disagreement on who is responsible for picking up the inflation tab.
Oh, I forgot to mention one more small issue. There is a 42-week waiting period to get line cards once you get your bandwidth. And guess who is monopolozing the Ciena and Infinera line cards? Not the carriers who are left to fend for themselves. Read More………
RTI’s Horror Story A Warning Sign For The Industry
The most important shift in the industry in the last couple of decades for a submarine cable owner is to land the cable in a third-party cable landing station so all the local regulations, tax issues, etc. can be passed on to someone else and the submarine cable owner can focus on what it does best.
And that’s exactly what RTI did. In fact, RTI even had control over the cable landing stations in Guam and Hermosa Beach where Russ Matulich, the CEO of RTI was also the CEO and Board Member of Gateway Network Connections or GNC. RTI is one of the very few private submarine cable operators one can count with one hand existing in the world today and it has been very successful wooing not only the OTTs but also the DoD to its customer base.
Now what happens when the tail starts wagging the dog? That’s exactly what happened when the GNC investors booted Russ out of the company and terminated his employment both as the CEO and Board Member. In fact, the real horror story was that RTI was not even permitted to enter the cable landing stations where it’s own multi-billion dollar cables resided. And to boot, as a captive customer, RTI started getting high bills that it claimed it never agreed to when it signed up as a customer.
Of course, all of this went in to arbitration where GNC was ordered to keep the status quo until the formal judgement would be delivered this year — which according to RTI, GNC totally ignored and continued to block RTI. The whole thing is a complete mess and RTI could very well face an existential crisis as it has lost control over its own cable properties. Rumor is that RTI has been offered $20 million to walk away from it’s multi-billion dollar cable properties. It is in the interest of the entire submarine cable industry to support RTI in every possible way in these tough times. Russ is a very strong and resilient CEO and I am sure he will bounce back stronger than ever with the help of the submarine cable community.
I started looking at how many other cables no longer have complete control over their cable landing stations. And it is alarming. CLS investors have realized that they can get control over multi-billion properties by squeezing cable operators and that is a red sign that won’t go away for a long time. Read More………
US OTT’s, Chinese Plan Cable Connecting India, Pakistan to Middle East
Meta is heading a consortium consisting of Amazon and Google to build a new cable called Asia Middle East or AME to connect India and Pakistan to Salalah in Oman. With the political situation in India the way it is, no Indian carrier will dare take on leadership of this project. But the OTTs are in a world of their own. Of course, there will be no direct connection between India and Pakistan and they will connect to each other through a branching unit pointing towards Oman.
And as I have said multiple times, no cable to Pakistan can be built without the express agreement of the Chinese carriers who are bankrolling the Pakistani landing and will pick up traffic behind the scenes, while a Pakistani carrier will front the deal. While all the Chinese carriers are looking at the deal, the most likely candidate to put up the money will be China Mobile which is desperately looking to back up its traffic in 2Africa.
One more high-speed terabit cable landing in Pakistan — where a third of the country is besieged by floods and 50 million homeless people. Of course, the US OTTs will claim plausible deniability when asked about who’s putting up the money in Pakistan. Read More………
Team Telecom Needs To Be Shut Down
Please note, I am referring to shutting down Team Telecom only as it relates to the submarine cable industry. This is why.
I am convinced that Team Telecom is clueless about the submarine cable industry. In fact, it’s actions have hurt all the US companies and those of US allies instead of punishing China. Which brings us to China. Team Telecom has developed a singular focus on hating China and that is clouding all of its judgement in stead of focusing on how to help US companies. It is similar to Pakistan spending the last 75 years hating India instead of focusing on how to better its own financial health. And we all know how that worked out.
Let me be very specific. Team Telecom’s decision to shut down all Hong Kong destination cables — which were either fully built or installed mostly hurt US companies — Google, Facebook, RTI to name a few and US allies — Japan — NEC, India — Tata Communications. The Chinese companies were hurt about 10% of the US companies and more importantly, they were smart and nimble enough to create a new Hong Kong-like destination on the West of China — Pakistan through which they will have direct access to Europe. And none of these Pakistan-based cables allow any US companies to transit traffic. And if Team Telecom shuts down Pakistan, China will move to Djibouti where it has 100% control — and on and on.
Another major issue is because the US shut down cables that cost hundreds of millions of dollars and ready for service, nobody in the world trusts Team Telecom now to provide licenses to land a cable. So all new cable build out to the US has almost completely come to a halt. Of course, some of the OTTs for whom a few hundred million dollars is play money, will take the risk — but no bank will loan money to a US-destination cable — which means no entrepreneurs, no innovation, no pushing the envelope. US has now become the worst destination in the entire world to land a submarine cable. I would say it would be much easier to get a submarine cable license in India compared to the US. And that is exactly a complete reversal compared to 5 years ago.
US actions have in particular really hurt Subcom which lost $200 million because Team Telecom forced it to lower its bid to compete with HMN in the Sea-Me-We-6 deal. The reason Team Telecom got involved in that deal is because it wanted to flex its muscles and prove that it has control over cables where it has no jurisdiction — the cable does not land in the US, has no US customers and nothing to do with the US — although Microsoft did manage to get half a pair on the cable in the aftermarket.
If there is a real or perceived security risk of HMN landing a cable, deal with it like you would in any cable — from mandatory use of surveillance technology, etc. In any case, which country in the world does not monitor traffic coming on to its shores? And if all of Europe has no issues with Chinese cables, why not let them deal with it from a security and technology perspective?
My suggestion to Team Telecom is to focus on how it can help US and ally companies instead of focusing on trying to hurt China. Let me be very specific.
Does Team Telecom know that for the most part, US companies do not get access to fiber pairs when the lead is an Asian carrier? Like Sea-Me-We-6 or most of the pan-Asian cables? Why can’t the US flex its muscles and make sure that no cable will deny a spot to the US OTTs and carriers? Team Telecom is focused on the vendor side whereas the real problem is on the cable access.
If the US really wants to flex its muscles, why not show its eight-pack to Egypt which has been screwing US and ally companies for the past 3 decades with exorbitant pricing? — where the cost of transiting 200 Km of Egypt is more than the cost of the entire cable from Singapore to France.
Why not work with the Israeli government to create a safe competing route from Europe to Asia? — and destroy the world’s largest single point of failure in Egypt?
Why does Team Telecom have to approve every cable connecting the US? Why can’t it copy India where once a carrier gets a Tier 1 license, it automatically has the right to land any cable it wants in India? That will bring back the confidence in the market and a lot more cables will be planned to the US. It takes 7 years on average to plan and build a cable. The longer it takes for the US to change its stance, its irrelevance in the global submarine cable industry will be guaranteed. With fewer submarine cables, the number of data centers needed will also go down. And it will be downhill from thereon. In my opinion, there is no need for Team Telecom oversight of the submarine cable industry. The sooner it is dismantled, the better it is for the US. Read More………
Saudi Vision Not Quite 20/20
I have been super excited about STC’s vision of their proposed connectivity to Europe and the details have started coming in. The first cable announced was the Saudi Vision Cable.
I think there is a very fine line between success and abject failure in this configuration. It’s almost there but not quite. Let me explain.
Everyone hates going through Egypt because of the extremely high prices and single point of failure. But on the positive side, you are dealing with only one devil and it is a known devil. You know how much you are getting screwed for and by now, the Egyptians have built a fiber mesh along multiple routes so there is somewhat of a resiliency — although disputed by some carriers.
With the Saudi solution as it stands, you are dealing with 4 unknown devils — Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and possibly Greece if the Med cable does not seamlessly go to Marseilles and coupled with no fiber mesh. And in my mind, that is a deal breaker. I would be shocked if STC can sell a single fiber pair to any company even at cost price given this configuration. In fact, anyone who dares to buy this fiber pair, will be fired the next day by his company.
The only solution that will get everyone’s attention is to have one more final landing in Eilat, Israel. That will reduce 2 potential devils and then take the cable directly from Israel to Marseilles eliminating the third. Then you are dealing with only one devil Israel which is acceptable. This will provide true diversity along with acceptable risk. Unless of course STC wants to use the cable only for domestic traffic.
If STC thinks it can make a killing going to Europe by selling fiber pairs on this cable, I think they are smoking some weird stuff. I would suggest taking the $150 million and throwing it in the Red Sea one $10K bundle at a time. At least STC can make money on the advertising revenues from TikTok and Youtube and won’t have to spend an additional $150 million on the O&M. Not to mention STC getting free publicity and becoming famous worldwide. Read More………
The Curse Of The OTTs
Now that a global recession is staring at the world, the OTTs realize that they are cursed in their infrastructure spending especially as it pertains to data centers and submarine cables. While advertising revenues have already taken a deep dive, the traffic keeps on increasing at a double digit growth rate and they cannot really stop the infra expenses.
All of the OTTs have frozen new hiring. In fact, all of them have started firing people and other austerity measures are in the topmost gear. Google has started a productivity drive which translates to less people doing more work.
And every OTT is now trying to figure out how to reduce their infra expenses totally realizing that the curse won’t let them stop the expenses. So we are now going to see the worst of the OTT behavior. Screws will be tightened with the suppliers and the carriers who have nowhere else to go and have become totally dependent on the OTTs for survival.
I fully envision every OTT in some form getting in to the bandwidth wholesale business trying to sell off any excess capacity they have in the system. Google has already perfected that art in the submarine cable industry and that trend will continue with other OTTs as well although a lot of shady deals will have to be done since none of the OTTs have licenses to sell bandwidth nor do they want to pay taxes. So many will turn to Google’s way of doing business in the Blue Raman cable where no taxes were paid on sale of excess capacity at a 100% premium to other carriers — which I have detailed in my earlier blog.
On the other hand, this will force the OTTs who hate each other in the submarine cable business to come together for new build outs as they will have no other choice but to tolerate each other. Perhaps this may be a good time for Microsoft and Amazon to sit at the same table as Facebook and Google — who have traditionally been treated as untouchables.
Overall, we will see the worst behavior on part of the OTTs as they try to please their bosses by demonstrating that they can be brutally tough on vendors, carriers and regulators & tax authorities. Every signed agreement will be revisited and renegotiated. It’s going to get ugly. Read More………
Now Saudi Arabia Is Planning A Power Submarine Cable To Greece
Turns out that the Saudi/Greek partnership encompasses more than just a submarine cable for communications between the two countries. Post-Ukraine, Europe is desperate for buying energy from any non-Russian source. And price is a non-issue especially if anyone can deliver green power. Saudi Arabia wants to generate tens of GW of green solar power and send it to Europe through Israel and a power submarine cable connected to Greece.
MBS is once again treated as royalty in Europe and the Khashoggi incident is history — green energy is far too important especially if it helps Europe diversify from their dependence on Russia.
So MBS has started a new company called MENAHUB owned by STC. This company will include all of STC’s submarine cable and data center assets and will add new submarine cables connecting Europe to Middle East, India, Asia and Africa passing through Saudi Arabia. MENAHUB will have additional investors such as TTSA from Greece and talks will soon start with some private equity investors.
2Africa will be a flagship asset of MENAHUB with connectivity to all of Africa and India. A new cable called Europe to Med data Corridor (EMC) will connect Saudi Arabia with Cyprus, Greece and Marseilles with potential landing also in Genoa in Europe. STC is in discussions with potential parties in India and Asia to extend the cable although under a different name.
The proposed power submarine cable will also likely be part of MENAHUB which will make it an infrastructure powerhouse second to none in the Middle East. I am super excited about Saudi Arabia’s grand entry in to the submarine cable industry as it will bring a massive boost to the industry and change the political dynamics especially as it pertains to Egypt and Israel. Read More………
Power Submarine Cables Make No Sense
I am all in for green energy and I am also happy to pay a slight premium to save the world. But some of the super-woke deals that are being put forth make no financial sense to me.
Take the example of this deal of a power submarine cable connecting UK to Morocco. This one 3,800 Km cable is supposed to replace 8% of UK’s power with 7GW of solar energy and 3.5GW of wind mill energy produced in Morocco — all ready for service by the 2030 timeframe.
The cost of the project is estimated to be around $22 Billion not including an additional 100% O&M cost over the life of the cable — which brings the total to say around $45 Billion. To put things in perspective, the GDP of Tunisia is $39 Billion and that of Morocco is $112 Billion.
At the risk of being cancelled, I wonder if it is cheaper to send some of the super-woke folks who need green energy at any cost to buy winter homes in Morocco and use all the solar energy they can working from home there?
Now, not all power submarine cable projects are bad. I have looked at business plans of a cable connecting Singapore to Batam in Indonesia and that to me makes a lot of sense financially and given the physical constraints of Singapore as a nation.
Let’s look at some other super-woke examples. Read More………
Why Did MBS Personally Sign a Minor Submarine Cable Deal?
So let me put things in perspective. When does MBS get involved in deals? When Softbank’s Masayoshi-san drops in to ask for $100 Billion for his Vision fund. Or when he needs to announce his $2 Trillion 106-mile vertical city in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Or when he announces the $500 Billion Neom City buildout in the desert of Saudi Arabia.
So let me put things in perspective. When does MBS get involved in deals? When Softbank’s Masayoshi-san drops in to ask for $100 Billion for his Vision fund. Or when he needs to announce his $2 Trillion 106-mile vertical city in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Or when he announces the $500 Billion Neom City buildout in the desert of Saudi Arabia.
So what’s he doing announcing a sub-$150 million tiny submarine cable to Greece? Let me put things in perspective. The US Government forced Subcom to sign a deal to build Sea-Me-We-6 resulting in Subcom losing $200 million as it was forced to match a rival Chinese bid. To be fair, the Saudi cable deal was part of a $5 Billion investment in to Greece. But the highlight of the announcement was the submarine cable which was not mentioned in any press release. All of a sudden, submarine cables are being a key component of state craft.
What is more important than the announcements, is what is not being announced. So Saudi Arabia never announced a cable to Greece. They never announced that it will go through Israel as opposed to Egypt. They never announced their ambition to become the next Mecca of submarine cables, one day replacing Egypt. They never announced that what was a grey route through Israel, is now no longer a taboo. They never announced that they have a full fiber pair on 2Africa going to Mumbai. They never announced that they intend to make the route from Saudi to Israel the most resilient route in the Middle East. They never announced that their prices to Europe would be significantly lower than going through Egypt. They never announced that Saudi Arabia has the blessings of the United States to move in this direction. They never announced that Saudi Arabia and Israel have signed an agreement enabling the crossing of submarine cables to Europe.
Saudi Arabia is poised to become a major player of submarine cables in the Middle East adding to the rich diversity of cables in the region and is the only hope for taking out Egypt as the world’s biggest single point of failure. Read More………
Adani Will Land 2Africa In Gujarat
Let me be very clear. Facebook has not yet signed up with Adani to land 2Africa but my job is to look in the future. And I can say without any doubt that Adani will land the second 2Africa node in Gujarat — somewhere close to Surat — this will be Gujarat’s first submarine cable landing and a moment of pride for the state.
I know all the other parties that are in the running and they don’t come close to what Adani is offering Facebook. Kapil Juneja’s move to Adani has made all the difference.
I have nothing but the highest regard for Bharti Airtel. In my opinion, they have the most professional and battle-hardened submarine cable team compared to any other carrier in the world. But sometimes, being the best is also a problem — you lose sight of the big picture momentarily — as it happened in the case of 2Africa — where Bharti is landing the cable in Mumbai.
Bharti had an opportunity to pay an additional $100,000 to be part-owner of the branching unit off of the main cable in to Mumbai. And this is a perfect example of the saying — for want of a shoe, the horse was lost. That $100K would have given Bharti the right to either do the second landing themselves or to decide who could do it. Unfortunately, the decision was made to save the $100K — after saving $50 million on the branch cost. Go figure.
And the rest will be history when Adani gets its entry into the best submarine cable ever conceived by mankind — 2Africa — and probably other than Juneja, nobody will even understand how big this prize is. It will make Adani a major player in the Indian submarine cable space overnight and will change Gujarat forever. Read More………
China Is Back With A Roar
Team Telecom is without any doubt the stupidest telecom regulator in the entire world. In my opinion, it should be dismantled for good as it has caused more harm than good for US companies and those of allies. US without a regulator will thrive and be more safe than with Team Telecom.
Team Telecom wanted to destroy the Chinese in the submarine cable industry. So they went ahead and cancelled a few submarine cables that were supposed to land in Hong Kong — cables that were already paid for worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Team Telecom thought that would teach China a lesson and cause irreparable damage. In fact, exactly the opposite has taken place. Instead of causing harm to China, it’s actions have caused massive damage to US companies and has single-handedly destroyed the US submarine cable industry as US is seen as the riskiest country now to get a submarine cable license.
China is not only back with a bang but now more stronger and more resolute to own the seas of the world. Not only did it build a new Hong Kong-like hub in Pakistan, Hong Kong itself is back with two massive cables connecting Hong Kong to Singapore — the SEA-H2X and the ALC cables.
But this is just the start. China is in the process of copying the entire global subsea eco-system which consists of The International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC), Suboptic, Telegeography and they are also building 2 new cableships to protect their cables. They are pouring tremendous amount of money in to HMN, their own submarine cable company. And they intend to conquer all the markets they are welcomed with open arms — Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. While they are not invited in India, they play with the Indian carriers who look the other way. Similarly, while they are not invited in the US, they play with the OTTs who are also pissed off with Team Telecom as they lost hundreds of millions of dollars in Hong Kong.
Not only is Team Telecom stupid, the Suboptic committee is also stupid having invited the Chinese to run and manage Suboptic 2023 in Bangkok, where they will learn all the ins and outs of the industry before announcing their own version of Suboptic. And I am convinced HMN will become one of the largest vendors in the submarine cable space within 5 years. This one mistake on part of Team Telecom is going to be very expensive for the entire world. Read More………
Adani Poised To Enter The Submarine Cable Industry
Today Adani Enterprises poached Kapil Juneja, Bharti Airtel’s topmost submarine cable executive to head its submarine cable division signifying that Adani is finally serious about becoming a player in the submarine cable industry. I predict that Adani will announce its first cable investment no later than end of 2022.
I have been tracking Adani over the last year or so as they were trying to get their feet wet and trying to understand the economics of the business. And I think they are ready to take on the old guard — Indian carriers who have been overzealous in guarding the gates of the Indian submarine cable industry.
The biggest advantage Adani has and the reason I am so thrilled to see them becoming a player is that they do not have any baggage — RIO baggage in particular. So they will be able to do deals that the old guard carriers will find it difficult to do.
Poaching the top guy at Bharti Airtel is a very smart move by Adani. Bharti has the best bench of professionals in the submarine cable industry and they have done some really remarkable deals in the recent past — bringing in Sea-Me-We-6 to India as the main trunk, buying MENA for a paltry $90 million and becoming a landing party to 2Africa after a year long battle with Facebook.
Bharti is clearly the king of submarine cables in India. Not because they know how to build submarine cables (everyone knows that) but more importantly because they know how to make money off of them. And that is precisely the talent Adani needed desperately. Money for the right deal is not at all a problem at Adani. But now have the right person to structure the deals. Read More………
Sparkle Launches Offensive Against Marseille, Changes Religion
The massive success of Marseille shook up incumbents like Orange and Telecom Italia Sparkle (now being renamed as Sparkle). In addition to the data center business which is dominated by Interxion (Digital Realty), it has really changed Marseille significantly by creating a massive digital hub, increasing tech jobs, getting global publicity and so on. So Sparkle wants to get in on the action too and make Genoa the next Marseille.
Not too long ago, Sparkle’s cable landing stations used to be called Black Holes — as in once bandwidth goes in, it never comes out. It was the most hated CLS owner in the Mediterranean and I would argue, their arrogance gave rise to Marseille as the default interconnection point from Asia, Middle East and India in to Europe. Carriers used to have nightmares just thinking of landing their cables in a Sparkle CLS.
So Sparkle had no other choice but to change its religion from Black Holes to Open Cables in order to survive and launch a credible threat to Marseilles. I must say, I am really impressed by the transformation and I have managed to get some exclusive footage of Sparkle’s plans to make Genoa the next generation Marseille.
All of this infrastructure which is easily worth $100 million or more in construction costs which includes the existing tunnels and bore pipes provided by the City means that Sparkle is getting ready to not only bring in Blue Raman but also is ready to host a bunch of other cables in the additional ducts they are creating. Sparkle, welcome to the new religion of the submarine cable industry — Open Cables.
We definitely need competition to Marseille to keep everyone on their toes so I certainly welcome Genoa and Sparkle’s reincarnation. I would be willing to forget the past and urge everyone to give them a chance to do the right thing. It’s no longer Telecom Italia. It’s just Sparkle. Dazzle us! Read More………
Team Telecom Gets Out Of It’s Cage, Creates Mayhem
There are some stories that are so atrocious, you can’t make them up even if you wanted to. This is certainly one of them. The all-powerful unelected politicians at Team Telecom cannot fathom the fact they have no jurisdiction outside of the United States. So after single-handedly destroying the submarine cable industry in the US by denying licenses to cables already built and worth hundreds of millions of dollars, they are flexing their muscles in submarine cables that have no landings in the United States. The problem is their actions are now so predictable, foreign carriers are running circles around them and laughing all the way to the bank.
So three vendors were vying to get the Sea-Me-We-6 contract: HMN (China), ASN (Europe) and Subcom (US). From Day 1, Bharti Airtel had told Singtel that they would drop out of the deal if HMN was awarded the contract as the Indian government would never allow Chinese equipment in India. And the Chinese carriers said they would not join if HMN was not awarded the contract. So Singtel who is the smartest carrier in the submarine cable industry since the days of Lim Toon, decided to play a really interesting game.
While Subcom and ASN came up with a $750 million bid, HMN came in at a $475 million bid. So Singtel awarded the contract to HMN knowing fully well that the deal was not going to happen without India. And that’s when Team Telecom and the US Government blew a gasket. How dare SingTel award the contract to a Chinese company?
The interesting thing was the EU didn’t care two hoots that ASN was not awarded the contract or that a Chinese company was going to build the cable. But Team Telecom wanted to protect the stupid and poor Europeans who did not know what was good for them. So for the first time in the history of the submarine cable industry, the US Embassy in Singapore got involved in a privately built submarine cable procurement process.
The wily SingTel told Team Telecom it would be happy to dump HMN and go with Subcom if Subcom could match HMN’s price. Which meant that Subcom would have to take a huge loss on the deal. But the US government was so concerned about Europe that it forced Subcom to reduce its price by $200 million to $550 at which point, SingTel reluctantly agreed (wink wink) to dump HMN and bring in Subcom. Remember, EU didn’t care. ASN didn’t care. No European country cared. Just the US wanting to let Europe know what was good for them and punishing a US Corporation as a result!
As if this was not bad enough, the stupidity doesn’t end here. Now, Subcom refuses to bid on any cable where HMN is bidding fearing that the world’s policeman will want to do a favor to some other country by forcing Subcom to cut prices again. Like the SEA-H2X cable from Singapore to Hong Kong and its competitor — the ALC cable on the same route where Google and Facebook are investing but no bid from Subcom!
I am convinced that just like President Biden, Team Telecom has also lost all their marbles. In any case, don’t weep for Subcom. Here is why. Read More………
The Myth Of Japan As A North Asia Hub
From the start of the submarine fiberoptic cable revolution in the early 1990s. Japan has always been considered to be the best North Asian hub for bandwidth and even to this day, every carrier as well as OTT swears by that. In fact, it is probably the one place in Asia where Facebook and Google have spent the most amount of money — like billions of dollars. And that is even more true since the death of Hong Kong as another North Asian hub.
But that myth is being debunked by a small outfit in Silicon Valley called Syntropy Networks which has accumulated data over many years to find the best location in every part of the world from a latency perspective. People can buy the NOIA crypto coin to get the best route for Internet traffic and people who make money are the Relayers who provide computing facilities to create an overlay layer to bypass high-latency routes and provide the best latency routes.
And guess what? No matter how many Relays one puts in Japan, they always get bypassed in favor of South Korea. Which means that there is a fundamental problem with respect to planning submarine cables. And billions of dollars of cables are in planning to continue going to Japan.
There needs to be a fundamental rethink on how submarine cable planning needs to be done and with petabytes of data being analyzed, Syntropy may have found that all is not well in the submarine cable planning industry. Read More………
Michael Rieger Is No More
I am extremely sad to report that Michael Rieger, VP of Marketing at Subcom passed away today due to heart failure. He was 55.
Mike was a friend of mine for more than 2 decades and was one of the stalwarts of the submarine cable industry. There was nothing that took place in the industry without Mike knowing about. He was the principal who solidified Subcom’s relationship with Google.
I am shocked that he passed away at such an early age especially when he was in good health. That just is a stark reminder that life is short and could end any day.
On behalf of the submarine cable industry, I would like to send my sincere condolences to Mike’s family and pray to God they will be able to bear this huge loss. Condolences also to his friends and co-workers at Subcom.
Elon Musk’s Twitter Acquisition Is A Seminal Moment For The World
We live in strange times. Every time we read or watch the news, we don’t know if it is true or not. And some of the most trusted names in the industry turned rogue over the last decade. It is very strange that when you read The New York Times, Washington Post, Time, The Guardian or watch CNN, BBC or even Fox News for that matter, you know they are either outright lying or not telling the whole story or trying to hide some part of the story that could be a negative for their narrative. And they are not even ashamed of it. For the past two years, all of these marquee publications refused to tell the story about Hunter Biden because they thought it would impact the elections. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
When I see pictures of the horrors in Ukraine, I am pained to death. But deep inside I wonder if they are showing me the same picture hundreds of times or whether the entire country is going through the devastation. Suffice to say, everyone I know has lost complete trust in the news media. And that is the real problem. If I hear some horrible news but am not sure if it is true or not, then all is lost. The world cannot function in such a scenario.
The powerful media has relied for decades on being the only conduit to its readers. And they have controlled their minds and actions. They have controlled who wins elections, who people should love and who they should hate. And they are doing everything possible to keep that control. The US media with a readership of just a few million people, sets the narrative which the global media follows because if New York Times says so, it must be true.
I think the days of media control over the world are over. And unfortunately, it means that every person needs to be his own analyst and decide for himself or herself what the truth is. And for that, one needs a medium where both sides of the story need to be told. However painful that terrain is, it is absolutely important for people to know both sides so they can make their own determination as to what is right and what is wrong. And that is why Elon Musk buying Twitter and opening up the dialog on both sides is critical for the world.
And the traditional media will die out like the dinosaurs they have become and will be increasingly irrelevant over the years. Their assumption that people are stupid and can be controlled by creating narratives is over. The world will finally be free from their tyranny. Read More………
Vivek Jhamb Replaces Mark Sokol At Google
And Google’s search to find a replacement for the powerful chief of EMEA for the cable division is over. Vivek Jhamb who is pretty famous for his stint at Vodafone and recently at Ooredoo is replacing Mark Sokol. I have known Vivek for more than a decade and he has been a avid reader of my blog for at least that long. Google has made a wise choice in bringing in a polished executive with a good business head. I wish Vivek the best of luck and I am sure he will do well.
The good news for Vivek is that the cable division at Google is in such a mess with one disaster after another that there is no downside left. Vivek can only improve things even though he has no background in the submarine cable industry. There is no way things can get worse. How Vivek does is largely dependent on his relationship with Jayne Stowell who is a very tall figure in the cable division and has a set way of doing things since her AT&T days.
My suggestion to Vivek is to repair the ugly and toxic relationship with Facebook immediately. And to get Google out of the monopoly mindset which has resulted in Equiano becoming the biggest disaster in the submarine cable industry. Well, he knows very well my stand on that since he has read all my blogs. Here are a few more things I would like to recommend. Read More………
Telecom Egypt Offers Massive Discounts
It’s been 10 years now since Thief Egypt Telecom stole the $700 million Tagare Cable and renamed it AAE-1. So when I received an invitation from Telecom Egypt to settle the issue once and for all, I was ready. The negotiations were kicked off with the Prime Minister of Egypt, His Excellency Moustafa Kemal Madbouly and the Minister of Communications Dr. Amr Talaat.
With His Excellency Moustafa Kemal Madbouly, Prime Minister of Egypt
With His Excellency Dr. Amr Talaat, Minister of Communications of Egypt
To make a long story short, since Egypt had no money to settle, I was offered a yacht owned by a Russian Oligarch which was confiscated off the coast of Egypt. Though not a yacht enthusiast, I agreed to take the deal to settle the issue at least partially.
But I was not satisfied with the deal. The reason I called Telecom Egypt a Thief all these years was partially the Tagare Cable theft but more importantly the billions of dollars stolen from the carriers of the world by their atrocious pricing of the Egypt crossing.
So for example, Telecom Egypt charges $20 million per fiber pair for a 200 Km crossing. Plus $1 million per year O&M charges per fiber pair. Plus $100,000 to light up a 100G circuit. If you add it up, the lifetime cost of crossing 200Km of Egyptian land is more expensive than the cost of the entire cable from Singapore to Marseilles.
So I demanded that Telecom Egypt reduce the prices. And guess what? I am delighted to announce that Telecom Egypt has agreed to reduce all these amounts by 50% — as long as its customers call them within 24 hours of this announcement.
And of course, there is a special deal for Premium Members of my blog — an additional 25% off. Read More………
April 1, 2022
Every Country In The World Should Become Internet-Atmanirbhar
First of all, let me state my position on Russia. Russia is absolutely in the wrong for attacking a sovereign country and it should be dealt with utmost severity by the UN and the nations of the world.
However, I think it is absolutely wrong on the part of major global corporations like Google, Meta, Visa, Mastercard, Microsoft, McDonalds, Cogent, Lumen, etc. to cease operations overnight in Russia. Not because that’s not the right thing to do. But because it sends a very strong signal to every other country in the world that they could leave in a moment’s notice if they do not like the political environment in the country and is against the views of the Western establishment.
So India has decided to abstain from the UN vote on Russia and the Western establishment is not happy. That makes India very uncomfortable that all these foreign companies could potentially leave India without any notice. Can it happen? Most likely not. But governments don’t make decisions on hope and prayer.
Atmanirbhar means self-reliance. I think every country in the world should take this as a warning signal and start implementing self-reliant policies. Especially in their IT, Internet and fintech industries. Imagine if ISP’s decide to yank off circuits to a small country and leave it in the dark unless the country changes its vote in the UN. Is it plausible? I don’t know but the question arises.
This means a complete rejig of the Internet infrastructure from a hub-based architecture to a distributed architecture — like in blockchain at the core infrastructure level. This will require a complete rethink on the submarine cable architecture globally. And I think it is important for governments now to get involved in this strategy rather than relying on the carriers in their countries to think of the future. Read More………
Globalization Is Dead
The reason the world is in such a shock is not that globalization is dead — but more because it happened without any notice. A slow death would have been much better. But the sudden death has caused massive supply chain problems and with it, long delays and price increases.
You have to appreciate Prime Minister Narendra Modi who started talking about the implementing Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) strategies since the last three years way before the China supply chain problems started making an impact. But the problem is similar to submarine cables, you cannot build chip fabrication plants overnight. It has to go through its own startup cycle.
And of course, what has played out in Russia where almost every major Western company pulling out or at least pausing their operations there, is a major setback to globalization and will forever change every industry in the world. Even in the telecom industry, I was shocked that major ISPs like Cogent and Lumen cut their circuits to Russia, almost completely isolating the Internet industry in Russia.
The problem is this could happen to any country in the world. Could India be isolated now that it abstained from supporting the UN sanctions against Russia? India is not taking any chances. A new telecom rules book is being written and will be announced in the next coming months where all of the data (not just the financial data) belonging to Indian consumers will have to be stored in India. And if Facebook tries to threaten India just like it threatened EU on the same issue, it is adios to Facebook. This is now a national security issue and no nonsense will be tolerated from the OTTs.
This means that the Indian data center industry which has been an fire for the past couple of years, will continue to expand by leaps and bounds. And this will happen in every country in the world. Each country will now have to test what happens if it is isolated from the world because other countries did not like how it voted or even if it abstained or for any random reason.
How will this impact the global submarine cable industry? Read More………
Equinix To Invest In New Data Center In Salalah, Oman
After the massive success of the data center JV with OmanTel in Barka, Oman, Equinix has now decided to make yet more investment in Salalah.
I am always amazed and happy to see that a small BizDev team at OmanTel keeps on doing amazing work and winning most of the time. The Barka DC is very successful. Facebook has a full node there covering the Gulf region. Google also has a big presence and lately, Amazon has also started building a node. More importantly, OmanTel is treated like any other customer by Equinix which makes the DC truly carrier-neutral.
I am sure Salalah also will be quite successful. Already 4 cables are planning to land there. 2Africa, Gulf2Africa, IEX and Blue Raman. And discussions are ongoing to also extend Sea-Me-We-6 to Salalah which will make it a very unique hub. In addition, the DoD cable, OAC also has a BU pointing towards Salalah.
I am so mad at India for losing all this business to these small countries. Shame on India. That’s all I have to say. And hearty congratulations to Oman for being nimble and smart to take away business from India. Even tiny Oman understands the importance of route diversity as opposed to every Indian cable going to Europe landing in Mumbai. Read More………
The Murky History Of Diego Garcia: White Man’s Listening Post
Diego Garcia is one of those locations in the world that most people do not know even exists. But for the Western Intelligence community, it is one of the key listening posts in the world: white man listening to brown and black men as it is located right in the center of the Indian Ocean almost equidistant from Africa, India, Middle East and Southeast Asia.
You will not find any original inhabitants of Diego Garcia on the 17-square-mile Indian Ocean island. Thousands of them were forced out from the island by the British when it forcibly and illegally occupied the island in 1965 according the UN top court. The British then leased the island to the US spooks in 1966 and it now has 5,000 US military personnel. Nobody can go on the island unless you are invited by the spooks.
Between 1967 and 1973, the original inhabitants, the Chagossians were forcibly deported from the island to Mauritius and Seychelles where they face extreme poverty and discrimination. Interesting thing is any uncomfortable questions about Diego Garcia to the UK are directed to the US and vice-versa. Nobody wants to talk about what goes on there.
Now the US/UK spooks want to connect Diego Garcia to their other secretive locations by a submarine fiberoptic cable and all of the work is being carried out in intense secrecy by Subcom hoping that it would be easier to ask for forgiveness than to seek permission. I honestly believe that Diego Garcia is the Ukraine of the submarine cable industry and will make all of the neighboring countries extremely fearful. A word of advice to Subcom: Get all your licenses and permits in place. Don’t try to be cute. There will be no forgiveness. Read More………
If It Looks, Swims And Quacks Like A Duck, It Is A Duck
Ever since the Oman Australia Cable (OAC) was first announced, insiders in the industry immediately said it was a Department of Defence (DoD) cable. It was like an open secret.
Just think about it. Who would build a 4 fiber pair cable from nowhere to nowhere (Perth to Muscat and Cocos Islands). And now there are indications that the cable will also land in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
Bevan Slattery after all is a very savvy businessman and there is no way he is going to build a cable without pre-sales. Just think about it. Who would buy?
I want to be very careful what I say here but in my personal opinion, Diego Garcia is the Ukraine of the undersea cable industry. Many people including me have tried to build a cable to Diego Garcia and have failed. I remember receiving a call at 3am in New York from New Delhi, very respectfully requesting me to take Diego off the Flag map which I did immediately.
India was one of the 8 countries (out of 17) where I had to change the map due to geopolitics. My worst experience was when I put Gibraltar on the Flag map and found myself stuck in the no-man’s-land between Gibraltar and Spain for 8 hours as Spain passed a new law on the same day I landed in Gibraltar saying that all Indians need a multiple-entry permit visa to visit Gibraltar. I had just a single-entry permit and was thus denied entry on both sides.
Thankfully I was rescued by the late Juan Carlos Perez, then Minister of Communications of Gibraltar who showed up to the border with a limocade which included some soldiers with guns. So I had no option but to take Gibraltar out from the Flag map and add Spain. (Estepona, Spain is literally a stone’s throw away from Gibraltar)
Of course, with India as a member of the Quad which includes the US, Australia and Japan, things could have changed with regards to Diego Garcia. But if I was a betting man, I would not bet on Diego Garcia being a landing party in the OAC cable even though according to reports, ships are already at work laying the cable. I can assure everyone, we haven’t heard the last of this story. Read More………
My 2 Cents On The Russia-Ukraine War
I understand it is not my place to give an opinion on the Ukraine conflict but I will say what I have to say with the greatest humility.
I was very upset to read this post by Doug Madory as well as this post of Russian websites being hacked. My humble appeal is to not make this a communications-related war. The physical war is as bad as it is.
The reason is that Russia has nothing to lose and the rest of the world has everything to lose. If Russia is cut off from the Internet for example, will they not try to do the same thing to us? Do you know how easy it is to cut submarine cables or target cable landing stations which for the most part are single point of failures in each country? I am not the only person talking about this. Read this article.
Without naming any companies, I can tell you that I have entered more than a couple of cable landing stations without even knocking on the front door. Leave alone any elaborate armed security.
The cable maintenance zones that repair damaged cables take weeks to repair a single cable even during normal times (ship transit, personnel deployment in Covid, country permits, availability of excess cable, cabotage issues, cost). Imagine if multiple cables were to be cut at the same time! The maintenance zones are not designed to operate in war times. As it is, the cable ships are on tight schedule around the world and it is one of the main reasons why it takes longer to build submarine cables.
I am also a big believer that you need excellent communications especially during war times so there is a chance for peace. If telcos and ISPs around the world start canceling Russian connections, Russia will retaliate as it will have nothing to lose.
Please, please, please do not make this in to a communications war. Just my 2 cents and I apologize if I have overstepped my boundaries. But I have said what I had to say. Read More………
Sea-Me-We-6 Is India Focused
Unlike all of the predecessor Sea-Me-We systems which were all Singapore-focused, Sea-Me-We-6 is the first of the lot to be India-focused. Which means that the focus is on India-Europe prices to be the lowest compared to other cables.
Since India was designated to be on the main trunk, the initial design called for a full landing in India directly from Egypt. But due to the Chinese requirement for a landing in Pakistan, the design had to be changed considering geo-political considerations especially the relations between India, Pakistan and China.
So while there is Enhanced Branching Unit (eBU) as described by Subcom which can power the cable from India, each one of the 12 parties to the C&MA are required to buy the same amount of capacity on the India branch as they have bought in the main cable — whether or not they can use that capacity.
This means that there will be a scramble on everyone’s part to unload the India capacity as soon as possible if they do not intend to use it. Which means that prices to India will tumble way faster than prices to Singapore. Unless……
Unless Bharti Airtel finds a way to renege on the Open CLS agreement which it will try its best to do. Problem is these agreements are always various shades of grey — never black and white. For example, if the SLTE’s are stationed in the CLS, then everyone is screwed no matter what the agreement says. But if they are in Equinix, then there is less chance for Bharti Airtel to renege.
I also heard from people saying that the Chinese carriers are not mentioned as parties in the press release. That is true and indeed, China Telecom and China Unicom have dropped out due to the requirement of the system to buy capacity to India. But China Mobile is still in the running and is expected to sign up soon. And there are always the backdoor arrangements between the Chinese carriers and carriers from Pakistan and Djibouti that will never be mentioned in any press release. Read More………
The Winners And Losers Of Sea-Me-We-6
There is a reason SingTel is known as the Sun Tzu of submarine cables. They are the best when it comes to strategy and while it took longer than SingTel would have liked, Sea-Me-We-6 is an excellent example of how SingTel outsmarted everyone. Showing the map again for reference
So the award for the biggest loser of Sea-Me-We-6 goes to — Subcom — the vendor that was awarded the supply contract. SingTel always knew that Huawei could never ever be chosen as the vendor but they created an illusion that Huawei would get the supply contract if they bid 20% below cost price. And of course, Subcom was told to match that price if they even wanted to compete.
SingTel even let the Chinese carriers believe that Huawei was the chosen one while at the same time negotiating like crazy with Subcom. At the end of the day, SingTel got what they wanted — the cheapest cable that would ever be constructed connecting Singapore and Marseille. Subcom was no match to SingTel’s wily ways. It was a perfect Bait & Switch scam. Subcom was played like a fiddle.
The second biggest losers were the OTTs who desperately begged and pleaded to get in and for a long time, Microsoft was a solid contender but my understanding is at the end of the day, Bharti Airtel decided to throw them out and pick up the slack. Google, Facebook — never liked by SingTel — were not even in the running.
The third biggest loser as usual was Bangladesh which got totally screwed and will end up paying more than 2 times the price for the same amount of bandwidth as compared to SingTel. But they deserve it. I have been telling them for more than a decade to get out of the Sea-Me-We clutches but they will never change. It is funny how they were also duped. Initially they were told that Myanmar would pay for half of the branch cost so no need to look for alternatives. But as soon as Pakistan opened up as Chinese western front, Myanmar was dropped. I think Myanmar is done as far as submarine cables go.
The fourth biggest loser was STC which was a loyal member of the Sea-Me-We consortium for decades but SingTel no longer needed them as a main trunk party for powering purposes which was replaced by India. So all this loyalty down the drain. At the end of the day, money talks with SingTel.
And here are some surprise winners of the Sea-Me-We-6 cable system. Read More………
7 Years Of Planning Later, Sea-Me-We-6 Is Finally Under Contract
I have a love-hate relationship with SingTel. I was in their offices when Sea-Me-We-5 was in play and they were ecstatic that India was thrown out of Sea-Me-We-5. The Indian regulations made it a real pain which they thought would push the project dates by a year — never mind the project moved a few more years anyway. Also nobody could terminate traffic in India except the Indian carriers. From the Indian carriers’ perspective, they were also very upset and nobody wanted to join Sea-Me-We-5 because India was not on the main trunk and therefore it would be cost prohibitive to join.
Based on that conversation, I decided to immediately start working on the Tagare Cable which would have taken care of the branch cost issue by treating every country equally and not discriminate indiscriminately if that makes sense. And everyone knows the story of how Thief Telecom Egypt stole the Tagare Cable including the very unique business plan and forced the 40 carriers who came to my meeting in Dubai to go to Cairo so sign up or face the wrath of the Thief.
As soon as the Tagare Cable was renamed as the AAE-1 cable and that consortium became real, SingTel immediately started working on Sea-Me-We-6 even though Sea-Me-We-5 was not even fully signed up and CIF.
So what did it take 7 years just to get to this point? Because of a number of reasons. To keep it simple, two words — Chinese and Indian carriers. The Chinese carriers were absolutely adamant that the contract go to Huawei and Bharti Airtel, the Indian carrier said they would not be able to proceed as the Government of India would not approve it. Bharti had its own issues in addition. It was not willing to land the cable on an open cable basis — which means it wanted to continue business as usual — screwing every customer that was unlucky enough to land in its cable landing station.
At the end of the day, concessions were given to Bharti Airtel where SingTel used my idea of treating India as a main trunk country — saving Bharti $30 to $50 million. In return, Bharti agreed to not screw other carriers and work on an open CLS basis.
And what the Chinese got in return for contract not going to Huawei is a paid branch to Pakistan — which has become China’s way of showing the middle finger to stupid Team Telecom — by creating a Hong Kong on the West of China.
And of course, the most interesting story is that of STC, Saudi Arabia — a long time core member of the Sea-Me-We consortium — which was thrown out by SingTel. Read More………
The Results Of My LinkedIn Poll
I have been writing for a long time and often wondered which media people trusted the most when it comes to submarine cables. So I came up with a poll and asked that question. And frankly speaking I said to myself if people don’t trust me, I will stop writing. Here are the results of who people trust the most:
New York Times: 26%
Washington Post: 3%
Google/Meta Press Release: 8% and
While I am humbled with the results and this motivates me to continue writing, I would like to analyze them.
The reason very few people trust Google/Meta Press Releases is not that what they say is wrong but what are they hiding from the world. Let’s take a look at this article based on a press release from Google. Equiano will create 1.8 million jobs. Wow. Sounds impressive. What is not said is that Equiano was rejected by almost every African country along its route except for 3 because Google was demanding $50 million in cash or in kind (backhaul assets) to award monopolies to carriers. Equiano is the laughing stock of the submarine cable industry and has been cancelled by the African carriers.
I am actually more upset that 26% of the people on my poll trust New York Times. In my opinion, it is an agenda-driven racist criminal enterprise masquerading as free press. That’s all I have to say about that.
I should really not get the credit for getting a 64% approval rating on the trust issue because my voice is the voice of the industry. I just say publicly what everyone in the industry says privately. You think I came up with the words Thief Telecom Egypt? It was commonly used in hushed up secret carrier meetings before I said it publicly.
Or the disdain for Google and Facebook? If anything, I have given them their due respect for originating 2Africa and Blue Raman cables and called for giving their employees a Nobel prize for trying to achieve the impossible and to change the world in a positive manner. So I will continue to speak the truth and be the voice of the industry no matter how uncomfortable some people may get. Read More………
Carriers Will Ignore Web 3.0 At Their Own Peril
I am now spending a good portion of my time on Web 3.0. For the uninitiated, let me give a quick synopsis of it at a very high level. So Web 1.0 was when Yahoo! used to publish data and users would just read what was published almost like a book or magazine. Web 2.0 was similar to Facebook where users started inputting their data which was harvested by the companies and transformed the advertising agency from physical media to digital media. Web 3.0 is the ability for users to make money collectively via crypto currencies using a distributed blockchain infrastructure which is not controlled by any one company.
So why should carriers care about it? Because it presents the most significant opportunity as well as an existentialist threat in the history of the telecommunications industry. Let me give you a specific example.
The Helium network which is powered by the $HNT crypto currency with a market cap of $3.5 Billion ($5.5 Billion high) is a perfect example of this dichotomy. So Helium has already built a global IoT network (with heavy emphasis on North America, Europe and Asia including China) with more than half a million hotspots.
For a normal carrier, this would have taken at least 10 years, a CAPEX of close to $500 million and a crew of a few thousand people spread around the world. Plus they would have had to open offices in every country in the world and not to mention the regulatory hassles they would have faced in China and other countries. Guess what are the numbers for Helium? They did it in less than 2 years as soon as they shifted to the Web 3.0 model, raised $111 million in Aug 2021 and have a crew of just a few hundred people. And they have no offices or licenses in any country in the world. And they are now adding 5G hotspots to their arsenal.
So how do they do it? Well, they sell the IoT hotspots to normal people for $400 who also provide the power, space and Internet connection. So Helium’s CAPEX for their global network is ZERO. Of course, they still have to build out the software for the distributed network and manage this extremely complicated network.
So very simplistically, half a million users are underwriting the CAPEX and get paid through the $HNT crypto coins. So this is what gets me really excited. There are a bunch of additional examples and opportunities for carriers to explore. Read More………
An Eye For An Eye Will Make The Whole World Blind
Several reports that have studied the Internet outage in Yemen to have been caused by airstrikes on a major telecom hub in Al Hodeida where a couple of major cables land — Falcon and Sea-Me-We-5. Could this have been the cable landing station that houses the two cables?
In any case, this is an extremely bad precedence as until now, undersea cable facilities were off the table in any international conflict. If this act becomes normalized, I shudder to think what would happen especially in Single point of failure countries where a damage in strategic locations could end up with double digits of the world’s population left without Internet. And I am scared to think of the mayhem that would follow.
I don’t have a dog on either side of this fight. I am only concerned with the submarine cable traffic going down and setting up a precedence in all future wars and conflicts. Or terrorists realizing that a cable landing station is a low-hanging fruit that could disrupt the economy of an entire country for weeks or months and cause upheavel in the population.
These decisions are way well above my pay grade but I earnestly request to those in power (some of whom read my blog) to think through the ramifications of such an activity. Last time I checked, there were 2,076 active cable landing stations in the world. Of these, less than a dozen control 80% of the world’s Internet traffic. These are the usual suspects and I shudder to think what would happen if even a handful of those were to go down.
The problem is that the amount of damage that can be caused in Yemen is a fraction of a fraction of the damage that could be caused if say Egypt or Singapore were to go down. The downfall is totally disproportionate to the potential gains of taking a small node down.
I have always said that you need good communications when talking to friends but you need better communications when you talk to enemies. Cable landing stations should be off the table in any conflict. Period. Read More………
R.I.P US Submarine Cable Industry
The US submarine cable industry is dead at least until the end of the decade unless there is a change in government which seems unlikely. In any case, it takes 7 years for a cable from concept to reality so yes this decade is gone.
Does this mean there will no new cables announced? Of course not. Google and Facebook have no choice but to keep on building forever. It’s their curse. Some really big cables are going to be announced soon by Google and Facebook. And every time they will tell us how many billion movies we can watch in one second and boast about how their cable is better than all other previous cables combined.
But the excitement is gone and certainly the innovation and startup culture is finished here. Even the most innovative cable being built in the world — 2Africa — was conceived in and is implemented from Europe — not from Silicon Valley — and majority of the money is coming from non-US sources.
No thanks to the non-elected politicians running Team Telecom who have the freedom to make major political decisions without understanding the submarine cable industry or cloud architecture for that matter. In addition, the Biden administration is 100% focused on green energy and so if there is even a slight conflict with anything else like submarine cables, green energy will always win. Which means that getting cable landing permits is going to get even more difficult than it is now and the timeline of getting permits is indefinite.
Europe is where the action is for the rest of the decade as EU is putting up $300 million specifically targeted at entrepreneurs and the start-up eco-system and is wooing talent from all over the world to participate (entrepreneurs from any country can launch a new project as long as they register the company in the EU). And they have no problems in working with Chinese companies that do not pose a threat to them as opposed to the blanket ban by the US counterpart. In fact, China is investing billions of dollars in Sines, Portugal which will be the gateway for all new submarine cables coming out of Portugal.
And Africa is also booming — as big players like Equinix are rushing in to buy and build data centers to support the 2Africa connectivity. There is no better time to be in Africa and support the boom at least for the rest of the decade.
The other 2 countries that will boom are India and Pakistan. India — in spite of the government because there is so much pent-up demand (it’s been 5 years since the last cable was laid) that people will do deals under any conditions and Pakistan where China is intent on making it their gateway to Europe. Already China owns majority routes out of Djibouti so that will also boom along with Pakistan. There is no innovation with the Chinese cables. They are just throwing money at the problem — and winning. So the Europe to India/Pakistan/Middle East corridor will get a lot of activity.
What does the death of the US submarine cable industry mean for related industries like data centers and Web 3.0? Read More………
The Indian Submarine Cable Industry Jugaad
In the 1970’s during Indira Gandhi’s regime, the marginal income tax rate for the highest tax payers was 97.5% for those earning Rs. 200,000 per year. This was the start of massive tax evasion in India and creation of the black or underground economy. The government got political capital from saying that they were harsh on the capitalists and that suited the political environment at that time. The government also knew who had the black money and they would be approached for political funding. And the industrialists were happy that the government would never go after them. This is typically what is known as Jugaad in India.
A Jugaad on similar lines is going on in the submarine cable industry in India ever since the OTTs started throwing money in India. The government has ridiculous and outdated laws which make it impossible for anyone to buy bandwidth in India. And if you ask majority of the carriers in the world, nobody wants to do business in India. The big exception is the OTTs and MNC’s who cannot afford not to do business there as that is where their growth is coming from without which their inflated stock prices would take a nosedive.
There are two problems in India. Some of the laws are totally ridiculous and the other problem is many of the laws are not black and white and are subject to interpretation — by the government. So from a technical and legal perspective, every OTT is in violation of one law or the other at any given point of time. So the OTTs hide behind the Indian carriers and the contracts they strike essentially are based on the principle of Deniability of Knowledge. So if something goes wrong, both sides can claim they did not know what the other was doing. But in reality, just like in the 1970’s, everyone knows the Jugaad.
And that is why the Indian submarine cable industry is stymied. India is almost a superpower and one of the key ingredients to take it across the line is its robust submarine cable industry. And that is why I have been a huge proponent of changing the submarine cable laws in India for more than a decade. Some of the OTTs may be fine participating in the Jugaad economy but this is not scalable and certainly is a big problem that needs to be addressed immediately.
Here are specific examples of how the Indian submarine cable Jugaad industry works and what the government of India needs to do immediately to stop everyone else from skirting its laws. Read More………
Submarine Cable Industry Santa Claus Taking Pre-Orders For Gifts
Of all the darkness I see in the submarine cable industry, one shining star makes me smile with hope. While the carriers always treated entrepreneurs like untouchables and the OTTs mocked and laughed at them — leave alone encourage them, the EU is the only institution that wants to reward entrepreneurs for their creativity and enterprise in the submarine cable industry.
The EU has requested me to make sure that every person in the industry is aware of their program where they will be giving free money to entrepreneurs with the best ideas and creative thinking in the industry.
You can read the EU announcement or continue reading for a summary of the same. Basically, the EU is giving away something in the range of $300 million to entrepreneurs that want to build infrastructure including submarine cables in EU or in support of EU’s allies like they did in St. Helena. Don’t be fooled by the term Global Gateways as it is a short form for submarine cables.
So bottom line is the EU will give you free money up to 30% of the Capex for a maximum of $10 million per project. So if you have a $30 million project, you get $10 million free. Not only that, the EU is also willing to offer $3 million in free subsidy for a feasibility study of the project which should represent 50% of the cost of the study.
Of course, I am pumped up and will surely apply with an amazing idea I have which the EU had not thought about before. My only request to the EU was to keep the funds exclusively for the entrepreneurs and not to let the OTTs elbow them out like Google did in the case of St. Helena. Shame on Google for trying to steal this money reserved for the entrepreneurs.
So even if you are an employee of a carrier or an OTT and have a great idea, please apply. If your project gets selected, you can then start the process to raise the rest of the funds. I can help you in the process if required. I would like to see the best and the brightest entrepreneurs take advantage of this EU program. Let’s make EU proud of their initiative.
So here is a call list of projects suggested by the EU. Also, here is a list of projects I discussed with the EU that could be of interest to them along with the name and contact details of the person responsible for disbursing the funds. Read More………
Why The OTTs Need To ReBuild The Tonga Submarine Cable
Prior to the OTTs arriving, there used to be a very robust and profitable global wholesale bandwidth market. And the OTTs systematically destroyed it over the last decade. Large carriers like Deutsche Telekom completely exited the business and the ones remaining eke out a miserable livelihood in the wholesale space.
The way the OTTs went about it as their demand increased, was multifold. First, they negotiated brutally pitting one carrier against the other in every country and made sure the bandwidth prices became cost plus based rather than market based. Secondly, they took control of the submarine cable supply chain inundating the 3 remaining vendors with bidding on as many as 20 cables at a time and making it impossible for the vendors to cater to the carriers.
The situation is so bad that it is impossible to build any cable in the world today unless at least one of the OTT is an investor. And let me not get started on the startup scene in the submarine cable industry as the OTTs never supported any entrepreneurs with the exception of two white males. I am not suggesting anything other than stating the fact. And that too, with a lot of reluctance. So the entrepreneurs all went away or were driven out of the business.
The worst thing the OTTs did was to selectively take over the most profitable routes without touching the unprofitable small cables. So as the large carriers saw their revenues and profit margins shrink on the most profitable routes, they also stopped investing in the smaller routes. And the economics of the smaller routes meant that the smaller and poorest nations always ended up paying the most for their Internet connectivity.
So we have a situation today where the OTTs control the most profitable routes in the world, have either partially or completely driven away the carriers and the entrepreneurs and are mooching off the investments made by the small carriers like those in Tonga. Often times, they shamelessly ask these poor countries to give them free rack space and electricity so they can host their servers to make revenues from those countries without paying any taxes.
Because of all these reasons, it is the OTT’s moral responsibility to take care of the world’s submarine cable network since they are the ones who have destroyed the business. I strongly urge the OTTs to come together and rebuild the Tonga submarine cable at the earliest. Read More………
Tonga Is On Its Own As Its Submarine Cable Is Swept Away
As I watch the horrific pictures of the damage caused by the undersea volcano eruption in Tonga followed by a tsunami, I am really mad at the submarine cable industry for failing all of the small island nations around the world and focusing only on the densely populated countries.
Basically, each island is left to fend for itself with nobody trying to figure out a co-ordinated global strategy to build out a mesh network that would have resilient fibers to every country. In fact, if you look at the economics, it is really horrible for the island nations.
Not only do they have to buy on the major routes connecting to Europe or the US, they also have to pay entirely to connect to the trunk and pay for all the maintenance. In the case of Tonga, I won’t be surprised if the cost of repairing the cable that has been severed will be more than the cost of building a new cable to Fiji.
I blame it 100% on Google and Facebook who make money hand over fist from these island nations yet do nothing to complement the infrastructure — in fact, they will go in there asking shamelessly for free rack space to put up their servers. And in the case of Google, they took EU handouts to build a spur to St. Helena on the Equiano cable which was supposed to go to carriers that needed financial support.
When the OTTs started investing in the global submarine cable industry 15 years ago, I was delighted as I hoped they would have an egalitarian view and would build out a network which I failed to build in Project Oxygen. Interestingly, I had targeted the smallest countries and islands of the world as part of my global buildout and they would get the same economics as the large countries.
So yes, I do blame myself for not coming through for the Tonga’s of the world but hang my head in shame for the OTTs not having the vision to take care of the countries they make their living from. And let me tell you, it is not a lot of money for the OTTs. It will cost less than one hyperscale data center to cover the world with a mesh fiber optic network. If they work together, this is pocket change for each of the OTTs — but arrogance and not-invented-here syndrome keeps them from working together.
Google in particular is the worst of the lot as they not only build monopoly cables around the world but try to extract a 100% premium for selling monopoly status to poor carriers. Of course, now they will probably send some medicines and try to get some PR out of the tragedy. Read More………
Tata Loses All Connectivity From India To Europe
Hon. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi spoke at the Davos World Economic Forum today about The State Of The World. And spoke so proudly and rightfully so of the 44 new Unicorns that joined the list in 2021 of the total of 81 Unicorns with an Indian origin.
While he was giving his speech, a major cut off the coast of India severed all of the Tata’s cables facing Europe — Sea-Me-We-4, I-Me-We, TGN-EA and including Bharti Airtel-owned MENA cable. TATA supposedly has zero connectivity to Europe.
I hate to continue bashing the Indian government which I have been doing for the last decade or more warning them again and again of the poor state of the submarine cable industry. Now take a look at this picture. Even a layman with no understanding of the industry will tell you what the problem is.
India desperately needs to fix its submarine cable industry otherwise all of the Unicorn chest thumping may slow down as it takes 7 years on an average to build a new submarine cable.
In a few years even Pakistan bankrolled by China will have more cables than India. Already it is a matter of shame that Oman and Djibouti have almost the same number of cables as India does with a fraction of a fraction of the population.
Suddenly, every small and large carrier is calling me to find out what the solution is. But unfortunately, there is no easy fix. For the tenth time, here is a list of things India needs to do to get its act together in the submarine cable industry. Read More………
Team Telecom’s Cancel Culture Will Destroy The US Submarine Cable Industry
Used to be, US was the easiest country in the world to get a license to build submarine cables. I applied for two of them — Flag Telecom and Project Oxygen and had absolutely no difficulty in getting the licenses. And sure enough, the US had the most number of cables coming in.
My biggest worry at that time was getting licenses from developing countries. How times have changed. I can walk in today and get a license pretty much from any developing country but it will be impossible to get a license in the US. And that is a sure sign that the submarine cable industry will die out in the US setting it back decades in the Internet race.
As it is, it is extremely difficult for a start-up company to lay a cable because the bankers need pre-sales, customer commitments, massive equity and so on. One of the bankers I spoke to wanted 100% pre-sales before they could lend any money. Let me not get started on that subject. There are of course some smart entrepreneurs like Russ Matulich who found a way around the bankers — by not going to them in the first place.
So entrepreneurs are pretty much sidelined in the industry. The US carriers have long withdrawn from the industry. Which leaves only Google and Facebook. While they fight with each other like cats and dogs at every cable meeting, one thing they agree on is not to let Microsoft, Amazon and the other OTTs in on their deals.
So while previously one could start building a cable in anticipation of the licenses from the US government, now it is impossible to do so. So to get a cable started, one not only needs 100% pre-sales, one also needs all the licenses in place if you do not want the risk of the entire investment going to waste. Add in the childish squabbles of Facebook and Google trying to prove whose six-pack is better, this is a recipe for disaster.
The decline of the US in the submarine cable industry has started and Team Telecom’s Cancel culture will completely destroy the industry in the US. How dare Team Telecom cancel a project that was conceived 10 years ago when the US and China were like brothers? How can they take retroactive regulatory decisions where $500 million worth of investments have pretty much gone down the drain? How dare they cancel the HK-G cable project started by pretty much the only remaining US submarine cable entrepreneur who already has a hand-to-mouth existence? And when the cable was completely manufactured and ready to the laid.
Who is going to trust the US government any more as it pertains to submarine cables? I am announcing the death of the submarine cable industry in the US. Read More………
Team Telecom Needs To Retrospect
Call me naive but I really don’t understand why Team Telecom did not grant a license to PLCN for traffic between Hong Kong and USA. After all, the cable has been built by Subcom, a true blue-blooded American company which also builds secret cables for the US Department of Defense. The cable is being used by none other than Google and Facebook (Meta). And they could have mandated the cable terminate in a US owned facility like Equinix. So what is the problem?
My sources say that Team Telecom is afraid that Chinese authorities could either bribe or intimidate the data center employees and snoop in on the information in the cables. Fair enough. But what is going to keep the same Chinese snoops from gathering information from other countries where US cables land? Like the host of new cables planned to land in Pakistan where Facebook is a partner?
China pretty much owns all infrastructure in Djibouti where a dozen cables land carrying US information. You think China cannot snoop there? Or any other African country where China is in bed with Facebook to build 2Africa? Which is every country in Africa that has a coastline! In how many countries is Team Telecom going to play whack-a-mole?
How much influence does China have in Singapore? Well, every cable that originates in Singapore pretty much has Chinese investment. Matter of fact, I can say with confidence that it is almost impossible to build a successful submarine cable today without Chinese money. For the other kind, there is always Google.
India is pretty much at war with China but the IAX/IEX cables would not have been possible without Chinese money even though Facebook and Google are funding the two cables. Without Chinese money, RTI would have have long been out of business. Without Chinese money, Facebook would not have been able to build 2Africa or Pearls. Without Chinese money, majority of the pan-Asian cables would not have been built.
So all Team Telecom is doing is to deny licenses for cables that originate in the US going to China or Hong Kong. They have zero influence over cables that do not touch the US. But the Chinese companies are co-habitating in the largest data centers of the world with the US companies and have full access to US data which is being mirrored across the world.
The only companies that are hurt by Team Telecom’s actions are US companies. The Chinese companies are doing just fine. In my opinion, Team Telecom needs to seriously retrospect their actions in the submarine cable industry.
Instead of being a negative force in the world, Team Telecom should be a positive force. Let me give an example. Facebook and Google are denied a seat at the Sea-Me-We-6 cable in spite of their begging SingTel to let them in for years. Team Telecom can show its six-pack in this case and force SingTel to let them in. Microsoft and Amazon are also denied seats in several cables promoted by Google and Facebook. Help them get in. Be the positive force and enough with the Cancel culture. Read More………
Weird Celebration In The Submarine Cable Industry
Ten years ago, a state-of-the-art technology cable called PLCN using the C+L technology developed by US-based Subcom was conceived by a Chinese start-up in Hong Kong called PLDC. The technology was supposed to double the capacity using two wavelengths and thus would have more capacity compared to any other Pacific cable. Unfortunately nobody wanted to buy on that cable because the carriers had no money and PLDC was too greedy. But 5 years later, Google and Facebook saw a golden opportunity and decided to invest around $500 million to build the cable and construction began and was completed in 2 years.
But there was a problem. Google and Facebook assumed that getting licenses for the cable from Team Telecom was just a formality. That approval came 5 years later with strings attached — the cable which was already constructed, could not be used for traffic terminating or originating from Hong Kong. That decree came yesterday from Team Telecom.
So in summary, it took 10 years from the concept stage and a $500 million investment for a cable that is now technically, politically and commercially obsolete which cannot provide traffic between the intended destinations US to Hong Kong having changed it to serve Taiwan and Philippines.
And the saga is not going to end here. China which now claims Taiwan as its own territory, will surely try to put its own obstacles based on the information I have received. And not to mention but pretty soon, they will have to start talking about retiring the cable because it will cost more to maintain it compared to building a new cable — given its 4 fiber pair configuration.
And instead of heads rolling over this sorry fiasco, there is celebration in the industry akin to having won a war and people returning back with sacks of gold. The submarine cable industry is the stupidest industry in the entire world.
I would like to propose a solution so this kind of fiasco is not repeated again. Read More………
Splinternet Is Real And China Is Laughing All The Way To The Bank
In my opinion, Team Telecom and the US regulators are clueless about the submarine cable industry, are way out of their league and China is running circles around them. As part of the process of sidelining China, the US government — in its own wisdom — destroyed Hong Kong as the Asian hub by canceling any submarine cables that would land there such as RTI’s HK-G submarine cable which was also backed by Google.
They also canceled the PLCN project just because Chinese investors were backing the deal. Even though both Google and Facebook were part of the deal and Subcom was the vendor.
As opposed to this extremely negative stance by Team Telecom where US companies were really hurt financially, the Chinese government took a very positive stance and started investing in every cable they could get in to in addition to starting their own cable deals.
For example, they initiated the PEACE cable and created a new gateway in Pakistan using their $60 Billion plus CPEC deal which is slowly being built up as China’s Hong Kong facing the West towards Europe.
And because the submarine cable industry is in shambles financially, everyone is looking towards China for investments in new cables. Even Facebook! Which turned to China for investment in the 2Africa Pearls deal. Of course, to hoodwink Team Telecom, Pakistan is fronting the deal but everyone knows where the money is coming from. Same story with Africa-1 where Pakistan which has no money in the bank is fronting the deal for the Chinese carriers.
And they are not alone. Even Indian carriers have no choice but the take Chinese money. Reliance Jio announced 2 cables IAX and IEX not too long ago. What they did not announce was participation of China Mobile.
And where are all these cables landing in Europe? At the Interxion facility in Marseille. And guess who is landing the cable? Look no further than Orange. How about the Sea-Me-We-6 which will be announced soon by SingTel? Chinese are the core investors. Guess who did not get a seat at the table? Google and Facebook!
China has clearly won the submarine cable battle and is laughing at Team Telecom. Seems to me that nobody really cares for Team Telecom’s juvenile tactics. Even US OTTs think they are idiots thinking that the world will follow their diktats. Team Telecom is hurting US interests and they don’t even realize it.
Now let’s talk about TikTok. Read More………
SpaceX Starlink Can Accelerate India’s Internet Penetration
With an ARPU of $1.50 to $3 per month and consumption of up to 1Gb per day, per subscriber, the Indian customer is hard to please. Even the enterprise market is very competitive with rates ranging from $15 to $30 per month for 100Mbps downloads.
Now along comes Starlink with a $99 per month plan for 50 to 150Mbps bandwidth plan. On the face of it, this is a non-starter. But I think there is a way for this to be a huge win-win for India and Starlink.
The worst thing Starlink can do is to partner with an Indian carrier. The history of Indian telecoms is littered with those who did. And let me not get started about some of the existing ones. Otherwise I will be writing for a long time.
It would be awsome if SpaceX Starlink can become the 4th carrier in India especially now that 100% FDI is permitted. And the way to easily get that stature is to position Starlink as a God’s gift to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s PM-WANI program, which calls for tens of thousands of entrepreneurs to provide extremely cheap Wi-Fi hotspots especially in rural areas of India — just the same market Starlink wants to tap.
So forget about 200,000 dishes. Starlink can connect 500,000 Indian villages and create those many entrepreneurs and millions of jobs. You think Elon is popular now? Wait till he does this and there probably will be a temple in his name!
India needs competition to keep the carriers honest. My earnest appeal to Elon is not to partner with them and tread his own path. Read More………
SpaceX Starlink Will Face Massive Regulatory Hurdles
Other than North America and countries in Europe and down under (about a couple dozen countries), I predict that Starlink will face steep regulatory hurdles. I am sure Elon Musk and his team did a deep dive in this respect but having spent the better part of my career dealing with regulators, I see one red flag after another.
To Elon’s credit, he has already started pre-selling those wonderful antenna-dishes and honestly, that is a piece of art and technology combined. I am amazed. And Elon wants to sell 200,000 of those dishes in India in 2022. That he will do. But whether or not he can start his service, is a whole different issue. Funny thing is, Elon actually started collecting money for the dishes even before he set up the Indian subsidiary–the Indian government was not amused.
So either Starlink will have to sell the service through existing carriers with licenses or apply for his own. Given that he steered away from dealerships while selling Tesla cars, Elon will try to wing it on his own. He will need an ISP license and he may have to buy spectrum from each government depending on the laws of the country.
I spoke to a few carriers and this is what they are afraid of. Elon’s genius may be his undoing in this business because some carriers believe that it is a matter of time before he starts offering phone service directly from the satellites using Google’s Android phones–completely bypassing the mobile carriers. While that may be technically challenging right now, they do not want to take a chance he could pull it off. Nobody wants to bet against Elon. And Elon’s deal with Google adds to their fears. In addition, there are strong rumors that SpaceX itself is designing a new phone called Model Pi specifically for Starlink.
So I believe every carrier will oppose Starlink or at least demand Elon buys spectrum from the government to even the playing field. This is most certainly going to be the case in India where Bharti Airtel has invested $500 million in a competing satellite company called OneWeb. And if this goes to court–which it will–all bets are off when the service could be started. 10 years is not considered too long in Indian courts — just look at the RIO issue between the Indian carriers and the regulator, TRAI — which is pending for more than 15 years.
Let’s face it. Many see this as an inexpensive and questionable backdoor entry to become the only global carrier in the world without any of the pains the rest of the mobile carriers went through around the world.
The only way Elon can force the issue in India is if he combines this deal with starting a Tesla automobile and powerwall manufacturing factory there. If he does that, he will get India, but he will still have another 150 or so regulatory authorities to deal with around the world. Read More………
Google-SpaceX Starlink Deal Doesn’t Compute
On the face of it, the recently announced Google-Starlink deal seems like a grand slam for Google. According to Google, they won the contract to provide compute and networking resources to Starlink and will host Starlink’s ground stations in its data centers. That’s a nice press release. I am not buying it as it does not tell the whole story. There are too many questions I don’t have answers for.
If Google won the contract, it means there were other companies in play. At a minimum, Equinix had to be in play from a data center perspective. If Starlink ground stations were set up in Equinix data centers, Starlink would not be confined to one provider for the life of the deal which is probably forever.
Starlink has around 1,700 satellites in orbit and the number will go up to 42,000 or so over the years. Life of a LEO satellite is 7 years on an average. So this is no longer an experiment. This is now real and Google is going to massively benefit from the deal.
Because the initial price points of the Starlink service is very high not only in the US but more importantly for the developing countries, the initial customers will most likely be governments and their defense departments and they will also likely become Google cloud customers.
More importantly, if Starlink’s vision becomes real and they do get millions of customers worldwide, that helps increase eyeballs for Google Search and by default will increase its market cap by billions of dollars. I spoke about this at length in Johannesburg a while ago discussing how Google’s Africa submarine cables will increase its market cap.
So what’s in it for SpaceX Starlink? I think we haven’t heard the whole story yet. In order for Starlink to get millions of customers, it needs to significantly lower its price point. It is already being subsidized by the US government almost to the tune of $1 Billion in the form of a grant. My bet is that Google will have to shell out billions of dollars over the years to keep the deal exclusive to its network. There is no free lunch. Read More………
First Petabit Trans-Atlantic NewEra Cable
So Facebook’s recently announced un-named trans-Atlantic cable will be the first Petabit cable to cross the pond. Since I am unable to find out the name of the cable, I am going to name it myself — the NewEra cable — because it represents a new era in the submarine cable industry. Hopefully enough people will use it and Facebook will change the current name to NewEra after reading this blog.
So let me talk about the bandwidth. Essentially, the NewEra cable will have 24 fiber pairs, each operating at 23Tbps — which comes up to 500 Tbps. But I am sure the ultimate capacity will be at least 1 Pbps. Let me explain how.
So there are two variables to how much bandwidth you can push through a cable. First is the distance between repeaters and that is easy to solve. You just equip the cable with more repeaters. It is just a matter of money.
The second issue is critical. The bandwidth is dependent on the distance between the powering units. So a smaller cable can push more bandwidth versus a longer cable. So how about if the NewEra cable were to have additional powering units off of Bermuda and Azores? That will bring down the distance between powering units to almost half, thereby increasing the bandwidth to 1Pbps. NewEra will not land in Bermuda or Azores, but the powering will be done by floating buoys off of the two islands from where the power will be delivered.
And it is in this light that Facebook cannot do the deal by themselves. Google’s participation is mandatory. And this is the start of a new era of Petabit cables. If you own any bandwidth across the pond, I have three words of advice for you: Sell, Sell and Sell. Read More………
Commercial Implications of NEC’s Multicore Fiber Cable
NEC has taken the lead on commercializing higher count cables and was the first company to be awarded a contract for its 24-fiber cable in the Atlantic ocean by Facebook. However, this is still just the single core cable.
Typically, multicore fiber has been used for smaller distances and it is amazing that NEC has figured out a way to develop a multicore fiber cable along with Sumitomo for long distance submarine cable applications.
So think of it this way. NEC’s multicore product is SDM Ver 2.0 which means more fibers in the cable — up to 4 times more. So technically, if one uses the 24 fiber pair cable and uses the multicore technology, it could end up being a 96 fiber pair cable — which is in the range of 2 Pbps cable. And in my next blog, I am going to explain how Facebook has developed a strategy which can double this.
Which really means that all of the cables being built today can potentially be commercially obsolete — especially the privately owned cables that have single-digit fiber pairs. So what is the timeframe of these cables? I think these multicore cables could be in the water in less than 5 years as NEC will soon start taking orders for commercial deployment. There are still multiple technical issues to be resolved — the creation of a multi-core repeater that can cater to this new technology or the ability to have multiple repeaters catering to the additional cores.
All of this leads to one definite conclusion — that no matter how much Facebook and Google hate each other and in spite of ego’s the size of the planet itself — on both sides, they will have no option but to work together. After all, neither of them has the capacity to deploy Petabits of capacity on any single route. So anytime a cable is announced by either of these companies, just assume the other is involved — either publicly or hiding behind the scenes.
Google’s dream of monopolyzing the submarine cable industry is over. It is time that Google and Facebook open up cable ownership to Amazon, Microsoft and other cloud providers and media companies. I am betting we won’t see any more necro names associated with any new Google cables. Read More………
Bifrost Configuration Changes
Seems like the Bifrost cable configuration on SubmarineCableMap needs serious updating.
So it is now confirmed that Bifrost will land in Winema, Oregon where Amazon and Microsoft will access it. The cable will also land in Grover Beach, California. In Guam, the cable will land in Alupang and in Davao in the Philippines.
In Indonesia, it will land in three places: in Jakarta, in Manado and in Balikpapan. And in Singapore, it will land in Tuas.
I am really disappointed with Telegeography for putting up a half-assed map when so many people depend on it for accuracy. If they don’t know, they can always ask me or not publish until they have all the right information. People are making investment decisions worth tens of millions of dollars, if not more. They deserve accurate information. Generally, Telegeography is pretty good at these kinds of things — at least on cables that are in operation.
In any case, most of the fiber pairs are already sold out on Bifrost. I know one company which is selling spectrum on one of the fiber pairs which also I am sure will be sold out soon. If anyone is interested, let me know and I can put you in touch with the seller. Minimum buy is $10 million. Read More………
Amazon And Microsoft Buy A Fiber Pair Each on Bifrost
Bandwidth in the Pacific is at a premium and as I mentioned last week, deal making for Asian cables reached a crescendo here in the US as fears of mandatory quarantine in Asia forced everyone to come to the US to do the deals.
Three fiber pairs were sold in the Bifrost cable, one each to Amazon and Microsoft and the third to a company I am not at liberty to disclose. And my premium members will faint when they hear the prices the fiber pairs were sold at.
Nobody knows which cables will get the TEAM TELECOM approval so everyone is hedging their bets and buying in more than one cable. The general consensus is that APRICOT will not make it because it lands in Taiwan and China will definitely claim it to be in Chinese waters even though it steers clear of the Nine-Dash Line. In fact, China is claiming that Taiwan itself is in Chinese waters! Also it does not help that the Chinese carriers were insulted by Google by naming the cable APRICOT as explained in my earlier blog.
Next week, another set of companies are coming to the US to do deals in other Asian cables. Stay tuned. Oh, and is the Bifrost cable now fully sold out? Read More………
Major Shakeup Expected in Google Submarine Division
Google’s submarine cable efforts have been nothing short of a disaster over the years eclipsed by the very unsuccessful Equiano cable with landing points only in South Africa, Nigeria and Namibia (population 2.5 million) and a EU-sponsored branch to St. Helena (population 5,000 when the tourists arrive). As much as I admire Facebook’s 2Africa cable, so much I dislike the Equiano cable. And it is the same story in Curie with landing points only in Chile, Panama and the US.
But there are indications that major changes are coming at Google as the top management is reviewing where they went wrong. Mark Sokol has left Google, Doyle Barlow has retired and ex-AT&T Jayne Stowell is also expected to retire at some point in the future. The Africa team is disbanded and a new person is now running Africa. Even the Man from Mars no longer seems to signing new deals.
Finally I see hope that Facebook and Google can work together as the old teams were not getting along. Best way to describe their relationship in the submarine cable departments is an upgradation from arch enemies to potential friends.
And it is in this light that Facebook has not yet announced the name and the destinations of the 24-fiber pair trans-Atlantic cable that is now under CIF with NEC for 2 months. This is a huge cable (0.5 Pbps) with 23Tbps per fiber pair. My bet is that with the upcoming shakeup, Google will most likely join the new cable. And we have to wait until that deal is finalized to get more details.
The interesting thing is Google had joined the 2Africa cable when it was first proposed by Facebook but left without any notice because they did not think Facebook could pull it off and they could do a much better job by themselves. Facebook found out Google had left when they read the announcement of the Equiano cable. No wonder there is so much bad blood between them.
If I have to bet, I would say the cable will land in or around the Virginia Beach area in the US and a new landing point on the West Coast of France with Vodafone as the landing party. Sorry Orange for the bad news. Read More………..
Pakistan As A Proxy To Land Cables in China
There is literally a frenzy to land cables in Pakistan. And everyone is wondering Why. What changed all of a sudden?
Well, what changed is since the big fight between the US and China, Team Telecom is refusing to license any cables that land in China or Hong Kong. Carriers and OTTs have literally lost billions of dollars of investments especially in Hong Kong which was as large or even larger than Singapore as an Asian hub. So no new or planned cables can connect to those data centers although the demand for massive bandwidth still exists.
So OTTs like Facebook and other carriers are finding ways to get to Hong Kong and China through different means. And they have found a back-door entry through Pakistan — which is still a major non-NATO ally of the US and therefore not under any sanctions viz-a-viz Team Telecom.
So just like Guam is where the US starts in the Pacific from a regulatory perspective, same is the case where China now starts in the Indian Ocean in Pakistan. This will remain open until it doesn’t but for now, China has found a way to connect directly to Africa, the Middle East and Europe through Pakistan. One thing is clear — only a fraction of the bandwidth on these new cables will be used for consumption in Pakistan. Most of it will go to China.
OTTs and carriers have found a way to get to China and Hong Kong through the back-door. The cat and mouse game is On. The ball is now in Team Telecom’s court. Read More………..
Pakistan Huge Beneficiary of China’s Submarine Cable Aspirations
China always wanted to be a global player in the submarine cable industry but geography was a big problem. It was impossible for Chinese carriers to get to Africa or to Europe. Turns out the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) deal is also about submarine cables in addition to movement of goods and creation of the Gwadar Port.
Starting with the PEACE Cable, which I studied extensively — and find no commercial justification — it is a strategic investment to connect the Chinese carriers to Europe and Africa. By the way, the PEACE cable does not land in India and will start working in 2022.
But as soon as the word got out that the Chinese carriers were sitting with a blank check in Pakistan and required no business model justification to invest, others jumped on the bandwagon to invite them to the party. The next one to sign up with the Chinese was Africa-1 which pretty much mirrors the PEACE cable route. Africa-1 also does not land in India.
And then the granddaddy of them all, Facebook’s 2Africa also desperately needed the Chinese money and decided to land the cable in Pakistan too, among other countries with an extension called 2Africa Pearls.
Fortunately, the India deal with 2Africa was signed prior to bringing in Pakistan otherwise India would have been cut off in that deal too. And more cables are coming to Pakistan — not necessarily landing in India. Read More………..
Watch Out For The Next Single Point Of Failure
The Naval war between India and China — if it happens — will take place in the Straits of Malacca. I am really concerned that all of the submarine cables connecting Singapore to India are going through that narrow strait.
I am even more worried that a number of new cables are being planned that will also go through the Straits. Each new cable planned has the backing of at least one of the OTTs. Having gone through a disaster scenario with cables in Hong Kong, this fallout through the Straits could prove to be even more deadly as India is now finally becoming one of the most important Internet hubs in the world.
Add to this is the cabotage issue in Malaysia and the ongoing massive fight between all of the OTTs and the Malaysian government. It does not help that none of the existing or planned cables connecting Singapore and India will land in Malaysia although very much in Malaysian waters. This is a major disaster waiting to happen.
The Malaysian government is really upset no submarine cables are landing in the country but using their sea corridor to benefit Singapore. I firmly believe that a telecom war between Malaysia and Singapore is in the making which will affect all the cables in the Straits of Malacca. The submarine cable issue has now become very personal and political in Malaysia and it seems to get worse by the day.
Interestingly, the solution for these issues is discussed via physical meetings in California as we speak because the Southeast Asian companies cannot visit each other due to the mandatory quarantine especially in Singapore where these deals used to be done. So ironically now these companies are here in California discussing Asian cables that do not connect to the US due to the Team Telecom regulatory issues. This is now the single-most important issue around which deals are getting done. Read More………..
Facebook Must Disclose The Ransom Payments Given On 2Africa to Egypt
I understand this is a delicate subject and nobody wants to talk about it openly even though everyone knows what is going on. And carriers have been sweeping the dirt under the carpet for decades. But now the ransom amount Thief Telecom Egypt has been charging has become so excessive, it is hard to ignore. Plus Facebook owes it to the global community to come out and disclose what is going on.
By my estimation, the ransom amounts to be paid to Thief Telecom Egypt for 2Africa alone will max out at $1.3 Billion and will depend on the amount of lit capacity over the lifetime of the cable which is typically 25 years. This includes a one-time charge per fiber pair to cross the country, O&M for 25 years plus a charge to light up each 100G circuit.
Just to put things in perspective, these are just the ransom fees. The cost of manufacturing the cable, installing and maintaining it is on top but fortunately is less than the ransom amount.
There is a reason why my calling Thief Telecom Egypt by that name has struck a chord in the global carrier community and has now become a default name although in private since nobody wants to upset the thief.
It is pertinent on Facebook to acknowledge these numbers or publish numbers they believe are true or to make a statement they do not pay any ransom. They can no longer hide this under the carpet. Especially because this ransom is for right to use 200 Km of fiber. Read More………..
Bharti Airtel Gets $50 Million Free Bandwidth On 2Africa
You may like Bharti Airtel or not but one thing you have to admit: they are the best negotiator in the submarine cable industry worldwide. And pretty smart at getting free bandwidth. $50 million here, $100 million there and it adds up to a sizeable amount over the years.
So there are 8 major investors in 2Africa: Facebook, China Mobile, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, STC, Thief Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC. Even Thief Telecom Egypt is paying it’s share directly to ASN. And there are others like Aqua Comms that are hiding behind one of them as they ran out of money.
The biggest beneficiary of all however is Bharti Airtel who got $50 million of bandwidth for free on 2Africa plus additional cash to land the cable in India.
So what’s the inside deal? What does Bharti Airtel bring to the table that even Egypt doesn’t? Who’s paying the bill and why? Read More………..
The Coming Frenzy Of Investing In Indian Telecom Industry
In the last two days, I have been inundated with phone calls from investors and carriers wanting to find out about my opinion about investing in the Indian Telecom sector. This is what I told them.
I have been the biggest fan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his vision for India. At the same time, I have been vocally the biggest critic of his government’s policies in the telecom industry. I must have written tens of blogs talking about the missed opportunities for India because of the government’s lack of vision in the telecom space.
In fact, I had announced a submarine cable from India to Singapore called Sing-India-Sing which I specifically stopped working on because of India’s regulatory policies.
But everything has changed since Shri Aishwani Vaishnaw took over the Ministry of Communications recently. In one sweep, he has addressed almost all of the issues that plagued the industry for the past two decades. And I am convinced this is going to usher in a new India and the telecom industry is going to see a frenzy in investing like it has not every witnessed before.
I am in. And I have started working on two deals focusing on India. My advice to everyone who called me was that now is the time. The gates are wide open. I predict at least a 10X boom in telecom investments over the next few years.
Given that the US has gone in a shell wary of China, Russia and everyone else and the self-inflicted Chinese Wall around China, not to mention Singapore running out of space and power, I think India has a unique opportunity to be the center of gravity of the the global Internet industry. Read More………..
Indian Government Saves Vodafone’s Idea From Going Bankrupt
The Indian government killed two birds with one stone by making a number of changes in its telecom policies. The first major issue was it could not allow a duopoly to rule the Indian telecom market with Jio and Bharti Airtel as the only two telcos remaining if Idea were to go bankrupt. There had to be a credible competitor to the two carriers.
The second issue was to revive confidence in the minds of global investors that India is a safe destination for their money and to encourage them to invest.
So in a sweeping change of regulations, the Indian government announced 100% Foreign Direct Investment in the telecom sector via the automatic route. That will open up the market to a long list of investors who were weary of having an Indian partner.
The second major announcement was a 4-year deferral of moneys to be paid to the Indian government for the spectrum auctions which gives breathing room for Idea. My bet is that Vodafone will now buy Birla’s stake in Idea and have 100% ownership in the company. Another option the Indian government has given Idea is to convert the dues in to an equity stake for the government in which case the Indian government will own 30% to 70% of the company. Clearly, the Indian government does not want Idea to go away.
Earlier, the Indian government also had gotten rid of the retroactive tax laws which scared off a bunch of global investors. In addition, a major issue regarding AGR taxation of non-telecom revenues was also resolved in spite of the Indian government winning the battle in the Supreme Court. So now, only the telecom revenues will incur the telecom taxes unlike previously if a telco owned an e-commerce company, even those revenues had to pay the additional tax.
This is going to open the floodgates as every major investor in the world will want a piece of the Indian telecom action. With practically no foreign investor ever making money in the Indian telecom sector, this was the least the government could do. Read More………..
Trans-Pacific Cables On Hold
3 trans-Pacific cables have achieved CIF now — Bifrost, Echo and APRICOT — all largely owned by the OTTs — which means a couple of billion dollars have been committed to these cables and cable manufacturing has started. All of them have RFS dates around 2024. And there are also two more cables announced by RTI — the IBC (Issun Boshi cable — inspired by a Japanese fairy tale) from Singapore to Guam and the GO cable from Guam to Oregon. Both the cables are currently looking to be financed but given Russ’ track record, he will figure it out.
So including the terminal equipment, we are looking at around $3 Billion or so worth of cables being committed to. Which is great news.
Or is it? The real test of the confidence the market has in the cable is in the after market sales. Typically, it is extremely hard to find the initial sponsors but once the cable is CIF, money flows like water as everyone wants to get in on the bandwagon like in the case of 2Africa where AquaComms signed up in less than 8 weeks.
That is not happening in the case of all the trans-Pacific cables as the political risk is massive and the reality is that the US government is not in favor of the US OTTs as far as licensing is concerned. Used to be, licensing and permitting in the US was taken for granted.
No more. US has become the biggest political risk in the submarine cable industry especially where the OTTs are involved. It’s definitely easier for RTI to get its licenses compared to the OTT cables. TEAM Telecom is not OTT-friendly at this point of time.
So all the post-CIF deals in the trans-Pacific are getting done conditional on the RFS and all licensing and permitting being in place — carriers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars on PLCN and nobody wants to take a risk now. Everyone is hedging their bets because the underground whispers say that not all of these cables will get a final nod from TEAM Telecom — even if the cables are built.
And the mother of all ironies is that the market is betting that it is easier to get submarine cable licenses in Banana Republic countries in Africa and the Middle East compared to the United States. Go figure! Read More………..
Extreme Engineering In 2Africa
Facebook and its partners in 2Africa and its vendor ASN should be beaming with pride at what is being accomplished in the 2Africa submarine cable project. Most people are unaware of the massive scale and sheer audacity of the project.
When I built the Flag cable, at 17,000 Km and 17 landing points, it was the longest cable in the world and got a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records. But it is a miniscule accomplishment compared to what is going on at 2Africa.
Just think about it. A cable that will go around the entire continent of Africa, in the Mediterranean, to India, Pakistan and in the Gulf sea all the way to Iraq — and finally connected to Europe! No sane man would even think of building a cable this audacious.
So we are talking about 45,000 Km of cable with 16 fiber pairs in the trunk landing in 46 locations in 33 countries! And to boot, these are not the most friendly countries where it comes to telecom regulations. In fact, all of these are probably the worst countries in the world to land a submarine cable. And to boot, all of them have to pay ransom to Thief Telecom Egypt!
There are also two major technical achievements and the credit goes to ASN. 2Africa is the first major cable to get an aluminum core in the cable in stead of copper. That is a really big deal because it helps in reducing cost as well as improving the technology.
And the second accomplishment is ASN’s WSS ROADM technology which enables dynamic allocation of traffic to the branches as required and is a major achievement in terms of making the cable more secure in case of a cut in the branches compared to any of the existing submarine cables in Africa.
To bring all these Banana Republics on the same page with a pandemic raging worldwide and a clueless top management at Facebook calls for a Nobel Prize for Ricardo Orcero in my opinion. But all of this is not really the reason why I am in awe of the cable. The most important reason which completely changes the industry is……… Read More………..
Google’s Failed Submarine Cable Strategy
I can say with full confidence that Google is now the most hated submarine cable owner in the world and has replaced AT&T of the 1990s. I would say that it is worse than AT&T because it has orders of magnitude more money than AT&T had to spend in the submarine cable industry.
When Google got an entry in to the submarine cable industry in the trans-Pacific Unity cable, it was one of the consortium members and was elated to get an entry in to the secretive submarine cable world then dominated by the carriers. But over time as it started fine tuning its cloud strategy, it made a bet that by creating a monopoly in the submarine cable industry, it would be able to get a leadership in the global cloud market. So it went away from the consortium world and started building its own private network where none of the other cloud providers had a chance to participate.
How has that worked out for Google? The results are quite dismal. With less than 10% of the global cloud market, Google is a distant third. And the amazing thing is neither AWS or Azure, the top two cloud providers have any significant ownership of submarine cables. They lease capacity as needed from the carriers.
Google blew an unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the submarine cable industry by bringing all players together and creating an eco-system that would lower bandwidth prices for everyone and growing the market even more. I have been writing about this stupidity on part of Google for more than a decade.
The main reason Google failed is because they went and hired the same executives from the failed carriers who had destroyed the industry to begin with. With no oversight over the rogue submarine cable group, the disaster was totally anticipated.
Facebook also made the same mistake of hiring people with the same mindset and things were worse because the top networking management was clueless about the submarine cable industry. So three fiefdoms emerged with each king taking the business in his own direction — and none of the three kings ever talking to each other about strategy — or anything at all. There are lines drawn in the sand where each fiefdom operates independently.
Fortunately for the networking world, the African king — Ricardo Orcero — turned out to be a gem and he created 2Africa which in my mind is the best thing that has happened to the submarine cable industry since its origin.
My only request to Google and Facebook is to copy and paste what Ricardo is doing — and save further humiliation in the submarine cable industry. Read More………..
The Politics Of 2Africa And Birth Of Pearls
I knew something was wrong at 2Africa when they brought in AquaComms to pick up one fiber pair on the cable. That seemed very odd given the monopoly mindset of each one of the six 2Africa consortium members. So I started digging more.
Bottom line is one of the members decided to almost pull out by significantly reducing their share in the consortium. Which made everyone else nervous and everyone started scaling back. So they had to find other suckers to come to the table and pick up the significant hole that was developing which could have killed the project. All of this happened in the May timeframe.
So urgent calls were made to potential investors who could make decisions in 8 weeks otherwise the cable RFS date would have slipped significantly if money stopped flowing to ASN. I know others who were interested but did not make the cut. AquaComms flush with cash from the new investors was ready to go quickly.
But the hole still could not be filled with only $60 million or so from AquaComms. With 16 fiber pairs coming out from Egypt eastwards, there was not enough demand to justify the massive capacity, not to mention the significant Egyptian ransom money much of which had to be paid upfront.
STC who wanted to reduce its exposure, took it upon themselves to fill the hole. And brought in UAE, Pakistan, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and believe it or not — Iraq! So as is the norm, all these countries will have to pay for the branches themselves and more importantly, buy a minimum of $30 million on the trunk — same strategy used by the wily SingTel in Sea-Me-We-5. Between the 6 new countries being on boarded, between $400 to $500 million will be collected — more than enough to fill the hole.
Now all these countries will be sharing a couple of fiber pairs. So the cost of bandwidth is going to be astronomical on a per Gb basis. Imagine Pakistan paying for a full branch to use half a fiber pair or less plus buying capacity on the main trunk. So they got suckered in to the deal to fill in the hole created by STC and other consortium members. Plus they have to agree to open cable landing stations. Overall, a pretty lousy deal for the new Pearls.
Here is the map of 2Africa Pearls. Read More………..
The Chinese Are Pissed At Google — And For Good Reason
The best way to describe the birth of a submarine cable is to compare it with a dance room where suitors ask the most beautiful girls for a dance and the not-so-desirable girls never get asked.
So when companies like Google and Facebook go out looking to build cables, they will choose the most desirable countries and leave others behind like Facebook did to Israel in 2Africa. Unfortunately in that dance competition, Facebook wooed every country along the path except Israel. The country who never gets an invite moves on and hopes to get lucky in the next cable. That is the way of the submarine cable world. I am not trying to pass judgements here.
But what Google did recently has crossed the line of acceptable behavior in the submarine cable industry by naming the APRICOT cable which is a short form for: Avoids People’s Republic In China Overseas Transmission. Just to be clear, this is not my interpretation but rather the very basis on which the name was given by Google and Facebook. Facebook proposed it and Google accepted.
I hear that the Chinese are furious. It’s one thing not inviting them to the cable but it’s another thing naming a cable that spells it out and almost like a slap in the face. Given the already strained relationship between the US and China, what was the reason for Google to further antagonize the Chinese with such childish behavior? Especially when hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investments are at stake?
I am quite upset. I don’t know what it is with Google and their cable naming conventions. What with the necro names of scientists who would all be turning in their graves as their names are on monopoly cables around the world and now this nonsense.
We should get ready for one more submarine cable fight in the Pacific between the US and China. Read More………..
APRICOT Cable A Mastermind Of NTT
If Google and Facebook were smart enough, they would not be taking the credit for initiating the APRICOT cable although it is hard not to do so. Especially when everyone wants the bragging rights. There are two reasons for this.
First of all, APRICOT is the brainchild of NTT. And the reason they initiated this is because they wanted a direct connection to MIST for all their traffic to India. While they have only one fiber pair on the cable, they were the driving force and brought everyone together.
The second reason for the OTTs not to be seen as the drivers is because the cable will be going through Chinese waters (according to the Chinese) and of course, the OTTs disagree. And that is a big problem. Now whether the Chinese hate Americans more than Japanese is up for debate but certainly NTT does not pose any threat to the Chinese carriers unlike the OTTs. And to add fuel to the fire, Chunghwa Telecom is a party to this with a landing point in Taiwan.
But even if part of the cable gets stopped by the Chinese, the brainchild of the cable is a direct path from India to Guam through Singapore bypassing the Chinese influence completely.
And finally, the OTTs realized that it is better to work with PLDT than to have it as an enemy in Philippines because it is impossible to win against the PLDT mafia. Many have tried unsuccessfully over the last few decades. I have heard stories that best stay untold. If PLDT were not a partner, this cable would never happen. You pay a price for the monopoly and you move on.
And the sorry state of affairs in the submarine cable industry knows no bounds. Subcom was awarded the contract for this cable 3 years ago and planning started 3 years before that. And construction will take another 3 years–if everything goes according to plan. My guess is this is a 5-year build at best and I hope Subcom is smart enough not to have taken the permitting risk. I am telling you, this is probably the stupidest industry of all.
In any case, this is a very important cable for India. Time will tell if it also plays an important role in intra-Asia traffic. The OTTs need to keep their fingers crossed and stay out of the limelight. Read More………..
Trouble In RTI Land
I am the biggest supporter of entrepreneurs in the submarine cable industry and it really pains me when something bad happens to them. And this time it is none other than RTI Cables, the company which became an overnight sensation in the industry by co-operating with big names like Google to build a submarine cable network in the Pacific where every OTT has repeatedly failed. I may not be far off when I say that RTI has built more cables in the Pacific Ocean compared to any OTT.
So what went wrong? Well, seems like an internal coup to me looking at it from the outside. It seems a couple of officers of RTI joined forces with 360 Capital, an Australian PE firm to wrest control of RTI’s cable landing stations and data center in Guam and Hermosa Beach, California.
According to the lawsuit and papers filed with the authorities (Case number CPF21517383), the investors have taken control of the the Dry Companies (ie cable landing stations, data centers) and the situation is so bad that RTI is not allowed to even enter the premises. This goes to tell you how important the cable landing stations have become in the submarine cable industry.
The matter is now in the courts. But the US Government is now investigating the situation as they are concerned that the control of the cable landing stations is now in foreign hands which is of grave concern.
Fortunately, the Wet Companies (submarine cables) are under full control of RTI so business is as usual as far as customers are concerned.
I have to say that I really liked the massive art display at RTI’s Hermosa Beach CLS. And believe it or not, there are tens of hidden messages in the drawing for the submarine cable industry including a dedication to Happy Zhang from China Telecom. Can you spot them?
Here is my take on how the lawsuit is going to go down. Read More………..
Sify To Land Blue Raman In India
So all the network elements of the Blue Raman cable are falling in to place. Sify is now chosen as the official landing party of the Google-backed Blue Raman cable in Versova, a Western suburb of Mumbai in India.
Blue Raman’s PFE’s will be located in the Sify station and the cable will then land in the new Equinix data center where all of the SLTE’s will be located. So Sify is just the ingress point in to India but the cable can only be accessed at the Equinix facility.
This is a huge win for Sify but also closes the ability for any other cable to land in that facility as Blue Raman with 16 fiber pairs will take up all of the remaining space. I have been to the Sify facility and it is a perfect spot right on the ocean and very close in proximity to the cable landing stations belonging to RCom and Jio.
Personally, I am quite disappointed with Blue Raman’s decision both on the cable landing station as well as the data center selections in India. It tells me that they decided to go with safe choices rather than what is required for the future. I would have done it very differently. Read More………..
Google Achieves The Impossible
100 years from now, most people will forget what President Barak Obama did but will never forget that he was the man who got Osama Bin Laden. That’s his legacy. Similarly, in the submarine cable industry, Google will forever be known as the company that broke through the Egyptian hegemony by building the first cable through Israel openly defying Thief Telecom Egypt and breaking the largest single point of failure in the world. Google’s Blue and Raman cables are finally a go. This is Google’s legacy. Here is the official press release. Below are the maps of the two cables.
Facebook had a unique opportunity to beat Google in this achievement by bringing in Israel in to the 2Africa network. But Telecom Egypt blackmailed them with the result that Israel is the only country in the Mediterranean region and the entire continent of Africa that is not invited to join 2Africa. Here is my article on that unfortunate situation. With the massive success of Blue Raman, Facebook is now considering a new cable which will connect Israel to 2Africa destinations in the Mediterranean. But it is too late for any accolades.
Thief Telecom Egypt fought hard to make Google drop the project using all its political resources at the highest level including messages to former Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. But with a market cap of 6 times the GDP of Egypt, Google won in the end with the help of American diplomacy.
There are four people responsible for this huge victory for the global networking community: Shirshendu Bhattacharya from Google, Valentino Giuseppe & Zvika Caspy from Telecom Italia Sparkle and Johannes Boersma from OmanTel. They should be honored with the highest awards from the global telecommunications and Internet industries for achieving the impossible. History will show that this was a seminal moment in the submarine cable industry and these 4 cowboys achieved the impossible which nobody dared to even attempt.
Now that Google has shown the way, I hope other cables will rush through the gate and not be scared of Thief Telecom Egypt anymore. Here are some more juicy details especially on the financing of the cable. Read More………..
The Games PE Firms Play
I realize that PE firms are new to the submarine cable industry and it makes me laugh when they try to play games without realizing that this is a very small industry and everyone knows everyone and everyone knows everything.
So Digital 9 infrastructure, the PE firm that bought Aqua Comms for $215 million in April announced today that they are building Europe Middle-East India Connect 1 (EMIC-1), a new cable connecting Europe to the Middle East and India. Here is their press release.
Within 2 minutes of the press release being out, I got 6 calls from people wanting to know what was going on — a new cable to India is a big deal and nobody had heard of this cable before. And within 3 minutes of the press release being out, I had the answer to the riddle.
Turns out Aqua Comms bought one fiber pair on the 2Africa cable and they are naming their own fiber pair on 2Africa as EMIC-1 and make it sound as if it was a new cable build. And as to their assertion that Aqua Comms will manage the cable — not quite true. Yes, they will manage their own fiber pair. Maybe the PE firm thinks it is the same thing as managing the entire 16 fiber pair cable? Yes they will get to bid on the NOC contract but so will all other owners in the cable.
Now don’t get me wrong. This is a great investment and in particular, I am happy that Aqua Comms will get a carrier license in India and bring in some much needed competition. This is a huge win for Aqua Comms. But for God’s sake, the PE firm needs to get a life. Stop playing games and just tell the truth. Remember, you were busted in 3 minutes.
Why did Facebook allow Aqua Comms to buy a fiber pair on 2Africa? Read More………..
Google Firmina’s 18KV Technology Upgrade: A Big Deal?
So Google announced a new cable called Firmina which will go from the US to Argentina with drops in Brazil and Uruguay. Here is the cable map.
First of all, this cable is dedicated to Maria Firmina dos Reis, a Brazilian abolitionist , which by itself is interesting because she would have definitely opposed this monopoly cable built exclusively by and for Google to digitally enslave South Americans. Interestingly, this is the second abolitionist Google thinks it is honoring — the first being Equiano, the monopoly cable that will digitally enslave West Africa and ironically is being partly funded by grants from the EU.
I have ben saying this for years that Google should not name cables after dead people because they don’t have the option to decline the so-called honor. Instead, Google should honor living people with their express permission.
Be as it may, Google also wants you to believe that the technology they will be using on this cable — upgradation from 12KV to 18KV is a big deal. So let us analyze the technology.
Essentially, the move from 12KV to 18KV is a technology that currently only Subcom is offering which is building the Firmina cable. The only reason to go with the 18KV technology is for Google’s preference for its single-end power source capability and due to its long distance of around 11,500 Km which Google claims is the longest single power-feed in the world.
I am not so sure of Google’s claim. In my opinion, 2Africa will hold the world record for the the longest single-power feed cable in the world from UK to South Africa which is 12,500Km long. How did 2Africa achieve this without going with the 18KV technology which ASN currently does not support?
There are three ways to achieve this. Read More………..
2Africa Sets An Example For Carriers to Emulate
You have to give credit where it is due. Facebook has done an amazing job as it relates to the business development of the 2Africa submarine cable project. And I hope that carriers around the world study this model in detail and try to emulate it because there are so many good things to copy here.
For example unlike Google that tries to hike up prices for its partners and try to get its own fibers for free, Facebook is a real partner and is putting up an equal amount of money along with half a dozen other carriers. There is no price gouging and no benefits as the founder. So you would say this is a consortium. What’s the big deal?
The big deal is unlike a consortium where the landing party owns the cable landing station and becomes the de facto monopoly in its country, all of the 2Africa cable landing stations are outsourced to third parties who are given the mandate to build totally open CLS’s. Even in India where Bharti Airtel is the official landing party and has historically screwed everyone who set foot in their CLS’s, they have agreed to an open CLS and a token $2 million fee to land the cable which is unheard of in the industry.
So 2Africa will be the first consortium cable that will be offering open landing stations in every country it lands — in Africa, India and Europe. While is is fashionable to criticize the OTTs because of their size and power, it is also important to give them credit when they do something positive in the industry.
The other important thing is unlike Google who goes around awarding monopolies to land their cable in Africa, there is no such thing as a monopoly in 2Africa. At every landing, there are multiple providers creating a heathy competitive ecosystem which will lower prices and increase demand.
As for the carriers, I can only say that had they done exactly this starting 20 years ago, there would have been no reason for the OTTs to enter the business. Karma is smiling. Read More………..
The Beginning Of The End Of Carriers As We Know Them
It was bound to happen. It was just a matter of time. And I am surprised it took a little more than 20 years when AT&T was the God of carriers and nothing could happen anywhere in the world without it’s nod.
AT&T has agreed to sell it’s Network Cloud Platform to Microsoft which will incorporate it within its initiative called Azure for Operators. In short AT&T has outsourced its 5G network cloud and technology to Microsoft which will offer that platform to other carriers as well.
This move was 10 years too late. I have been calling for carriers of the world to come together and share their infrastructure since at least 2008. The infighting and chest thumping between the carriers have ruined most of them. The carriers even to this day do not realize their competitors are the OTTs and not other carriers.
And this is just the beginning. I fully expect to see these kinds of deals to happen all over the world especially in Europe where the carriers are bleeding and unable to compete with the OTTs. Of course, the EU will not be happy and regulations will drag the process even longer.
Of course, the mobile carriers won’t go away as they will need to be the consumer facing marketing front. But all bets are off as to the transport and technology management which is best served on a shared platform rather than having massive CAPEX investments for each carrier.
The scary thing is the OTTs are making exactly the same mistakes as the carriers did over the last few decades refusing to work with each other and busy building their own empires. This is not going to end well for them either. Their clock has started ticking too.
For now the only question is which OTT is going to win the most. How big is the market and what’s going to happen in the near future? Read More………..
SingTel Setback Means Asia Control Finally Possible For The OTTs
Asia has been a major sore point for the OTTs as no matter how hard they tried or how many blank checks they wrote, the OTTs failed miserably in Asia in the submarine cable industry. While a major portion of that is directly related to China and Hong Kong, the real player in the background that has been causing pain to the OTTs has been SingTel.
SingTel realized they made a huge mistake by letting in Google to participate in the trans-Pacific Unity cable which enabled the OTTs to pry their way in to the closed and secretive world of submarine cables. Since then, SingTel has regretted that decision every day and has gone on a quiet offensive against the OTTs very successfully.
The reason why SingTel is the undisputed leader in the Asian telecom industry is because of its inclusiveness. SingTel is a huge believer in the consortium cable model and in most projects it initiates, will bring in 20+ carriers to the table, each taking up $20-$30 million worth of bandwidth. So not only is this affordable for everyone but they are thankful to SingTel to bring them in unlike the OTTs that hate the consortium cable system and will never allow any carrier to come in unless they need them desperately for licensing and regulatory purposes.
While SingTel is a big proponent of free economy and is a favorite of the Western world, it is also pragmatic in that it knows it has to survive in the Chinese neighborhood. So SingTel has very close ties to the Chinese carriers and prefer to work with them as partners compared to the US OTTs, who are viewed as extremely selfish by Asian carriers. That has infuriated the OTTs to no end as they have been sidelined in all of the Sea-Me-We deals and also most of the pan-Asian deals led by SingTel.
With SingTel’s submarine cable division future in a limbo, Asia has lost it’s leader and has opened up the continent to the OTTs to ram through. I fully expect the OTTs to play a huge part in the background in the breakup of SingTel and to ensure the broken company is toothless and sidelined completely.
The breakup and total annihilation of SingTel’s submarine cable division is critical to the success of the OTTs in Asia. Expect to see some big moves in short order. I expect a massive battle for the SingTel assets with PE firms backed behind the scenes by the US OTTs on one hand and the Chinese carriers backed behind the scenes by the Chinese government on the other with support from every Asian carrier. Read More………..
The Last Pillar Standing Is About To Fall
25 years ago, the only superpower in the submarine cable industry was AT&T and they ruled the world with the help of their 4 sidekicks — BT, KDDi, Orange and SingTel. While AT&T was completely dismantled and sold off their subsea divisions, the remaining 4 were hopeful they could continue the rule. But BT and KDDi very quickly saw the writing on the wall and decided to fold their cards. Orange, while it is toothless, still thinks it is a Don in this business but that is more because of arrogance and hubris than reality.
My definition of a King in the subsea space is someone who could announce a cable and have 100% of it sold in less than 2 days with a bunch of OTTs begging to let them in. The only company that fit this criteria so far has been SingTel. They can propose a deal where they could buy bandwidth at 50% cheaper price compared to everyone else and still carriers would line up to buy in the fear they would miss out.
But alas, all good things must come to an end. SingTel realized that its infrastructure business (submarine cables, data centers, etc.) was dragging its stock price which would otherwise shine with just the domestic wireless business. So SingTel is looking at ways to move the infrastructure business away from its core business. That could take several shapes — such as selling the business to PE houses or even running it themselves but under a different umbrella and shareholder ownership.
Which means that SingTel no longer will be able to do the side deals and use the carrot and stick approach to force carriers to get in to bed with them even if the deals were bad for the rest of the carriers. Which means the last pillar has finally fallen.
What does this mean for Sea-Me-We-6? Read More………..
Twitter Thrown Out of Nigeria. India Next?
My favorite mystic in the world is Sadhguru, a global phenomenon with more than a hundred million disciples around the world. I was watching one of his thousands of Youtube videos where he made an interesting observation. He said that in the beginning of civilization, every territory in the world was ruled by kings. And then religion started influencing people and religious leaders became more powerful than kings and nothing could be done without their permission. This was followed by the politicians taking over and becoming far more powerful than the religious figures. And he says that era is coming to an end. The new era will see businesses becoming far more powerful than politicians worldwide.
That is so true. Already, the OTTs have bigger market caps compared to the GDPs of most countries. Facebook already has its own Supreme Court and the others have their own internal courts. Mark Zuckerberg is probably more powerful than most Presidents or Prime Ministers in the world because he has the ability to change governments in any country.
So the OTTs have started flexing their muscles and their first target is India — the largest country in the world by population other than China which is off limits to them. So just like in Jurassic Park, the T-Rex’s used to keep on testing the metal gates every now and then to see if they were still electrified. And as soon as the electricity failed, they crashed through the gates. So also, the OTTs are testing India to find a weak spot and then everyone will bulldoze through. If they can bulldoze through India, rest of the world is a walkover.
Just think about it. If tomorrow Twitter were to cancel your account without giving any reason or notice, what can you do? There is no email to file a grievance, no phone number to call. There is nothing you can do. But if you are an Indian citizen, can the government cancel your citizenship without giving any reason or notice? Can you not go to the Supreme Court and fight for your right? So a private company run by a dictator is refusing to abide by the rules of a democratic country and they know there is nothing India can do. Even though Twitter makes a lot of money in India and has tens of millions of Indian customers.
Case in point is when the Nigerian President tweeted about his political opponents and Twitter did not like it. So they deleted his tweet. So Nigeria went ahead and banned Twitter. And guess what? Every major European country and the US is on Twitter’s side as they say Nigeria is taking away the freedom of expression from it’s citizens! So the freedom of expression of the people Twitter bans is not important. But everyone wants Nigeria to reverse the Twitter ban or else…..
In addition to Twitter, WhatsApp also is testing the waters in India. India wants WhatsApp to provide the primary source of tweet by a bad actor who is responsible for fake news or child pornography or drug peddling so that bad actor can be dealt with in the Indian courts as per the Indian laws. So WhatsApp has invoked the Indian Supreme court and is refusing to give information that will bring the bad guys to justice. And guess what, the powerful countries of the world are on Twitter’s side. Because nobody wants to be on the bad side of the OTTs. They are that powerful.
I bet that within a decade, the world will be run by the super powerful OTTs and the the politicians of the world will be bowing down to them with no recourse. The OTTs have defeated the carriers. The next target is world domination. Read More………..
Reliance Jio’s IAX/IEX Business Plan Decoded
3 months ago, I had announced that Jio’s IAX/IEX cable was already more than 50% manufactured in the Subcom plant. The big question really was why Jio was not making the announcement? Especially since the planning of both cables has been going on for almost 5 years and major anchor tenants were already in place for more than 2 years. Here is the cable map.
The biggest problem in the submarine cable industry is how to make a profit — actually the real problem is how to not lose your shirt and go bankrupt. I completely disregard the OTT’s even though they are the largest investors in this space since for them submarine cables are a cost center. And frankly speaking any idiot can build a cable if his company has unlimited money in the bank and is given a blank check to build cables with no responsibility to make a profit.
What the rest of the world, especially the carriers and private equity has not figured out is how to make a profit selling submarine cable capacity. Why am I not surprised that it took a Gujarati to figure out the right business model? For the uninitiated, the Gujarati clan is the most successful business group in India and the Ambani’s who control Jio represent the best of the Gujarati clan.
Jio’s experience in the submarine cable industry has been limited with the only major investment in AAE-1, the Telecom Egypt-stolen submarine cable. In their defense, Jio did tell me that had they known it was a stolen project, they would never have invested in it.
So the reason Jio did not make the announcement for more than a year since the CIF was signed, was they were still figuring out the business plan. And finally they did. And it will become the blueprint of how to make money in the submarine cable industry.
I have compiled a detailed analysis of how Jio will make money in the IAX/IEX cables. Read More………..
Facebook’s Supreme Court Is A Sham
So Facebook’s highly paid and newly appointed Supreme Court agreed with Facebook’s management decision to ban Donald Trump forever from Facebook. Why is nobody surprised?
Let me give you an analogy. Washington Post has never ever written a single positive article about India no matter what. They are clearly anti-India. No matter what India does or doesn’t do, they write negative articles about it. In fact last year when India had managed to escape from the first Covid wave pretty much unscathed, every article written by Washington Post was equally negative as it is today.
In their defense, they say that they do not tell the reporters what to write. Of course they don’t have to. They only hire reporters who they know will write trash about India. And the reporters know where their paycheck is coming from. Will they ever dare to write anything different?
So Facebook thinks that by calling its Supreme Court “independent,” they will be absolved of all hate that comes with the hard decisions. This is far from reality. As it is, Facebook has a huge trust deficit with the common man thanks to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Do you think anyone is going to believe that the Supreme Court will ever make an independent decision?
The Facebook Supreme Court is a disaster waiting to happen and I am willing to bet it won’t last more than a year or two. If anything, the trust deficit will widen even more because the common man will think Facebook is trying to con them — yet again.
I completely understand that Facebook is in a tough spot — no matter what decision it takes, there will be haters. But Facebook should have the guts to make decisions it believes in rather than point fingers at its Supreme Court which nobody believes is going to be independent. Read More………..
India Needs Your Help
When I was growing up in India, long distance calls — especially international calls were extremely expensive. And usually those calls invariably brought in bad news — somebody sick or worse dead. It feels like Déjà Vu once more as I dread to hear from family and friends about someone either hospitalized for Covid or are no more.
I have personally lost a couple of relatives and my best friend’s father is in a critical condition in an ICU. And every relative or friend I know is directly or indirectly impacted by Covid.
Yes, India needs help. And there are a lot of people and companies coming forward to lend a hand. The OTTs in particular Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon are going out of their way and spending millions to help and save thousands of lives.
I have been approached by multiple carriers asking me how they can help. And they have encouraged me to write a blog as it reaches almost every carrier in the world.
Fedex and Air India are raising money to send Oxygen Concentrators to India. It costs $1,500 to send one Concentrator to India. Each Concentrator can help save up to 60 lives. Here is the link.
For carriers who want to send higher amounts, I would urge you to get in touch with your contacts at Reliance Jio or Bharti Airtel. They are already helping the cause in a big way, have feet on the ground and will be able to help you decide how you can contribute.
From my end, I am happy to offer free Premium Membership of my blog to any carrier who donates at least $10,000 to the cause.
Facebook Buying And Selling Fiber Pairs on Bifrost At the Same Time
Bifrost is a very unique cable. It is sponsored by Keppel which owns a number of hyperscale data centers in Asia and Europe. Keppel is not at all in the submarine cable business. But it realizes that in order to differentiate itself from the rest of the data center operators — especially Equinix and Digital Realty, it needs to have an edge.
So the Bifrost deal is very similar to NTT’s MIST cable to India where NTT dangled the submarine cable carrot to Google to sell large swaths of data center capacity. In this case, Facebook was also forced to get large data center capacity from Keppel in Singapore and Jakarta to get the deal done.
So think of the submarine cable as a loss leader similar to the rotisserie chicken sold at Costco whose $4.99 price has not changed in decades and Costco loses tens of millions of dollars every year on that product. So just like Costco where you end up buying toilet paper that will last you six months if you want to get the low price, the same is true for the Bifrost cable where Facebook was forced to buy 6 fiber pairs.
But what choice did Facebook have when they can no longer build cables that are anywhere close to Chinese waters? The years and years Facebook had spent planning for the cables that were landing in Hong Kong or going through the Chinese waters is now all for nothing.
The SDM technology which was first promoted by Alcatel and is now standard in the industry. While it has been a huge boon to the OTTs as they can buy multiple fiber pairs, they are not happy the technology is moving so fast. NEC just announced a 20-fiber pair cable and by the end of the year, will announce a 24-fiber pair cable.
Ironically, this is the main reason why a lot of deals are not getting done in the submarine cable industry. Just ask Jio. Read More………..
SubCom to build Sea-Me-We-6 At A Loss
The OTTs may have more money than God but when it comes to strategy, nobody in the world can beat SingTel in the submarine cable industry. So the Sea-Me-We-6 cable is now a done deal. As is the norm in the submarine cable industry, it took 5 years of planning and will take another 2-3 years to build but for all practical purposes, it is a done deal with 10 countries signing on.
The game Singtel played was just amazing. They brought in Hengtong (formerly Huawei Marine) to bid on the project and signed a LOI with them to build the cable. SingTel convinced Hengtong to bid 20% below cost price and told them that was the only way they could get the deal done. And oh my God, that set off all kinds of alarm bells especially in the US thinking that Hengtong would steal all the data from Western countries even though the cable is not landing in the US.
Basically, SingTel played the US government to a tee. The US government essentially sat on top of SubCom and forced them to match Hengtong prices even though they would be losing money on the deal. SubCom could not say No as their DoD cable contracts were at stake.
Ha Ha. So Singtel got what it wanted and now Sea-M-We-6 is a done deal and is the cheapest cable in the world except for the ransom paid to Egypt. And the funny thing is Facebook was thrown out of the consortium even though they had been begging SingTel to sell them 3 fiber pairs in the cable. And of course, the Chinese carriers are part of the deal.
So the US government forced a US manufacturer to take a loss and subsidize Chinese carriers in a deal where the US OTTs have been shunted out……hmmm. If this is not the height of stupidity, I don’t know what is.
There is only so much the US government can do because SingTel does not take orders from Team Telecom. Check and Mate. Trust me, I have seen many games being played in the industry. But it is hard to top this one. There are only a handful of winners in this game. Singtel, Bharti Airtel and the Chinese carriers. Everyone else is screwed including the vendor and the rest of the carriers. Why did SingTel allow Bharti Airtel to make money on this deal? Read More………..
Now SPAC’s Start Circling The Submarine Cable Industry
Aqua Comms is the submarine cable industry’s first SPAC and is now part of a public company. On its own, there was little chance for Aqua Comms to go public but now not only is it public, it also has enough ammunition to start building new cables especially in the lucrative Europe-Middle East-Asia segment.
This is amazing news for the submarine cable industry. The history of public companies in this space is quite dark. A number of companies led by Global Crossing went public in the 1990s and all of them went bankrupt. Since then, nobody dared to go public.
The reason is actually quite clear. The fundamentals of the industry do not call for public companies in this space. Even Aqua Comms was pretty much making single digit returns but was consistently profitable. Which cannot be said of other private companies in the space.
With so much money now available in the market, SPACs are the new vehicles to go public and I am sure a number of private cables will start tapping that market.
Unfortunately, I see nothing but a disaster looming similar to the telecom bust of 2000. While a SPAC creates instant liquidity for the investors and the management team, it does not change the fundamentals of the industry which are quite bleak.
But I won’t be surprised to see a number of private cables being bought by the blank check companies in about a year’s time when they start getting desperate to do deals as their 2-year time bomb starts coming to an end and they need to deploy the capital raised. I hear a number of telecom infra SPACs are in the process of being raised in Europe and deals will be done — not all of them good. Read More………..
How Many Times Can One Make The Same Mistake?
So Google and Facebook announced 2 new submarine cables connecting Asia and the United States — Echo and BiFrost.
Unknown to the popular news media that lapped it up, these are not new cables. The supply contract for Echo was awarded to NEC in 2018 and planning for the cable has been going on since 2015. BiFrost is no different in terms of timing (2015) although ASN was awarded the contract for it recently.
And the two rivals — Facebook and Google — whose submarine cable departments hate each other with a passion, coming together to build Echo is itself an achievement.
But both cables are making the same mistake the OTTs have been making forever. Making Singapore the only single point of failure in Asia. And these two cables will carry 70% of all trans-Pacific traffic. I thought after the historic implosion of Hong Kong, they would learn. But the reality is they are just plain lazy — they want to declare victory and move on. If Singapore implodes, it is someone else’s problem. After all, nobody got sacked for not foreseeing the Hong Kong implosion.
I realize that a few hundred million dollars is pocket change for them but I am upset they are not thinking through the ramifications of their design on the global network. Here is my take on why this is a huge mistake on part of Google and Facebook. Read More………..
Now You Can Name A Submarine Cable After Your Children
Telecom Egypt has been hugely successful at making millions of dollars by allowing other cables to rename its TE North cable. Some of the names that paid the big moolah are TGN-Eurasia, SEACOM, Alexandros and Medex.
Always looking to make money by leveraging its position, Telecom Egypt has now come up with an extremely innovative concept. For a mere $10 per month, it will allow you to name that cable with your children’s name. Imagine being able to name a submarine cable after your kid! What can be a better gift? Truth be told, Thief Telecom Egypt stole the idea from an ex-Bezeq employee who is the only person in the world to name a submarine cable after his daughter — The Jonah cable.
Telecom Egypt believes it can easily get more than a million subscriptions for its innovative idea and thus can make more than $100 million per year — for 25 years. Not bad if you can pull it off.
Honestly, I am really surprised but the response has been overwhelming. In the first two weeks of its launch, already 50,000 people have signed up to give their kid’s name a long lasting legacy in the global telecom industry.
Fortunately, I had the privilege of looking at the new names of TE North. I know a lot of people have single names but I did not know that there were 25 Bubba parents who wanted to name a cable. I also saw 10 Lucky Singh’s from India. I was not surprised to see Western names from China — like Steven, Alex, John and Linda but I cannot imagine an Alejandro from China.
Corporates are also getting in on the action. Of course, they have to pay $100 per month but still a cheap way to get their name out. The one name that stuck out was Huawei which has been banned from building submarine cables in the West. The logo they used on this cable renamed Huawei was interesting though. The last letter “i” in Huawei looked like an oversized middle finger.
Google also came to the party renaming TE North to Equiano-2. Since nobody is buying any capacity on the original and exorbitantly expensive Equiano cable, they figured some advertising may not be a bad idea. Who else knows advertising better than Google?
Facebook also got in the action calling the cable FreeBasics-2. FreeBasics was a Masterstroke of Facebook where users would be able to use the Internet for free and roam any of the 6 websites you had never heard of. Having spectacularly succeeded at that, Facebook now wants to use the same business model for submarine cables. So you can use the FreeBasics-2 cable for free as long as you add 1,000 new friends and wave at all of them every day.
Even I got in on the action. Since none of my cable projects are not getting done, I figured why not get it done the easy way? I am calling the cable Project Hydrogen!
But the best name anyone could come up with was of course Donald Trump — by calling it the Trump cable. He figured by doing so, everyone would vacate the cable immediately and thus the world’s number 1 single point of failure would be resolved. Now that calls for a Nobel Prize. Read More………..
Facebook’s Secret Deal With Bharti Airtel
So I broke the story not too long ago that Facebook would be landing 2Africa in Mumbai. Now I can confirm that the official landing party of 2Africa in Mumbai is Bharti Airtel.
Bharti has a very dark history of taking the cables they land to the cleaners — for tens of millions of dollars and in one case much more than that. Just ask Alcatel, BSNL, SingTel…….. I have chronicled each instance over the last decade. So is Facebook so dumb as to do a submarine cable deal with Bharti? Not really. Facebook knows exactly what it is doing.
In fact, 2Africa will be the first cable to land in India which will be a truly carrier-neutral cable in terms of its governance and RIO stipulations. Bharti won’t be able to make a dime off this cable in India — except some non-material reimbursement of expenses worth a couple of million dollars. in fact, Bharti will only house the PFE. The SLTE’s will all be housed at Equinix and customers can choose their own backhaul provider.
So why is Bharti doing it? What’s the secret handshake? Or a more Covid-friendly Elbow Bump or Namaste or just a Wink-Wink? This is how the deal went down. Read More………..
Phase 3 Of Global Networking Leaves Dead Bodies Along The Way
Phase 1 of global networking for the Internet started in the early 1990’s with carriers connecting major population centers to each other. And in the early days, most of the data was housed in the US. So there was a massive demand for cables from all over the world trying to reach the United States. Billions of dollars were spent on just the trans-Atlantic segment.
Then came the OTTs in the mid-2000’s who started building massive hyperscale data centers first in Northern Europe where land is free and power is extremely cheap due to the cold weather. For a global footprint, they also built hyperscale data centers in major hubs like Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. And spent the last decade connecting those hyperscale data centers to each other. That was Phase 2.
With the advent of Phase 2, all of the infrastructure built for Phase 1 was economically — if not technically — obsolete. Literally, you couldn’t give away capacity on TAT-14 (the pride and joy of AT&T) for free because the cost of its maintenance was more than the cost of new bandwidth across the Atlantic.
And today, I can say with confidence that Phase 2 is now dead and all the cables built by the OTTs are economically obsolete — although because the amounts are so miniscule in terms of their size, it won’t show up as a disaster on their books.
Phase 3 is all about Data Localization and a need for a distributed mesh architecture as opposed to the hub and spoke model in existence today. A case in point is the announcement today by the European Union at the Digital Day event that all data needs to be localized. Currently 90% of all data produced in Europe is being sent out of the bloc and therefore an emergency-like situation has arisen according to the EU. EU wants to become a world class data hub by bolstering connectivity (terrestrial, submarine cables and satellites) and data center storage and compute facilities to be the best in the world. Do I smell money being given away for free here? Watch this video.
So blame me for being 20 years ahead of the curve vis-a-vis launch of Project Oxygen which was a fully globally distributed subsea network. What happens now as the OTTs scramble to hide their follies and re-build their global networks from scratch? Who’s going to buy those newly-built obsolete cables? Read More………..
Catch-22 For Google And SMART Cables
While there has been significant activity in the SMART cable arena with formal technical committees interacting with vendors to commercialize the technology, Google and Facebook have been on the sidelines although they do attend the sessions every now and then. The SMART cables under discussion with the vendors will mean addition of new sensors in the cable and most definitely in the repeaters for detection of all kinds of activity in the ocean and above it.
The benefits of SMART cables are huge for climate monitoring, disaster warnings including earthquakes, tsunamis and seismicity. There are also massive benefits to better understand marine life under the ocean which we know little about.
In fact, very recently, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nationals Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO/IOC) created a joint task force to study and create regulations for the SMART cable industry.
But Google in my mind, made a massive faux pas by announcing they were working with Caltech researchers to detect earthquakes and tsunamis using existing submarine cables. This is the first time researchers have been able to detect earthquakes and ocean waves — without the need for any additional equipment or sensors. So in short, any lit fiber in the world can now be a SMART cable without the need for additional sensors to some degree.
In light of the current caustic regulatory climate in the world as it pertains to submarine cables especially in Asia as well as in the United States, Google’s timing couldn’t have been worse. Now in addition to the fishing and environmental industries which were skeptical of submarine cables, the defense organizations of every country in the world will be extremely worried that their submarine and other naval defense activity will now be monitored by Google and Facebook — who are now the largest owners of submarine cable bandwidth in the world.
Which means that the 7-year gestation period of a submarine cable going from Concept To Reality just went up by an unknown number of years. And of course, an additional headache and supervision by governments of all the existing cables owned by carriers and OTTs around the world. And of course, additional senate hearings in every country in the world of how powerful Google and Facebook are. Read More………..
A Mad Rush To Announce New Data Centers In India
And of course, Iron Mountain agreed to invest $150 million in Web Werks which is owned by my favorite Indian entrepreneur Nikhil Rathi whom I have written previously about. As I had predicted, Web Werks is now clearly the Equinix of Navi Mumbai and will expand rapidly to other cities in India.
There is no question there is a data center boom in India and will continue at least for another decade. But why this flurry of announcements of multi-billion dollar investments 10 years out in the future?
It has little to do with the real demand which is undeniable but more to do with the biggest land grab going on in India with several states offering free land for future data center development. Anywhere from 20 to 100 acres of free land is being given away to those who can make big announcements. Read More………..
Facebook Is Right, Australia Is Wrong
I am a firm believer that the OTTs need to abide by the rules of every country they are operating from. So while I totally disagree with Australia’s new law asking for OTTs to pay for content originating from the country, everyone needs to respect the law. But wait a minute….the law specifically singles out Google and Facebook and is not applicable to Twitter and any other OTT. Now that is unacceptable. The law is biased against those two OTTs.
Secondly, the media houses who are crying like babies do have an option — to inform the search bots not to search their content. Ah, but then who would read their content? So they want it both ways — they do want the content to show up on Google and they want to get paid for it.
There is also a lot of difference in how both the OTTs carry the content. While Google bots search for content online, the media houses themselves put content on Facebook. So all they have to do is stop putting the content. Also, the Australian government has no business to force one media business to pay another media business just because one of them is Australian. Some senators surely got paid under the table by the Australian media houses.
While both OTTs refused to pay, Google was cornered in to paying by its rival Microsoft which has a 3% market share in the search business and Microsoft was thrilled to replace Google search in Australia and become a monopoly there and was willing to pay the media houses. Microsoft has nothing to lose and is more than happy to throw Google under the bus. So Google had no choice from a competitive perspective although if Microsoft was not an issue, it would have surely walked away from Australia just like Facebook. Microsoft is also instigating the European government to take a similar stand against Google. This is not right on part of Microsoft. It has to remember — What goes around comes around.
But Facebook has no such competition and frankly speaking Australian news is less than 4% of the global news anyway. When was the last time you went out searching for Australian news? There was no reason for Facebook to pay and create a precedent for every country in the world to follow. So Facebook, in adherence to Australian laws, decided that it would not carry any news from Australia. If Facebook agreed to pay content providers, tomorrow the governments of the world will force it to pay every individual content provider — it’s user. So it’s a slippery slope for Facebook. With no upside.
And all of a sudden, the liberal media went crazy and started a campaign to put Facebook out of business. Of course, no mention of how they had a conflict of interest writing about this story as they would make millions of dollars if Facebook lost. So ya, I think Facebook is absolutely right in their stance and I predict that Australia will blink unless they also force Twitter and others to start paying. This blatant discrimination of Google and Facebook will be Australia’s undoing. Read More………..
The Chickens Are Coming Home To Roost
For the first time in his life, Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Minister of Communications of India koo-ed instead of tweet-ing. Koo is a new Twitter-like app for the Indian market. And since then, almost every top Indian politician followed suit and joined Koo. Of course with less than 10 million subscribers, Koo is just getting started compared to 330 million subscribers for Twitter. But this is a wake-up call for not only Twitter but also all other social networking sites.
With the trillion-dollar market cap ceiling now broken, the OTT market caps are bigger than most countries’ GDPs. And with that has come arrogance when dealing with politicians of most countries. The OTTs have their own Supreme Court if you will over content and they believe that has higher standing over the Supreme Court of any other country. For example, this is Facebook’s Supreme Court and the judges are paid six-figure salaries and hired by……….Facebook! through a $130 million trust. I find it really amusing when Washington Post says they don’t tell their reporters what to write. Of course they don’t have to. They only hire those who will write exactly what they want! And they know their job is on the line if they write anything remotely not ultra left.
So when the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmersGenocide started trending on Twitter, the government of India told Twitter to take down accounts with that hashtag as it was inciting riots — which Twitter complied and then reinstated those accounts under the guise of freedom of speech. The Indian government then called Twitter on its hypocrisy where it took one stand during the Capitol riots (favoring the government) in the US and exactly the opposite stand during the Red Fort riots (favoring the rioters) in India.
It also did not help that Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter ‘liked” some anti-India tweets which promptly resulted in Twitter’s neutrality being called in to question. And of course, it permanently banned President Trump but refused to do the same with politicians in India who were also inciting people to riot.
In Australia, Google and Facebook are facing yet another problem where they have refused to comply with the government’s order to start paying the content providers as per rules passed in the senate.
So is Twitter going to be replaced by Koo in India and Google search by Microsoft Bing? Read More………..
Malaysia Cabotage Issue Is Not Going Away
So just like I had predicted, Malaysia is not giving up on its cabotage issue. And all the OTTs are up in arms. It seems that employees of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Microsoft gave all kinds of threats and ultimatums to the Malaysian government pretty much telling the government they would pull out of Malaysia and turn it in to a technology barren land.
There is only one problem. The idiots don’t understand that this is not about them. If it was about them, the Malaysian government would have agreed long time ago. This is a fight between the governments of Malaysia and Singapore and the OTT idiots keep on thinking they can threaten the Malaysian government and everything will be back to normal.
The problem all the OTTs are in a panic is because desperation has set in. They have pretty much lost billions of dollars while making Hong Kong the premier hub of Asia fully knowing that the place belongs to China and sooner or later they will have to face the music.
So they shifted all their marbles to Singapore and started playing there. And less than a year after Hong Kong imploded, the Straits of Malacca started burning. Which by the way, is the only gateway left to India from the East. And Google in particular, has never served India from the West and now finds itself in a big soup. And they need to find someone to blame.
Instead of trying to find solutions to the problem (like looking at alternate ways to reach India), they have picked the mother of all fights with Malaysia not really understanding what is behind the government’s cabotage stand. As Singapore is now pretty much maxed out on land and power for data centers, it is trying to buy or lease both land and power from neighboring countries. Which is creating its own regional political and military issues — far above the pay grade of the OTT minions.
I pity the OTTs because all of the existing and future cables they are involved in, go through the Straits of Malacca. Give it a couple more years. And then they will realize they need to write off those investments and start looking for alternatives. This is a repeat of the Hong Kong disaster. Read More………..
This Changes Everything In India
Today, I had the pleasure of speaking to the founder of PM-WANI in India — the new project announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which will light up 10 million new WiFi hotspots all over India. It’s truly an amazing story and I was humbled to speak to the person who will be responsible for changing the lives of 1.3 Billion Indians and the generations to come.
So this person — an employee of TRAI — reached his mobile carrier bandwidth limit one day while walking on a street in New Delhi in 2017 and wondered why he could not stop at a local grocery store and buy some bandwidth. Which led him to coming up with a business plan to sell bandwidth coupons. But then who would buy a bandwidth coupon if it only worked at that store? So he started thinking of a coupon that would work anywhere one went throughout India.
From these humble beginnings, PM-WANI was born which is going to change India forever. Of course, the coupons are gone. One needs to authenticate himself only once in his lifetime and he can continue using WiFi in each of the 10 million locations. And entrepreneurs are going crazy to get in on this platform. Hundreds of new business proposals are being put forth by entrepreneurs wanting to light up entire villages with WiFi to all kinds of add-on services like micro-edge data centers to edge-CDN’s.
This gentleman who came up with the concept spent most of his time convincing his colleagues in the government to allow entrepreneurs to provide the WiFi service without the need for any licenses and without paying the 8% fees required of every telecom service.
He mentioned one village where the new WiFi service is up and the 3,000 school children who were given free IPads by the government 3 years ago — which remained unused — suddenly realized they could use them and all of them joined in one day.
This is the birth of a new India and everything negative I have ever said about TRAI just doesn’t matter anymore. Read More………..
Namaste Cable Ver 2.3
I am a big believer that things always happen for the best and for good reason. Take the example of the Sing-india-Sing cable I had announced in 2017.
I spent a good year trying to put this deal together but was put off by the regulations in India. Also, the Indian telecom industry was going through a major upheaval with carriers just trying to survive with the super aggressive competition from Jio. So the timing was just not right. And so I decided to drop the project.
And thank God I did. Because I would have been bankrupt with the new cables announced on exactly the same route: IAX, MIST and Sea-Me-We-6. Not to mention the new political and regulatory problems in the Straits of Malacca which could potentially delay these projects for a long time.
So because of what happened with AAE-1 which terminated in Malaysia and carriers were trying to be cute by bringing traffic on land to Singapore and the Singaporean government basically stopped all traffic from coming in, there is now a huge fight looming between the two governments.
Which is evidenced by Malaysia’s first step of applying cabotage laws for submarine installation and maintenance cableships. There is no telling how far this fight is going to go. In any case, the Straits of Malacca is becoming yet another single point of failure.
Another major problem is Indonesia is 100% dependent on Singapore for all its internet connectivity and needs a diverse and direct path to the rest of the world. So here is my modification of the Namaste Cable to address these and a bunch of other issues. The Government of Indonesia will be ecstatic with this new development.
Who in their right mind will now want to go through the Straits of Malacca until the two governments resolve their differences? I am now taking orders for fiber pairs on this route which I believe is the only way to address the Singapore situation. Here is my business plan. Read More………..
State Of The Submarine Cable Industry 2021
Every year I write a report on the State of the Submarine Cable industry. This year is especially important as the industry is going through a fundamental transformation with the closure of the dark chapter under the leadership of AT&T by the retirement of TAT-14 — the last remaining vestige of the evil empire.
Although one of AT&T’s side-kick KDDi has also suffered the same fate as AT&T, two other partners in crime — SingTel and Orange are still very much active, although they are now a sideshow to the new Masters of the Universe — Facebook and Google who have pretty much taken over the leadership of the industry — with their ability to write blank checks and build out massive networks.
The situation is similar to people now thinking of George W Bush as a saint and a genius compared to Donald Trump. Similarly, there are many carriers who now think AT&T days were far better compared to those under the OTTs where they are facing an existential crisis.
So I have identified 15 major trends for 2021 that will define the year ahead.
1.) Submarine cables will get more expensive. If you are not Facebook or Google, you are screwed. Because the two companies now have a lock on the submarine cable supply chain, right from cable vendors to the installation ships. And they have inundated the supply chain with so many and such huge projects (like 2Africa), that while the vendors are working for the OTTs at minimum wages, they are increasing prices for the entrepreneurs and carriers — by a lot.
2.) Data centers will get more expensive. With the passage of the green data center laws in Europe on Thursday, it is going to be far more expensive to operate data centers and subsequently the additional charges will be passed on to the customers. Also, I foresee a huge disparity between haves and have-nots — data centers that conform to the green laws and those who don’t. And the price differential between those two will be substantial. And customers will face a major moral and ethical dilemma which way to go. Read More………..
Desperate Need For Government Regulations In The Internet Infrastructure Industry
I have been watching with great interest the aftermath of President Trump’s Capitol fiasco and how companies have reacted to this event pretty much on a one-on-one basis.
So first Facebook decided it was going to suspend Trump’s Facebook page in eternity or at least for 2 weeks, followed by Twitter permanently taking down Trump’s Twitter channel because he had breached their Terms & Conditions. This was almost immediately followed by Google and Apple taking down Parler (a conservative social media site favorable to Trump) from their App store.
But more interestingly, Amazon decided it was no longer going to host Parler on its cloud platform — AWS. So while Parler was fine with the content on its website, the cloud hosting company was not. And today, Stripe made a decision that it was no longer going to process payments for Trump’s website.
So my worry is how far down the internet infrastructure supply chain are companies going to make these political and/or legal/criminal decisions? If tomorrow, Equinix and Google get on the opposite side of the political ideologies (or Google is linking to websites Equinix feels are violating its T&C’s), can Equinix boot Google Cloud from its data centers?
Or if tomorrow, Washington Post starts a crusade to free Kashmir, can Bharti Telecom refuse to carry AWS on its submarine cables since Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post?
I think the world needs to have a regulatory framework on how these tech giants should respond to political events and not be left to their individual decision making mechanisms. It is in fact not fair to them either — because no matter what decisions they make, they will have alienated part of the population. Governments of the world need to get involved asap and pass clear and precise laws as to how to deal with such situations.
From a purely infrastructure perspective, do companies now have to control their own infrastructure supply chains and how much further down the line? Read More………..
Google Throws Telecom Egypt A Bone
I am now convinced that Blue Raman is not only on track but is surely going to happen. Google is making sure that Telecom Egypt is happy and will not interfere in the permitting process of Blue Raman. First of all, Telecom Egypt will benefit from Egypt crossing of the Majan cable by tens of millions of dollars.
In addition to that, Google just signed a deal buying capacity to cross Egypt and including purchase of additional capacity on TE North — which in the industry is also known as the Scam Cable. Why is it called by that name? Just take a look at this map of TE North.
Now look closely at the name of the cable. It is called TE North. It is also called TGN-Eurasia. It is also called SEACOM. It is also called Alexandros. It is also called Medex. Hmmmm….what’s going on here?
It is very easy to explain. Telecom Egypt forces cables crossing Egypt (who they can bully) to buy one or more fiber pairs on this single fat cable called TE North but allows those cables to rename the same cable with the name of the cable that wanted to build its own fiber to Europe. So everyone can claim they have their own cable all the way to Europe. TE North is by far the single biggest point of failure in the entire world. If that one cable goes down, the so-called other cables also go down.
Did Google also fall for this scam? Of course not. They know what they are doing. It’s payback time to make sure Blue Raman goes through without a whimper from Telecom Egypt.
A Tall Leader In The Middle East Has Retired
Abdullah Al-Samhan, General Manager of International Cable Systems at STC has retired although he still server as a Senior Advisor at STC.
I have known Abdullah for many years and was always impressed by his ability to forge extremely strong ties especially with SingTel and Orange which enabled Saudi Arabia to now host about 15 submarine cables. Abdullah took full advantage of Saudi Arabia’s key location and made sure he signed up for every cable that passed through the region.
Abdullah’s latest major accomplishment was to get an entry in to the 2Africa consortium which will put Saudi Arabia in the center of the action as it relates to Africa.
Abdullah hands over the reins to Adil Alaskah to take the Kingdom to the next level. With so much capacity at his disposal, Adil will now have to manage the delicate relationship with Telecom Egypt as there are a number of cables that want to traverse Saudi Arabia on to Jordan and Israel for route diversity and significantly reduced cost which represents a massive pot of gold and will separate the Kingdom from its competitors in the Middle East.
Abdullah’s major contribution was his innate understanding of the C&MA document which enabled him to get the lowest cost of bandwidth compared to UAE and Oman which have been vying desperately to compete with STC.
Abdullah clearly was responsible for putting Saudi Arabia on the global submarine cable map. He was a tall leader in the Middle East and Adil has big shoes to fill. Read More………..
What Is Jio Hiding?
The CIF of IAX (India to Singapore) and IEX (India to Europe) cables was signed in 2020 with Subcom and thousands of kilometers of cable has already been manufactured. Both the cables together represent more than $750 million worth of contracts to Subcom. And yet there has been no press release from any of the concerned parties.
Usually, the vendors and sub-vendors are desperate to send out a press release on such a big deal as it tends to attract a lot more business. But there is a gag order that prohibits them from opening their mouth.
While Jio won the war when it came to government regulations and pretty much destroyed the mobile industry in India, they are having a tough time with public sentiments. I guess this is the price one has to pay to becoming God overnight.
There have been farmer protests going on in India for the past two months because the government wants to change the archaic system of buying food grains to a more market oriented one. And because Jio is known to be close to the current government, some of the farmers believe that Jio will enter the farming sector with their ability to raise ungodly amounts of money and therefore make the farmers bankrupt.
So with that crazy and atrocious assumption, the farmers particularly in the state of Punjab vandalized about 1,500 Reliance Jio cell phone towers resulting in millions of dollars of damages and of course service interruptions.
Jio is extremely wary about what information gets out in the public domain. So what is Jio hiding in the IAX/IEX deal? Read More………..
Facebook Is Extending 2Africa To India
Wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year. 2021 certainly brings good news for India as Facebook will be extending the 2Africa cable to Mumbai. (The map will be updated when Facebook makes a formal announcement)
If you are looking for a piece of that cable, don’t bother. The cable is 100% sold out even if the final landing party issues are being worked on. This will be India’s first cable with a true open architecture and none of the Indian carriers will be able to hold anyone ransom for the last mile.
This is certainly a big blow to Oman as it tries to become the next Marseille. The politics in that region is changing rapidly and here is the full analysis of the situation. Read More………..
2020: A Horrible Year For Submarine Cables
While 2020 has been nothing short of a spectacular year for the telecom infrastructure industry (3 trillion Zoom meeting minutes, 6 billion monthly hours of Netflix, 100% plus increase in online store vs in-store purchases and so on), the submarine cable industry has been an exception to the global telecom party.
Interestingly, that is not true for the vendors and service providers of the industry who are under servitude by the OTTs and have enough business to keep them busy for several years.
So why do I say it is terrible? Number of things. Government regulations in particular the US-China feud has completely upset the trans-Pacific market affecting cables worth at least a couple of billion dollars. It’s not so much the money but the uncertainty of how to plan for the future that is troubling. Hong Kong has been the hardest hit and so also the uncertainty around the data center market there for the foreseeable future is deeply concerning.
The largest private submarine cable owner, Telxius went on the market and will be sold in 2021 possibly with a huge haircut to Telefonica. Multiple attempts to sell it or to go public have failed. And Telxius is not the only one selling its submarine cable assets. There are others too who find it impossible to stay in the wholesale business. You will see multiple private cables coming on the market in 2021. Telxius will likely be sold to the clueless private equity guys who will have to unload it again after suffering huge losses.
The traditional wholesale market meant that the carriers were selling to the OTTs. 2020 has proven otherwise. Google is now the wholesale provider of dark fiber pairs selling Blue Raman and MIST capacity to the same carriers for a 100% plus markup with other cables on the horizon with the same business plan.
There is only one really tiny positive spot in the submarine cable industry. Read More………..
Equinix Is On The Defensive
When the Equinix Cloud Exchange (ECX) was introduced, I had written about the potential for conflict of interest with some of its customers. Frankly speaking, introduction of the cloud within a single data center was an absolutely right thing to do as it saves significant provisioning time and benefits everyone.
But as soon as Equinix started selling interconnectivity across regions even though to its own data centers, that started getting the attention of one third of its customers, the carriers who provide the same service and in fact, connectivity is the only business they are in.
One of the reasons Equinix is in a bind is because it is afraid of Megaport and other upcoming services like PCCW Console Connect where customers now have the option to colocate in cheaper data centers and get connected by these virtual networks to Equinix data centers which are quite expensive compared to competition.
The success of Equinix has been built around the fact that you are just a cross-connect away from any of your partners because all of them will be in the same data center. That is a great selling point but the issue is how much of a premium are people willing to pay in light of the virtual networks showing up. And if Equinix wants to compete in that space, are they killing their own newborns or they have realized that the writing is on the wall?
There is now a whole new business model emerging around this evolving nexus of data centers and virtual connectivity. Read More………..
Something Interesting Is Going On In The Global Networking Space
I have been watching the stock price of Megaport with great interest and fascination. The market cap is now nearing US$2 Billion. This is for a company that resells bandwidth connecting various data centers and to the cloud providers among other services. Its annual revenues were US $45 million and the company has been losing money every year since its birth. Megaport does not own any submarine cable or any data center.
Compare this to the US$2 Billion I Squared Capital agreed to pay for GTT’s assets in Europe. Assets sold included 100,000 route Km of fiber network, 3 trans-Atlantic submarine cables including one with the lowest latency across the Atlantic and preferred by the financial institutions, 14 Tier-3 data centers and over 100 colocation facilities. Revenues are close to $400 million with EBITDA of around $175 million.
Or let’s compare it to another $2 Billion deal in the making where Telefonica is in the process of getting rid of all its submarine cable assets through a sale of Telxius. This is a 100,000 Km submarine cable network including the very lucrative and monopoly routes in South America. Roughly speaking, Telxius’ subsea revenues are in the range of $600 Million with an EBITDA of around $150 million. This is after the tower business assets are spun off in to another deal.
And guess which company was valued at under $2 Billion just before the pandemic? Tata Communications which owns 500,000 Km of subsea and 200,000 Km of landline fiber, has revenues of $2.5 Billion and has been consistently profitable every year from its birth.
So what’s going on? Read More………..
Jio Now Faces An Existential Competitor
As the saying goes, If you play with fire, be ready to get burnt. Jio’s core competence in the initial stages was its amazing ability to wade through the Indian regulatory waters and get the government’s approval to start its service. Of course, once it got that, nobody can take away the tremendous organizational and financial prowess it got to the table to create the world’s largest startup.
Now the same government that approved Jio’s foray in to telecommunications just announced a new program in India called the PM-WANI which stands for Prime Minister WiFi Access Network Interface. Basically, the government just allowed public access to WiFi hotspots which enables any small shopkeeper or hawker or homeowner to provide WiFi services by selling Internet service for a few Rupees at a time. Basically, you don’t need a license to provide WiFi services and you can sell it at any price you want.
The government wants to have tens of millions of such WiFi hotspots throughout the country so everyone can enjoy broadband services even if they do not have a cell phone provider. All you need is a simple Android handset and install OTT services on top.
Ouch. Jio just raised $15 Billion to fund its investments in 5G among a host of other services. The money raise was based on the add on services it would provide to its customers which would keep on growing by an additional 200 million users or so. Of course, I am not predicting gloom and doom for Jio. Jio is one of the smartest organizations in the world and they will figure out how to deal with the situation.
But the game has suddenly changed and the sand just shifted from under their feet. I can see a new unicorn being born to take advantage of this unique situation — one that can provide a seamless interconnection between those tens of millions of hotspots.
This reminds me of the early days of Cable TV in India where thousands of local entrepreneurs were stringing cables from one building to another and providing their own version of Cable TV services. In the WiFi version, these entrepreneurs could also target broadband landline services by providing a pay-as-you-use option instead of the monthly subscription model.
And who are the winners in this round? Facebook, Google and Amazon who will get tens of millions of new eyeballs without doing anything. The game is On. Read More………..
Malaysia Cabotage Issue Plunges Asia In to Another Crisis
Malaysia revoked the exemption enjoyed by the submarine cable industry with respect to cabotage — which means that now only Malaysia-flagged submarine cableships can install and repair submarine cables in Malaysia. Except there is a slight problem — Malaysia has zero Malaysia-flagged cableships ready to step in to that role.
Which means that foreign cableships (read Singapore) can still service the cables in Malaysian waters except with a slight delay — of say 2-3 months. This is in direct retaliation to Singapore not allowing AAE-1 traffic from Malaysia to terminate in Singapore unless there is equivalent traffic originating in Singapore that wants to terminate in Malaysia — on a per carrier basis. Which has pretty much made AAE-1 useless as nobody wants to terminate traffic in Malaysia and they cannot take it to Singapore.
The biggest sector affected is the Malacca Straits where all of the cables from Singapore to India and Europe ply. Of course, the Malaysian government is using MASA — the shipping union as the front to fight this political battle with Singapore.
So who’s affected? All of the carriers and of course, Google, Facebook and Microsoft — who had a massive fight with the Malaysian government and one of them threatened to walk out of Malaysia if this issue was not resolved to its satisfaction.
Of bigger consequence than the repair of existing cables is whether or not the Malaysian government would become a hindrance to getting permits for future cables that pass through its waters in the Malacca Straits. Malaysia can easily delay giving permits by a couple of years. And in this strange industry where 7 years is now the norm for getting a cable from concept to reality — what’s 2 more years? Read More………..
And Now the Finger Pointing Starts At Google And Facebook
Hong Kong in particular and Asia in general have been an unmitigated disaster for Google and Facebook in terms of their submarine cable strategy and deployment. Show me one trans-Pacific cable that can be declared a success story for either of them and I will show you the warts in it. There are cables in operation but no traffic on them. There are cables that are working partially but not to the originally intended destinations. And of course, now the US-China trade war has thrown everything in to turmoil.
But even before the US-China trade war, the writing was on the wall for Hong Kong. If I knew that Hong Kong was going to implode two years ago, surely Google and Facebook knew way before that. After all, they have the cream of the crop working for them. So someone knew and yet did not press the panic button because of internal politics.
So from what I hear, the finger pointing war has started within both the companies with the data center guys blaming the submarine cable guys and vice versa. And from what I hear, heads are going to roll.
I think this is a good time for both companies to do some deep introspection of what they are doing in the submarine cable space. In my opinion, the fundamental problem is both the companies think that controlling the entire submarine cable supply chain including vendors and global bandwidth, will create a massive moat around their properties so no startup would dare to compete with them. With this big picture folly, they have created enemies with every carrier in the world.
A perfect example of the chasm created is the IEX/IAX cables. With unlimited money at their collective disposal, Jio, Facebook and Google cannot pull the trigger because of fundamental differences of opinion on how the deal needs to be constructed so it is fair to all.
Both Google and Facebook have totally different philosophies but they end up doing the same thing. While Facebook management is clueless about the industry and has resulted in multiple fiefdoms doing their own thing in different parts of the world. While Google is the true evil incarnate with a clear agenda from the very top to build monopolies and control the eco-system in every part of the world.
I suggest both companies take time out and think about what went wrong and how they should change to avoid history repeating itself. Maybe even listen once in a while to what outsiders have to say. Aah, that’s probably asking for too much. Read More………..
RTI: Down But Not Out
So you might think that RTI must be having an existentialistic crisis after losing 2 cable deals they have been working on for almost 3 years (HKA and HKG). Of course it has hurt them. But Russ Matulich, in my opinion, is the best submarine cable entrepreneur in the world. He shrugged off the losses and immediately, started work on his latest cable: IBC — which does not touch any Chinese waters at all.
IBC is a proposed Guam to Singapore cable with branches to Darwin, Australia and Jakarta & Makassar, Indonesia. Not going through Chinese waters really limits where this cable can land. It will be a minimum 6 fiber pair cable.
The other thing Russ is looking at is taking the wet plant which is already manufactured for the HKG (Hong Kong Guam) cable and morphing it to land in Philippines instead of Hong Kong. Seems like Philippines is becoming the defacto beneficiary of the US-China regulatory fallout with Facebook also doubling down on the country.
If you ask me, I would tread with caution unless the big bad boy PLDT is in on the same side of the table as you. People have lost count of the dead bodies of those who tried to take on PLDT.
Russ is the smartest submarine cable entrepreneur and it is going to take more than a few regulators to keep him down. Read the details about how neither he nor RTI got hurt when he walked away from the HKA and HKG deals. Read more……..
Two Hong Kong Cables Postponed Indefinitely
For those that have been waiting anxiously for Joe Biden to take up his Presidency in January hoping that his China policy viz-a-viz the telecommunications industry will be different from Donald Trump, I have some very bad news. The Department of Justice is pretty much in charge of the telecom policy through Team Telecom and they are not going to change their stance at least for the next 2-3 years even if Joe Biden decides to take a softer approach towards China.
The fallout has begun and it is not pretty. Two private cables, Hong Kong Americas (HKA) and Hong Kong Guam (HKG) are the first victims with several more to come in the coming few months. Between those two cables, that’s more than half a billion dollars in total investments.
US DoJ has certainly become a huge gating factor. But the Chinese government is no different. Unfortunately for HKA and HKG, they had to deal with both governments on each cable. Not a single cable has landed in Chinese territory unless the landing party has been either China Telecom, China Mobile or China Unicom. Hong Kong was a different issue until now. No more.
China has been planning for this event from the start of the Internet. They have been building an Internet for China from the beginning and while they do need to access US traffic, it is less than 10% of the overall traffic. Whereas for all other Asian countries, they need to go to the US for at least 60% of their traffic. In addition, accessing Chinese content is about 15 times more expensive compared to US content pricing.
While it was clear that the Chinese would be going after every OTT owned cable, I was expecting that the private cables be shown more leniency. But a war is a war and nobody is being spared both by the US as well as the Chinese authorities. So new cables are being planned now that will avoid Chinese waters, both official as well as claimed. I am really upset that so much money and effort has gone down the drain because of poor governance. Read more……..
Impact Of Amazon’s $2.8 Billion Data Center Investment In India
Amazon just announced that it would spend $2.8 Billion on a number of data centers in Telangana, a newly formed state in South India. This is Amazon’s second major data center investment and the cluster will be operational in 2022. The first cluster is operational in Mumbai.
This changes everything — for Amazon, for India as well as for the rest of the OTTs. Until now, mainly because of India’s telecom regulatory nightmare, OTTs were hesitant to invest in hyperscale data centers in India. Instead they preferred having them located in Hong Kong and Singapore in the APAC region and were serving India from there.
But everything that could go wrong has gone wrong in those two locations. Because of the US-China trade war and subsequent submarine cable regulatory battles in Hong Kong, its future is clearly muddied and OTTs have lost billions of dollars in the bet they made that Hong Kong would be off-limits for China.
The second major problem is Singapore. Not only is it the world’s 2nd largest single point of failure, it has no more space or power left to build new data centers. And no approvals for new data centers are to be granted until 2021 as Singapore figures out whether it makes sense to buy power from neighboring Malaysia to feed the almost 10% of Singapore’s power dedicated towards data centers.
And the major market in that region is India anyway. So Amazon decided to swallow the pill and take its chances on betting that sanity will prevail in the Indian government’s regulatory policy over time, if not right away. Google and Facebook are not there yet. But I am betting that they will have no choice but to invest in the Indian data center market especially as India promotes the Atmanirbhar (self-reliance) policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In anticipation of that happening over the next 3-5 years, already the Indian carriers are making changes in their submarine cable and infrastructure investments. I have spoken to all of them and their perception of what’s going to happen is extremely consistent And that is why Jio’s submarine cable deals are taking so long to get done. Read more……..
A Coup For Facebook
The day Facebook invested $5.7 Billion in Jio Platforms and set the high valuation which enabled Jio to bring in an additional $10 Billion worth of investments, I had predicted that the government of India would approve Facebook’s request for the WhatsApp payment module. Of course, those are unrelated events….of course…..sure…..absolutely…..without question……
In any case, the Indian government’s approval of Facebook’s first foray in the fintech industry anywhere in the world and its ability to serve 20 million Indians, is a coup of the century. This now will be a transformation of Facebook in to the fintech and e-commerce worlds all around the globe — forever changing its trajectory.
Just think about it. Alibaba’s Ant Financial’s botched IPO notwithstanding, it was valued in excess of $300 Billion. That’s for the fintech play in China alone. So the stakes are huge and Facebook has figured out how to play Indian politics. And I suspect it will invest in several other carriers around the world. The returns on investment are just amazing especially when you consider the fintech and e-commerce angle.
Investing in carriers has a 3-pronged angle. First the investment by itself is stable. I would say a comfortable 2X return on investment. Secondly, that money will be used to increase the eyeballs and therefore the valuation of Facebook. That’s a 10X return. And finally, the fintech deal which is potentially a 100X return. I predict that Facebook is going to give away money to carriers as if there is no tomorrow. Read more……..
The Next GPX Of India
I have written a few times about the huge success of Nick Tanzi’s GPX data center in Mumbai which was sold not too long ago to Equinix for $160 million. I was particularly amazed that a foreigner had to come to India all the way from the US and show Indians how to do a data center deal. Well guess what, I have found India’s own Nick Tanzi and it is an amazing story.
I have come across dozens of entrepreneurs but Nikhil Rathi of Web Werks Datacenters is in a whole different league and in my opinion, the next big success story coming out of India. Nikhil was barely 16 years old when he caught the entrepreneurial and computer bugs at the same time. Of course, without telling his parents, he went out and found his first customer and built his website. When he came home with a check for Rs.1,500 ($20), his mother told him to go and return the money right away. She was afraid that her entrepreneur son would become crooked in his ways.
Well, she doesn’t have to worry about it anymore. Nikhil, a Chartered Accountant by training but a technocrat at heart, went on to form Neosoft Technologies which employs 2,500 software professionals and is a fast growing IT outsourcing company.
Soon, Nikhil’s customers started asking him to host their websites and Web Werks Datacenters was formed. With the massive cash flow coming out of Neosoft, Nikhil decided to build his own data centers without taking any outside funding. As a side gig, Nikhil also founded the Mumbai Internet Exchange, India’s first private exchange now owned by De-Cix.
Web Werks now has 3 data centers in Navi Mumbai, Pune and Delhi, serves 1,500 clients including 160 ISPs. And finally NIkhil has decided to take outside money and is raising $200 million to build several 10MW data centers in major cities in India. In Mumbai, Web Werks has operations in Navi Mumbai where almost all the new data centers are being built as land is one tenth the price of Mumbai and there is plenty of power available.
So while Equinix will rule Mumbai, I predict that Web Werks will be the Equinix of Navi Mumbai. What I like about Nikhil is he is not doing it for the mohey — he has plenty of it. But rather he is doing it for his love for the business. His mother should be proud. And I have found the destination for my Namaste cable. Read more……..
An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind
Ever since the US regulators denied Hong Kong landings for PLCN and Bay to Bay Express (BtoBE) cables, the OTTs have been anticipating a backlash from the Chinese government.
And now it is confirmed that the backlash is coming for sure. China will start creating hurdles for cables owned by the OTTs that pass Chinese waters including near the South China Sea. And now the OTTs are scrambling to reroute their cables including BtoBe so they do not cross Chinese waters.
It is not only the US OTT-owned cables that are in trouble. Even privately-owned HKG and HKA cables are potentially in trouble both from the US regulators as well as China. And any new cables planned to cross Chinese waters are also redrawing their maps to steer clear of the danger zones.
Since Hong Kong is now off-limits, there are a couple of new cables planned to go directly from Singapore to USA including the Facebook-owned BiFrost cable and Google-backed Echo cable.
And a major battle is being fought in the boardroom of Sea-Me-We-6 with Huawei and Subcom fighting it out to get the contract. And there is big division among carriers whom to award the contract to. But if the cable wants to land in Europe, there is no way Huawei will be allowed to get the contract. The US authorities are watching the deal very closely just as they are watching the Jio deal unfold after kicking out the Chinese.
I am told by people in the know that this telecom fight is going to escalate to a number of industries. This is not a telecom fight per se. This is a fight for global domination with the US and China about to start a new Cold war. God save the world. Read more……..
Jio’s IEX Cable Is No More
There is a reason outsiders don’t understand the submarine cable industry at all. Take the example of Jio which just finished a $15 Billion raise but have been unable to build the IEX and IAX cables which have been on their drawing board for almost 4 years. And this is with Google and Facebook both sitting on the same side of the table with open checkbooks.
The reason IEX had to be scrapped is because it had Chinese partners and under the present circumstances, it was impossible for Jio to do that deal. So Jio has quietly changed its partners and has changed the name of the cable to BAR. My understanding is the supply contract for BAR has been signed with Subcom although the internal funding structure is still not finalized.
What outsiders also don’t understand is the ability of this industry to provide instant Karma. When Thief Telecom Egypt stole my Tagare cable and renamed it to AAE-1, the euphoria was unbelievable. They showed their 8-packs and forced carriers to invest $750 million in the stolen cable. But Karma was watching patiently.
As soon as the cable was built and ready for service, the Singapore regulators decided it was violating their regulations and decreed that no carrier could terminate their traffic in Singapore. And over the years, it has become almost impossible for AAE-1 to do business in Singapore. The rumors that I had something to do with it are totally unfounded. Just because I watch this video every day when I wake up?
Ah, but carriers can still drop traffic in Hong Kong right? That game has yet to be played out but with the recent political implosion in Hong Kong, that is also looking dire.
Karma has won. Karma’s message is loud and clear. Stop stealing from entrepreneurs. Are you listening Blue Raman?
If there is one takeaway, just because you have unlimited money, does not guarantee the deal will go through or do well over time. And just because one has no money, does not mean one cannot put a deal together. Welcome to the submarine cable industry. Read more……..
Defund The Submarine Cable Regulators
Even though I was never a big fan of the PLCN cable because of the technology used, I am now a huge supporter. And as far as I am concerned, it is unconscionable that after spending half a billion dollars in building the cable, the US regulators decided they were not going to support its Hong Kong landing.
This changes everything. Used to be, cable developers including carriers and entrepreneurs used to build a cable with the assumption that the landing license was just a formality. And that is now a rude shock to a number of cables that were supposed to land in Hong Kong. We are talking at least another billion dollars worth of investments in limbo.
First of all, I have a big problem when fiber is used as a political tool. In good times or even in bad times, reliable communications is always a positive thing. Even during war time. I cannot imagine any scenario when better communications is bad for the world.
So I have two major problems with this. One, it is now going to be impossible to launch a new cable unless all the permits and licenses are in place. Which by itself is a 2 year process depending on which country you are dealing with. And it was not such a big issue as it would take that long to build a cable. Now if this process becomes serial in nature, then a new submarine cable build is at least a 5 year process instead of 3. That is assuming all the money is in place. Which takes another 2 years if you are not Google. This is now a 7 year process to build a new cable. At a minimum, I would like the regulators of the world to pre-approve (or reject) a new submarine cable build within 6 months of application. To be clear, I am not advocating that all cables be given the green light. What I am against is why make that decision after the cable is already in the water and ready for operation? Why does it take the regulator 7 years to make the Go/No-go decision?
My second problem with the regulators is passing orders that are retroactive. Take the example of Iran. If someone built a cable during peace times and 5 years later, one cannot use that cable because the regime changed, who is going to compensate for the investment loss? Any cable investments approved prior to the fallout, must be grandfathered. After all, this is a 25-year investment.
In general, I am extremely upset with the submarine cable regulators of the world. Instead of being a positive force, they are dragging the world down based on their whims and fancies. So who is going to regulate the regulators? Read more……..
Rampant Discrimination In The Submarine Cable Business
As a general rule, I would accord a solid “F” to the telecom regulators of the world. The OTTs have made them a laughing stock and frankly speaking, no carrier is afraid of the regulators. Everyone is acting as they please assuming that the regulators are going to look the other way in most cases.
Let me give you an example. Let us say that you have capacity on a certain cable up to a cable landing station and you want to go to the nearest Equinix or equivalent data center. The backhaul and the cable landing station operator will quote you a price depending on who you are.
There is a special price for Google and Facebook. There is another price for the so-called Tier-2 OTTs like Amazon. Then there is a different price for friendly carriers and another price for competitors. The price for competitors is so high, it is designed so that they will never buy on that route. And of course, if you happen to be an enterprise customer, you are screwed anyway.
Google is going around the world selling monopolies on each of the cables they build. Price of entry is $50 million. Facebook is openly discriminating against Israel. Its the only country they have not invited to land the 2Africa cable when every country with a shoreline in Africa, Red Sea, Mediterranean and Southern Europe has been invited. This is common knowledge. Only the regulators are not aware of it — even though many of them read my blog.
I am so upset with the regulators, I think they should be disbanded. They are useless anyway. Let the free markets prevail. Let the cowboys take over. Why put up a facade of orderliness when none exists? Read more……..
Announcing The Namaste Cable
I had promised myself I would not get involved in any new submarine cable to India until the Indian Government gets it’s act together. But the frenzy of failed Indian real estate owners trying to convert their properties to the only silver lining in the business — data centers — is beyond imagination. There are so many new data centers popping up in Mumbai, pretty soon you will have one at every street corner.
So I cannot ignore India anymore. Secondly, even Jio — which has more money than God — has not been able to put together the IAX and IEX deals — because they cannot announce their Chinese partners at this time, has created a deep void. Not to mention the same problem afflicts the Sea-Me-We-6 cable which also is stuck in a limbo.
Truth be told, I have been sitting on this deal since the very early stages of the pandemic as I thought the big boys would get their act together due to the seriously increased demand for Internet bandwidth. Here is my Namaste cable.
This is a Ver 1.0. I have three more versions developed depending on how the deal develops. As my Premium members have known for almost a year now, Oman in my opinion, is the next Marseille — at least for the Middle East.
I continue to talk to the Government of India folks to bring changes to the industry and I am hopeful that I may be able to convince them soon enough.
There Goes The Banana Republic Again
I don’t know what it is about Egypt but it seems to always act against the grain. Take the latest act: Egyptian police using dating apps to go after and imprison LGBT+ people.
There are reports that Egyptian police are creating fake profiles on apps like Grindr that cater to the gay, lesbian, bi and trans community and arrest them. You can read the gory details of what they do with the arrested people here.
The carriers who do business with Telecom Egypt cannot be expected to do anything about this — they are scared to death of TE and with good reason — all of their Asia to Europe cables pass through Egypt. Nobody wants to take a risk of what would happen to their cables.
But what about Facebook? Which is a partner with Telecom Egypt in 2Africa and will end up paying Egypt hundreds of millions of dollars for that cable alone? Does Facebook have no responsibility to speak up against this kind of behavior?
And what about Google? Google has been really smart in not relying on Egypt for the most part and in fact, now is engaged in a Egypt-bypass cable called Blue Raman. Surely Google should have something to say about this?
Atmanirbhar Bharat For The Telecom Industry
Globalization as we knew it in 2019 is dead and a new world order is in the making. Especially given the situation with Tik Tok where of all countries, the US will ban it if it does not sell its US operations to an American company.
You can call it coincidence or serendipity, but this is precisely the same time that Prime Minister Modi announced the Atmanirbhar Bharat project. What is it? Basically, it is India’s game plan to be self reliant in every aspect so that it can deal with such globalization issues.
Which brings us to a What If analysis. What If the Democrats win the US elections and over Kashmir or the CAA issues, US and India have a fallout? Is it possible that the US could direct the OTTs to no longer provide their services to Indian citizens unless Kashmir is declared an independent country?
Of course, this scenario is too far fetched and will not happen but what I am describing is the futuristic thinking behind Atmanirbhar Bharat and the government’s plan to make India self reliant under all conditions. Also, not too long ago, the idea that the richest country in the world would have the maximum deaths in a pandemic was too far fetched. And also what was too far fetched was the idea that you could not walk in to a bank unless you had a mask on.
So I have analyzed the telecom and Internet industries from this perspective and have laid out what needs to be done in India taking in to account potential conflicts that could come up.
Of course, all of that is in the Premium version but let me give a freebie. The first order of business is for India to have its own cable maintenance ships so the cables can be repaired without relying on ships from the Middle East and Chinese-dominated Singapore. I know at least one company is working on this deal but there is a big difference between planning and execution. Read more……..
RCom’s Mumbai Cable Landing Station Is In Play
The banks holding the debt on RCom have started selling off the assets. One subsidiary of RCom which is on the block is the Mumbai cable landing station in Versova where many of the submarine cables land in Mumbai.
I have been to the RCom property and it is a fine bunglow right on the oceanfront with connectivity to other cable landing stations and data centers. And it is almost impossible to get land on that strip. I know I have tried.
While there are no carrier-neutral cable landing stations in India and it certainly is a major problem, that is the smallest issue with landing cables in India. Unless the government changes its mindset and decides to encourage cables by creating a single window of clearance for all submarine-related regulatory and political issues, nothing is going to change in India.
Currently the RCom CLS has only one customer — GCX and unless the CLS is bought by a completely carrier-neutral entity, the chances of getting additional customers is zero as they have seen in the last 20 years. GCX has only one cable — Falcon in that CLS.
Secondly, smart cable operators have figured out ways to completely bypass the CLS and go directly to their end destination. So Blue Raman will have its SLTE in GPX (soon to be Equinix). That is the main reason Equinix jumped at the opportunity of buying GPX and paid them a handsome premium.
Finally, I was told the only space left in RCom’s CLS is on the second floor which could house 2 or 3 cables at most. What kind of revenues can you expect even if one were to assume that the CLS would be sold out? How much money would cable owners be willing to pay just to house the PFE? I could be completely wrong but I doubt any carrier-neutral entity would end up owning the property. I think someone like Jio or Bharti could pick it up for strategic reasons if the price was right. No prizes to guess what would be the right price for Jio to pick it up. Read more……..
Facebook Must Wake Up And Smell the Coffee
With all the changes going on in the Middle East, there is absolutely no reason Facebook should keep on discriminating against Israel. Here is my writeup — Facebook’s Apartheid of Israel in 2Africa.
As can be clearly seen from the map, 2Africa is landing and/or has Branching Units for future landings in every coastal country of Africa, the Mediterranean Sea and Southern Europe — except Israel. So while the deal was being negotiated, there was tremendous political pressure from Egypt for 2Africa not to land in Israel because Egypt’s biggest nightmare is someone opening up the Israel corridor and them losing their ransom money worth hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
But now the situation is completely different. Since the announcement of 2Africa, Blue Raman has announced it will go through Israel and very recently, UAE and Bahrain signed a peace accord with Israel. Pretty soon, almost all of the Sunni Muslim countries will have done the same.
And because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the suppliers have been slow on manufacturing the cable. So there is still an opportunity for Facebook to squeeze in a branch in the Red Sea to Elat. Or at a minimum, it can add a branching unit for a potential future branch.
Facebook not grabbing this unique opportunity will be disgraceful and will have proven my point about its discriminatory actions against Israel. Now is the time for Facebook to redeem itself. Unless of course, Facebook is afraid of Thief Telecom Egypt. In which case, it should say so publicly.
Dawn Of A New Middle East For Submarine Cables
Whether or not you like or intensely hate President Donald Trump, the newly signed UAE, Bahrain-Israel accord is nothing but amazing and a once-in-a-lifetime event. While I certainly won’t go in to the politics of the region, I do want to comment on the implications of this for the submarine cable industry.
In my humble opinion, this is the beginning of a much larger peace treaty between Israel and the Sunni Muslim world which also includes the largest country in the region, Saudi Arabia. In addition, Oman chose to be friendly with Israel, accord or no accord with the launch of the Blue Raman cable.
This changes everything especially for the submarine cable industry which has been held for ransom by Thief Telecom Egypt for 3 decades. And just think of the deep irony of this situation. All of the Muslim countries were opposed to building cables through Israel because of religion and put all their eggs in one basket, Egypt — another Muslim country — which sucked the last drop of blood from their own Muslim brothers when they wanted to cross the country.
The timing cannot be better for a plethora of new cables wanting to cross Israel for their Europe-Asia traffic fix. Bezeq is building a new 100 plus-fiber count cable connecting Tel Aviv to the south of the country in anticipation of the anticipated avalanche of new cables.
Any cable that goes through Egypt now has to have retarded management teams — and I am sure there are a couple that I know where they like business as usual. There is a fear that Egypt will cut their existing cables or not maintain them properly if they were to invest in a cable through Israel. But with the new politics emerging, Egypt would not dare.
Blue Raman has selected Bezeq’s new cross-country cable and they have also selected Med Nautilus’ existing cable landing station in Tel Aviv which also hosts the Lev cable and the MedNautilus submarine cables. In addition to submarine cables, there is also a huge spurt of activity in the buildout of new data centers in anticipation of Israel becoming the new Middle East hub. The land grab has begun. Read more……..
OTTs Just Realized Singapore Is Single Point Of Failure
Building new data centers and submarine cables in Hong Kong and Singapore was the easy way out. Nobody would question the decision and you didn’t have to take on hard problems of asking the What If questions. But 2020 has unraveled the reality of global politics and forced the OTTs to finally admit they were complacent and not really thinking through the hard issues.
It is of course easy to criticize after the fact since hindsight is 20/20 but seriously, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what was going to happen especially after the US China relations went in to a tailspin after China accused the US OTTs of instigating and fueling the Hong Kong protests.
But few people could predict that SingTel also shared the same views and started retaliating against the US OTTs by either kicking them out of the cables they controlled or not inviting them to the party which in my mind is the same thing.
Now the US OTTs are running around like headless chicken as two of their three Asian data center and submarine cable hubs are in deep trouble. And that means not only billions of invested dollars are at stake but they have no idea what to do and are scrambling around looking for alternatives. And the internal blame game has already started in each of these OTTs.
It was bad enough that PLCN’s Hong Kong connection was taken out. But to take out both Hong Kong and Singapore from BtoBE shows a 180 degree turn in their thinking. In addition, the SING cable had signed up with SIngTel and Google was backing the cable as an anchor tenant. But now, Google no longer wants SING to land in Singapore. The new destinations? Thailand and Indonesia. The interesting thing is these destinations are not additions but in lieu of Singapore.
Each OTT is now trying to find its new hub destination. They should have done that 5 years ago. They have lost the battle in Asia. While they keep on showing their 8-packs in the trans-Atlantic space, they are big fat lazy slobs in Asia and in the trans-Pacific arena. Read more……..
Hong Kong Is Imploding
For the past year, I have been regularly writing about all the problems the OTTs are having in Asia. While that is still the case, the biggest headache for the OTTs is Hong Kong where they have invested billions of dollars in data center investments and consequently in the cables connecting Hong Kong to the US and its other Asian hub countries, Japan and Singapore.
Yesterday, Facebook withdrew its application at the FCC to pursue the Bay to Bay Express Cable System (BtoBE) months after it withdrew its application for PLCN to land in Hong Kong. Instead, Facebook, Amazon and China Mobile want to build a new cable called CAP-1 which will have the same configuration as BtoBE but will be a direct cable connecting the US and Philippines.
I believe this is just the beginning of a complete implosion of cables planning to land in Hong Kong. The next in line to face reality are the Hong Kong Americas cable (HKA) and the Hong Kong-Guam (HKG) cable system — both of them are seeking the nod from Team Telecom and the FCC.
The problem is it leaves only Singapore as the last bastion of the OTTs in that part of the world other than Japan. Which is a huge risk as SingTel is increasingly gravitating towards China.
While Facebook is putting all its eggs in the Philippines basket with both BtoBE and PLCN terminating there, taking on PLDT and other Filipino carriers is a political nightmare with scores of dead bodies over the years and in my opinion, a disaster waiting to happen. Unless of course, Facebook buys its way through by investing a few billion dollars in a Filipino carrier like it did in India. Read more……..
Bangladesh Needs To Grow Up
It is my understanding that Bangladesh had an opportunity to join NTT’s MIST cable system shown below but they declined since they are already part of the Sea-Me-We-6 consortium and MIST is seen as a competitor to that cable.
For years, I have advised Bangladesh that they have been taken for a ride by SingTel and they really need to break their cycle of always being conned in to paying the highest amount of money for the lowest amount of bandwidth on every Sea-Me-We cable until now.
But they are still a great believer in the idiom You cannot get fired for buying IBM which ironically makes no sense in today’s world. Bangladesh will have to pay $70 million in total to join Sea-Me-We-6 and get $30 million worth of bandwidth whereas SingTel gets $30 million of bandwidth for $30 million.
So the poorest country on the Sea-Me-We-6 map will get bandwidth for the highest price whereas the richest countries such as Singapore, India and France get the lowest price.
It would have been so easy to go to Bangladesh from Myanmar and pay roughly 50%-60% of what it would cost them to join Sea-Me-We-6. Why bother going to Europe when you can get all your OTT fix from Singapore and Hong Kong? Read more……..
MIST Cable System Has Amazing Configuration
NTT’s MIST cable system contract was awarded to NEC and the construction has finally started. This cable has been at least 3-5 years in the planning stages.
I knew about the rest of the landing points except Thailand. In my opinion, that is a masterstroke of genius by NTT. This creates a way for the first time ever for Indian traffic to go directly to the US through Satun/Songkhla and onward to Hong Kong via AAE-1 and then to the US. Kudos to NTT for adding that landing point. I am very much familiar with that route as I had negotiated both those landing stations for Flag Telecom.
This is an expensive cable about $500 million worth but NTT’s game plan is very unique. Basically it is connecting all the data centers NTT owns in India, Myanmar, Singapore and Malaysia. While its data center in Thailand is in Bangkok, if they play it right, they will build a new datacenter in Satun.
NTT won’t be making too much money from this cable. Rather this is an incentive for its customers to pick up space in its data centers which is a much better business compared to the submarine cable business in any case.
Google is the anchor tenant on this cable and they were able to get the cable at cost but in return had to pick up space in NTT’s data centers. This is a great addition to India’s much needed submarine cable industry and will also be very profitable for NTT in the long run. Read more……..
Don’t Call Us, We Will Call You
A historic call was made some time ago from the topmost officials of Etisalat to OmanTel requesting a fiber pair on the Blue Raman cable. And that is exactly what OmanTel told Etisalat “Don’t call us. We will call you.”
Its not OmanTel’s fault. The fault lies with Google who has set up a 3-party monopoly structure in place so nobody can make a decision unless Google agrees. So out of the 16 fiber pairs, 8 fiber pairs will go to Google, OmanTel and Telecom Italia Sparkle. The remaining 8 fiber pairs will be sold at 100% margin by this consortium.
So in effect, Google will get up to 4 fiber pairs on Blue Raman for free. This has been their modus operandi in all new submarine cable builds starting with the Equiano cable. They announce the cable, then look for suckers to pay for the cable and Google ends up with free fiber pairs.
And even though Google clearly borrowed from my India Direct cable design (like 98% of the design), they refused to give me one fiber pair at cost. In any case, now that the dam has broken and the Arab countries realized that their own Muslim brother Egypt was screwing them in the guise of religion, a whole lot of new cables will be passing through Israel.
The irony is that Google now wants to screw everyone by taking Egypt’s place in Israel. My recommendation is not to give the any markup to Google under any situation. There are a lot of cables coming and opportunities will be plenty for everyone. I would rather give a small markup to a carrier-neutral cable like Centurion than let Google get away with free fibers so they can screw you even more.
If Google tries to sell you Blue Raman at inflated prices, you need to tell them “Don’t call us, we will call you.” The industry clearly does not need another Telecom Egypt. It took 30 years to get rid of one and my work is still not done yet. Read more……..
Egypt: Game Over
Thief Telecom Egypt played a very strategic and successful game in the submarine cable industry for the last 3 decades. Knowing fully well that the Muslim countries were all prohibited from doing business with Israel, Egypt realized they were the only game in town for all Asia to Europe traffic transiting the Middle East. Ironically, they cheated their own Muslim brothers for decades knowing fully well they had no choice by making the 200 Km Egypt transit price exorbitantly expensive — sometimes even more expensive than the rest of the cable from Singapore to Marseille.
The Arab countries — some of the smartest businessmen in the world — have had enough of Egypt’s ransom tactics. And as the political winds shift with UAE announcing normal diplomatic relationship with Israel, going through Israel on a fiber optic cable is no longer taboo in the Muslim world.
The main weapon Egypt had to prevent cables from going to Israel was they own 50% of the water close to Elat — the small coast Israel owns in the Coast of Aqaba. And the remaining 50% is owned by Saudi Arabia. As long as Saudi Arabia was on their side, nobody could land a cable directly in Elat.
But of course, STC from Saudi Arabia was playing a double game. On one hand, they were preventing other cables to transit their waters and on the other hand, they were bootlegging illegal traffic through Israel and making a killing.
I predict that if Donald Trump wins the election this November (which is a Big IF), there will be at least a dozen cables going through Israel. Of course, Egypt realizes their game is up and this is what they are doing to counter the big wave. Read more……..
Now UAE Wants To Build A Cable To Europe Through Israel
The ink is not dry yet on the agreement between UAE and Israel agreeing to full normal relations between the two countries when Etisalat has started looking at the possibility of building a cable linking the two countries connecting to Europe. Oman is also expected to make a similar announcement and OmanTel was obviously given advance notification as it entered in to an agreement with Google to build the blue Raman cable earlier this year connecting India to Europe via Oman and Marseille.
While Etisalat would love to be part of the Blue Raman cable, that is not in the cards as OmanTel and Etisalat don’t see eye to eye and are in a stiff competition to be the Biggest hub in the Middle East. And as of right now, OmanTel is winning and while UAE had the lead, Oman is now clearly the Marseille of the Middle East.
Etisalat might still be able to get a fiber pair in the open market from Telecom Italia Sparkle at 100% markup if it is available. According to my sources, the cable is sold out at that markup with Google playing hardball with its usual monopolistic attitude. Blue Raman is moving at a rapid pace and recently chose Bezeq to build a domestic loop within Israel to cross the country.
A Perfect Startup
Nick Tanzi is a down to earth unassuming entrepreneur. An American, he decided to raise money in New York and open his first data center in Mumbai 7 years ago in 2013. This was an interesting time in India where every carrier had its own data center subsidiary and there seemed to be way too much competition for too little business.
When I met Tanzi, he was extremely clear about his vision. While he knew that the big boys would trample him if he played in their turf, he took a completely different path. Having raised about $20 million for the India operations, he decided to build India’s first carrier-neutral data center.
The timing couldn’t have been better. The carriers would rope in a customer in their submarine cables and force it to use their data centers at exorbitant prices. They also would force their customers to use their last mile fiber which typically was and in some cases is still more expensive than the submarine cable bandwidth.
With complete freedom to choose their fiber and backhaul providers, customers just piled on. GPX’s first big break came from Google in 2015 and after that there was no looking back. 12 telcos, 130 ISP’s, 3 Internet exchanges, 8 cloud service providers, majority of the CDN’s and all of the OTT’s came rushing in to GPX. And the network effect took hold. Last year, GPX opened another 60,000 sf facility in Mumbai, twice the size of the first one.
Two months ago, one of the OTTs told me that they are worried about GPX as it has now become a single point of failure since everyone is there and they need to look to diversity away from GPX. It was that moment I knew that GPX had played out the game as far as they could and it was time to go to the next level.
And sure enough, Equinix came in and picked up GPX for $161 million. The irony is that it took an American to come in and create the perfect data center startup in India when the rest of the carrier-owned data centers were sold, closed down or just went out of business.
The Needless Brouhaha Over The Andaman Cable
A couple of days ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a submarine cable linking Chennai to Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. And of course, this has created a hype of untold proportions in India Now don’t get me wrong. Was this cable required? Obviously yes. It should have been in place 10 years ago.
The problem is when governments get involved in these projects, they generally do a pretty bad job. For one, the project has been in the pipeline for at least 7 years and possibly longer. When it was first proposed, I met the top officials running the project and they were excited that they would be overseeing a billion dollar cable.
Really? For 2,300 Km of fiber? I didn’t want to burst their bubble but did tell them to check prices from multiple sources. In this day and age, this is a $50 million project at best. The official sources say the government spent $175 million on it. But that’s not even the point.
If the government of India had just focused on making it easy for entrepreneurs and carriers to build submarine cables, this cable would have been built by private capital years ago without the government having to fork out any money through its coffers.
The situation is so bad in terms of regulations that no vendor wants to build cables to India if they can help it. The only reason NEC did the job was because they made a killing on it and more importantly hoping to get more domestic non-submarine cable business from the government.
India is bleeding in the submarine cable industry because of the incompetence of the government. Neighboring countries like Oman, Djibouti, UAE, Singapore and Malaysia are leeching the country from money that legitimately belongs to India. Stupidity can still be cured but there is no vaccine for incompetence. Read more……..
The US China Telecom War Is Getting Ugly
Even among criminals, there is an unwritten code no matter how ugly things get — that they will not snitch against each other to the authorities. Similarly, there is an unwritten code between governments and business — that no matter how bad things get, prior deals are almost always grandfathered. And that sets the trust factor for businesses to deal with each country.
I now understand that the US is about to break this cardinal rule in the submarine cable industry. PCCW is the proud owner of a full fiber pair on the Jupiter cable which will connect the US to Japan and Philippines when it goes live later this year. Other owners are Amazon, Facebook, NTT, PLDT and Softbank.
Google Launches Yet One More Monopoly Cable
One thing about Google, they are totally committed to going it alone in the submarine cable industry. Google announced the Grace Hopper cable, named after the famous computer scientist. This is a trans-Atlantic cable going from the US to U.K. and Spain.
So this is interesting from a number of perspectives. As TAT-14’s retirement is around the corner and a number of other trans-Atlantic cables like TGN-Atlantic and Flag-Atlantic-1 are nearing their end-of-life, the OTTs are looking to build new cables to the U.K.
In addition to Google, Facebook is also in the process of putting together a similar cable deal starting at their new cable landing station they are building near Boston. That cable will also go to the U.K. and probably also to Portugal or Spain.
My beef with Google is that they do not allow any carrier or OTT in to the deal. This is yet another 16 fiber pair cable with half a Pbps capacity. Google is falling in the same trap that carriers found themselves trying to build monopolies around the world and ultimately failed. Google’s attempt to create a huge moat around itself so that no start-up or smaller competitor can ever dream of replicating its network is a fallacy. Time will tell they have misjudged the industry.
Another interesting thing going on is that Bilbao is certainly gaining traction as a mini hub in Southern Europe because of its proximity to Madrid, Paris and Marseille, although the connections to those places are iffy at best with some portion of the landline cables going on top of electricity poles. I am surprised that they did not land the cable in Portugal to connect with Equiano directly. Facebook’s cable, on the other hand will have a direct connection to 2Africa.
The cost of the cable will be under $200 million, a fraction of Google’s annual spend on global infrastructure. While this is certainly a good addition to the trans-Atlantic infrastructure, I am quite disappointed with their strategy of going it alone. I am also deeply disappointed with the US and EU regulators and Team Telecom for looking the other way as it certainly is not in the best interests of the industry. Read more……..
After 2Africa Announcement, African Cables On The Block
The writing was on the wall. And this comes as no big surprise. All of the African cables pre-2Africa and Equiano will start coming on the block for a fire sale. Already, Seacom announced its sale to The Aga Khan Fund For Economic Development (Akfed).
There is no way any regional African cable can compete with Google and Facebook’s initiatives. With almost half a Pbps cable each staring at every country when no country has more than 1 Tbps traffic requirement, there is just no way anyone can compete with the OTTs. Any country that dared not join so far, has a Branching Unit staring at them like a loaded gun in case they ever try to build their own cable.
In effect, Africa has now been pretty much taken over by non-African outsiders with the intent of ruling the continent just like The East India Company took over India a few centuries ago. The local carriers in every African country are at the mercy of the OTTs and their few select buddies who will rule the continent.
And of course, if you are deep pocketed, you can buy a monopoly for any country in Africa you want from Google on the Equiano cable for a paltry sum of $50 million. It is really a shame that Google has stooped to such a low level selling monopolies in countries that desperately need competition.
Much Ado About Nothing: Cable Transoceánico
So this week, the Internet is all excited about how the Chilean government kicked out the Chinese from their proposed submarine cable to Asia — Cable Transoceánico — and instead decided to go with the Japanese solution which is supposedly pro-USA since now the cable will go to Australia and New Zealand who are of course US allies. Here is the map.
Remember I had written about this cable a while ago when the Chilean government had awarded a $3 million contract for a feasibility study of the cable — about 10 times the price for an average cable feasibility study. So after spending so much money and after receiving professional advice, that study went in to a garbage can and politics took over.
I had also mentioned in my previous blog that both these routes are significantly flawed in their own ways. For example, do you seriously think the Japanese will use this route to go to Chile given the atrocious latencies resulting from a 20,000 Km ride? Building a cable is no big deal. Any idiot with money can build one. But the main issue is whether it enhances the global network and solves the problems one is facing. I can assure you this one satisfies neither of the two.
In general, I am a huge proponent of building new submarine cables. But sometimes, someone has to call out the stupidity in the industry. Here is what I would do if I was building this cable. Read more……..
Aging US Networks Get A Bandaid
This quarter, a new company, Confluence Networks will get funded which will connect New Jersey, Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach (SC), Jacksonville (FL) and Miami with a 16 fiber pair submarine cable called Confluence-1. This cable will connect most of the major submarine cable stations on the East Coast of the United States.
This is a major development in the submarine cable industry and in particular in the US where landline fiber traditionally has been available in plenty. Also with domestic cables being able to carry 100, 400 or even 1,000 fiber pairs in some cases, there was absolutely no way a submarine cable could compete with just 16 fiber pairs or less.
But there are multiple forces at work, centrally revolving around aging US networks and rising costs of digging the roads ($250,000 per mile), monopoly of dark fiber by a couple of companies, no route diversity among carriers and reliability of cables in dense metro areas which makes a solid case for the rise of the submarine cable competition. It also helps that the cost of laying submarine cable has reduced by over 50% and the number of fiber pairs are steadily increasing.
A perfect case for building submarine cable diverse routes is in India where then VSNL (now Tata Communications) had a grand plan called Jalmala (ocean necklace) which would connect all major cities along the vast coast of the country with fiber. Tata, of course gave up the plan but Jio has been sitting on the plan for a couple of years and I believe now that they are flush with money, will likely revive the project.
Google Buys Jio’s Friendship for $4.5 Billion
Sundar Pichai will announce today at Jio’s Annual General Meeting that Google will be investing $4.5 Billion in Jio Platforms — joining pretty much the who’s who of Silicon Valley and the tech world including Intel Capital, Qualcomm and of course Facebook who was the first to bite.
What is going on in India? Tech companies are pouring money like there is no tomorrow. In addition to the $4.5 Billion investment in Jio, Google will be investing an additional $5.5 Billion over the next few years in India on its own. With 9 out of 10 users using Android, India is by far the largest market for Google in the entire world.
And that is precisely why there was a massive rift between Google and Jio since November of 2019 when Jio decided to fork Android in an attempt to deprive revenues that would normally go to Google. Since that time, intense heated fights were going on between the two companies who finally realized they needed each other as friends rather than enemies.
The real big news is that all of the around $15 Billion investments announced so far have gone only to Jio and not to Bharti Airtel or Idea Vodafone. Which means that Jio will be the most powerful telecom company in India and possibly the world when it does an IPO at some point in the future when it will have a valuation in excess of $100 Billion.
Both Google and Facebook will easily recover their investment and a whole lot more when Jio adds another 300-400 million users over the next 5 years and their market cap will increase 10 times more than their investment in Jio alone.
Why Did The OTTs Fail Miserably In Asia In The Submarine Cable Industry?
The OTTs made two major mistakes. First, they hired people in their submarine group exclusively from the carrier industry — people whose DNA is to build monopolies and crush everyone else including their own kind. Secondly, they gave them blank checks and based their incentives on how fast they could spend the money. That combination turned out to be their undoing in Asia.
Unlike in other parts of the world like Europe where they could ram through the regulations and pay off carriers like Orange to look the other way, Asia is very different. Of course, money plays a role in Asia. But more than money, it’s all about relationships and trust. And the OTTs have failed spectacularly in both these areas. The situation is so bad that most Asian carriers trust the Chinese government more than they trust Facebook and Google as can be seen in their tie up in the ADC (Asia Direct) cable where both Facebook and Google were not invited to participate.
What is worse is that the Asian carriers are now getting united in their opposition to Facebook and Google led by the granddaddy of the business is Asia — SingTel. This is really troubling because with Hong Kong’s future now being extremely uncertain, the OTTs cannot have an adversary in Singapore — the only Western friendly bastion left in Asia other than Japan.
The Asian carriers have long memories. They remember how AT&T treated them a couple decades ago and with the same or similar people leading the charge, they know it is going to be no different.
In my opinion, the OTT’s submarine cable strategy is a complete mess. Yes of course, they can continue to throw money and buy off carriers like Jio (public deal) and Bharti Airtel (secret deal), but a billion here and a billion there will soon add up. More importantly, the money is not building long-lasting relationships and trust. The deals are strictly transactional.
The Runaway Success Of RTI Baffles The OTTs
One would think that the most successful startups in the entire world — Google and Facebook would be at the forefront of encouraging entrepreneurs. That is exactly the opposite of what these two companies have done in the submarine cable space — systematically planning and destroying the startup space completely.
But as is said in Jurassic Park, life always finds a way and so has one amazing entrepreneur — Russ Matulich — a true rags to riches story that keeps on baffling the OTTs in Asia where they have faced nothing but rejection and have been a colossal failure.
About 5 years ago when Google and Facebook realized they could control the submarine cables of the world with sheer money power, the first thing they did was to completely kill the wholesale market so that nobody other than them and their select friends could ever enter the industry. And the first order of business was to kill the entrepreneurs. They did that by instituting an Investment Committee which had to approve every deal and crafted the rules so that it was impossible for them to approve any investment in a startup submarine cable.
That along with the stupid infrastructure investors who think every deal in the world is a toll booth deal — and demanded a minimum of 50% pre-sales with soft circling of 100% of the cable at market prices killed the entrepreneurs completely. And if you wanted pre-sales, guess who you would have to approach? The OTTs. The circle was complete and the OTTs won. the OTTs started treating entrepreneurs like beggars and laughed at them at every opportunity.
Except they should have known the power of entrepreneurship. Along came Russ Matulich and changed the industry forever. First of all, he did not approach the OTTs for pre-sales. In fact, his pre-condition of talking to the infrastructure funds was that he would have zero pre-sales. And he made pitches to and got rejected by over 250 funds.
And then he found 2 Asian Billionaires who believed in him. And he built his first cable connecting Guam to Asia and the US a couple of years ago and there was nothing the OTTs could do but to watch. RTI now has half a dozen cables in various stages of completion and he just announced the RFS of the JGA North cable connecting Japan to Guam and Australia.
Today the situation is that Russ is the only trusted US partner of the Chinese carriers who despise the OTTs because of their empire-building and exclusionary strategies. The Asian carriers trust Russ because he is one of their reliable vendors and Team Telecom has approved every deal Russ brought to them with zero delays. Everyone knows that he has no other ulterior motives or designs other than to sell bandwidth to everyone.
And the OTTs are lining up to buy from Russ — at market prices — who is careful not to sell them too much bandwidth or else he knows what happens when they get too much control. Russ now has $1.5 Billion worth of cables in the ocean. Entrepreneurship has found a way — in spite of Facebook and Google. Read more……..
India Bans 59 Chinese Apps Including TikTok
In a sudden and surprise development, India banned 59 Chinese Apps. This is the list of the banned apps. The list is mostly all of the communications and gaming apps coming from China. So far, Alibaba has been spared which means that the Indian government is not closing down trade between the two countries
Part of the reason I am sure is the on-going war between India and China where 20 Indian soldiers recently died. It is unbelievable that China started the war right in the middle of the pandemic when India is already suffering.
From a telecom and submarine cable perspective, it means that there is no way Jio can take money from the Chinese carriers for investment in to IEX and IAX. So either Jio has to find a $100 million replacement partner very quickly or make peace with Google and let them in.
It also means that the US OTT traffic will surge as Indians will have no choice but to go back to the trusted brands. What happens to the Indian traffic passing through Hong Kong?
This also brings up the reverse scenario. Hypothetically speaking, what if there is a war between the US and Country X? And the US decides that none of its OTTs can serve Country X. Can that happen? Why not? So does every country now have to worry about building its own equivalent apps like WhatsApp and YouTube for national security purposes?
The Start Of The Smart Submarine Cable Revolution
It is said that we know more about space than we know about our oceans. Just imagine how the world would have been different if all the 500-odd submarine cables existing today were equipped with sensors to better understand the seabed conditions resulting in better prediction of weather, seismology, volcanology and marine ecology.
So while it took the sensor technology 3 decades to catch up, the good news is we are there today. Ellalink, the submarine cable connecting Europe with Latin America, announced today that it will equip its branch to Madeira (probably around a couple hundred kilometers) with the smart sensor technology which would help its anchor tenant, GEANT get access to the data for research purposes.
While this is a very small initiative, I believe this is the beginning of a trend which will become commonplace over the next 5 years. And I am sure the sensors will also become more creative possibly adding cameras over time so we can also hear, see and feel what is going on at the bottom of the oceans.
Of course, now we are trampling on the domain of the spooks so it will become harder to get permits for these cables. I am just excited about how the big data guys are going to have a field day trying to decipher the massive streams of data coming in.
There is of course, nobody better in the entire world than the OTTs in making sense of all of that data. And that is why Facebook is seriously thinking of venturing in the smart cable space in its next trans-Atlantic cable deal connecting the US to the 2Africa cable. I believe it has more to do with giving a boost to its Education portal and thus the initiative to rope in the research institutes.
The technology is not there yet. And people will probably start implementing it on smaller systems first before it is available for the trans-Atlantic market. But I think there could be small steps in that direction starting to be implemented soon. Read more……..
Intense Submarine Cable Rivalry Between Facebook And Google
When Facebook approached Google a couple of months ago requesting to join the Blue Raman cable, Google just laughed at them. So I don’t feel so bad that Google won’t let me in either.
There are many instances when both of them have been really upset at each other. At the beginning of the Simba cable which has been renamed as 2Africa, Google and Facebook had signed an agreement in London to work with each other on building a joint cable in the 2016/2017 timeframe. Both of them worked along with a bunch of carrier partners for almost a year. And one day, Google just announced the Equiano cable without informing Facebook and left the Simba consortium. That really upset the folks at Facebook.
It has gotten to a point where if one is present, the other either is not invited or walks away anyway. The IEX cable for example just has Facebook but not Google. The IAX cable was planned much before IEX and both of them had initially signed up with Jio. I won’t be surprised at all if Google is thrown out of that consortium since Facebook now has a lot of influence on Jio having given it billions of dollars recently. In any case, Jio is either going to demand a huge premium from Google or will want access to the Blue Raman cable at cost. Google is not going to get a free ride on IAX. The relationship between Google and Jio is antagonistic at best.
Facebook is also in the process of putting together a new trans-Atlantic cable and as far as I know, Google is once again not invited. That cable is an interesting deal where Facebook is planning to give one fiber pair free to a university consortium for research and will be the first smart cable with sensors to cross the Atlantic. This cable will connect to the 2Africa cable either in the U.K. or in Portugal, which incidentally also hosts the Equiano cable. Google is going to be really pissed not to be part of this game-changing deal.
The main reason for the rivalry is that both of them see a future where many of their products will overlap such as in Fintech, Marketplace, Shops, Video, Education and so on and who knows, maybe even Search. As Facebook’s core product (social) starts seeing a significant downward trend and is certainly a non-starter with the millennials, it will increasingly have to depend on other verticals which will compete with Google.
Now Let’s Blame The Russians
We live in a strange world where you cannot trust the popular media and have to become your own analyst even to understand the local news. New York Times lost me about 5 years ago and I just don’t trust anything they say or always wonder what the ulterior motive is.
Take the example of this article in NY Times. On the face of it, it is a very compelling story. A Russian mother submarine goes out looking for submarine cables to tap. Then it releases the baby submarine from its belly that can house up to 80 engineers and scientists. And that baby submarine has the power to tap any submarine cable in the world. And of course, there is a tragedy to this story. On one such clandestine operation, the baby submarine catches fire and 14 of them are dead. And instead of showing sympathy towards the dead, the New York Times would rather depict them as the Big Bad Russians.
So I became curious and started digging deep in to the story. And talked to a few people who might know about these things. And the story makes no sense. So let’s assume all of this is true. And let’s assume the baby submarine can tap in to a submarine cable. Depending on which one, it can easily carry 320 Gigabit per second of traffic. That is per second.
Do they store all of that data on the submarine? Is the submarine also a data center? What’s the capacity of the data center? For how long do they connect to the cable? Or do they divert it all to Moscow without anybody in the entire world finding out about it? How long does the connection last for? Or do they just point their Vodka bottles in the direction of Moscow and the traffic magically is transported there?
If any smart person wanted to tap a submarine cable, would he tap one off the coast of Norway where there is no traffic or would he tap a real submarine cable like TE North which carries traffic that could affect 25% of the world’s population?
The story makes no sense. There are no details. Just hubris. NewYork Times thinks everyone in the world is stupid except them and people will believe anything that is printed.
The real story is how governments of each country in the world (including the US) are tapping in to the traffic that comes on shore in the cable landing stations and how they snoop on their own citizens and of course the bad guys. That is where the real snooping takes place. Let me give you a real example of how that happens every day. Read more……..
The India China War Puts A Damper On the IAX And IEX Cables
After raising billions of dollars in Jio Platforms from Facebook and a bunch of private equity firms, Jio is almost ready to announce the IAX (India-Singapore) and the IEX (India-Europe) cables. The announcement is expected anytime now.
Except there is a problem. There is a real war going on between India and China on its Northern border in Ladakh. And Indian soldiers are dying as we speak. Already more than 20 have been killed.
China Mobile has signed up with both the IAX and IEX cables and has agreed to put in more than 20% of the capital for both cables which together will cost around $700 million. The minimum amount Jio is expecting them to cough up is $100 million.
There is a massive anti-China sentiment in India with millions of people deleting their Tik Tok accounts and calling for everyone to stop buying Chinese goods.
It is impossible for Jio to announce them as a partner in the cable at this point of time. If they do, they will lose all the public goodwill they have in India. So what will happen now? Read more……..
What Goes Around Comes Around
After I wrote a note on how Facebook and Google have been denied participation in the Sea-Me-We-6 and ADC cables, I received a lot of emails displaying anger and intense hatred of the Chinese government and the Asian carriers. To these people I say, don’t shed any tears for the US OTTs. They got what they deserve. Let me explain.
When Facebook and Google initiate a new cable, they do not invite all the carriers in the world to participate. In fact, in the case of Google, they invite not a single carrier. Over time as the cable develops, they will invite one carrier per country to pay a massive premium so that carrier gets a monopoly for that cable in each country it wants to sign up for.
Forget about carriers. They don’t even invite each other or other OTTs like Amazon or Microsoft to the table. The reason is they want the best infrastructure for themselves and hope their competitors end up getting terrible infrastructure. It reminds me of a distant relative of mine who wanted the best for his children and at the same time wanted all other relatives’ children to fail miserably. And that is why I have been a huge critic of this industry for more than a decade.
The OTTs are no different than the carriers (where the OTTs got most of their infrastructure employees from). Take the example of India. Each of the 4 carriers have their own cables, their own cable landing stations and do not even like to share traffic with each other unless forced through regulations.
I have my own beef with Google regarding the Blue Raman cable. While clearly borrowing from the design I published 3 years ago, Google did not even have the humility to invite me to participate in the cable as one of the partners. Of course, multiple emails proving that they directly used my design and that I am willing to pay in full for a fiber pair, have gone unanswered. It’s not like I am asking anything for free. I am happy to pay for the fiber pair.
I believe that I have been working on an Israel cable solution for 10 years now and a trillion dollar behemoth like Google should show some empathy and understanding. No wonder hardly any entrepreneurs remain in the industry. And of course, I will stop publishing any new ideas going forward.
This is the design I had published in 2017. The difference between this and Blue Raman is same as the difference between a 2019 Camry and a 2020 Camry. The grill looks different, the tail pipe is bending downwards. The lights are halogen and curved. Other than that, it is the same thing. In this case, the European destination is Italy and the cable through Egypt is called Majan. And the entry in to the Red Sea is from Saudi Arabia instead of Eilat (south of Eilat on the Red Sea). Other than that, from a strategy perspective, it is 100% the same deal.
In any case, we can blame China all we want. But our own house is not in order. Let us not throw stones at others when we ourselves live in glass houses. Read more…….. P.S. The Blue Raman map floating around the Internet is wrong. The reporter published the map without my input.
Facebook And Google Thrown Out Of ADC Cable By The Chinese Government
As was expected, this is the second time Facebook and Google have been denied participation in submarine cables either controlled or highly influenced by the Chinese government. The first cable they were thrown out of was Sea-Me-We-6 in retaliation of the Chinese government’s claim that Facebook and Google were responsible for initiating and fanning the Hong Kong protests. Below, is the map of the ADC cable which was announced a couple days earlier.
This time the retaliation is for Team Telecom denying permission for PLCN to start operations in Hong Kong even when the cable has been ready for more than a year. Indeed, it was clearly evident in this article from the South China Morning Post while announcing the ADC cable.
Of course, there is a lot more to the story than the Chinese government’s involvement. Part of the problem is also the arrogant attitude of Facebook and Google in dealing with the Asian carriers. Asia has been an extremely sore point for the US OTTs and as a general rule, both of them have easily earned an “F” in their Asian submarine cable strategy.
Net Neutrality Is Dead In India
Well ok, it’s not yet dead. But my thinking is at least 3 years ahead of the current time. With Facebook investing in Jio, Amazon circling around Bharti Airtel and Google looking at investing in Idea, I think the writing is on the wall.
With billions of dollars invested in these companies, legal or not, they will figure out ways to make Net Neutrality a thing of the past. The breaches could be as simple as offering the Libra currency on an exclusive basis on Jio to higher speeds to download YouTube if a customer subscribes to Idea for example.
India is fast becoming the major battleground for these OTTs because it is the largest single unified market in the world and a democracy with a decent legal system where justice is guaranteed even if delayed.
All of the OTTs are looking to expand eyeballs as increase in eyeballs is directly proportional to increase in the market cap of the company on Wall Street. India is also a country where one can experiment on various fintech initiatives before introducing them to the rest of the world. So as the control for India intensifies, Net Neutrality is sure to suffer no matter how hard the netizens of India try to defend themselves. Read more……..
Congratulations! You Now Own A Data Center In China
Of course, hind sight is 20/20 and it is easy to criticize after the fact. But seriously, before plunking in hundreds of millions of dollars or more in a data center in Hong Kong, did anyone ask themselves: Under which conditions, would China let go of Hong Kong?
Carriers and OTTs thought it was cute that they could be in China and yet not be under Chinese telecom regulations. In a sense, they thought this loophole will work forever. So they poured in billions of dollars in to data centers in Hong Kong and even worse, brought in all their enterprise customers who decided to build their Asian POP in Hong Kong.
The writing was on the wall ever since the protests began in Hong Kong and the Chinese government blamed the US government and the US OTTs for initiating and flaming the protests. So the Chinese government made sure that none of the US OTTs were given a spot in the Sea-Me-We-6 cable as well as unconfirmed news of similar actions on 2 other cables in Asia.
It did not help that PLCN’s Hong Kong landing was rejected by Team Telecom and to boot, the airline wars between the 2 countries. So the big question for everyone is whether to pray that the Chinese government will all of a sudden become kinder and gentler or to cut the losses and get out of Hong Kong before stringent data laws are applied for everyone in the Hong Kong data centers. Read more……..
Mohamed Nasr Named Deputy Minister For Telecom Infrastructure In Egypt
In a surprise move, the Communications Minister of Egypt, decreed that Mohamed Nasr would be named the Deputy Minister for telecom infrastructure.
This is a very important development because for the first time, the Egyptian Ministry has someone on board who has operational experience in the submarine cable industry not only at Telecom Egypt but also working for PCCW, an Asian carrier with a global footprint in submarine cables. He also worked extensively with the Chinese carriers while heading up the PEACE cable on behalf of PCCW.
Nasr understands the problems faced by international carriers vis-a-vis Egypt and also he very well knows the thin margins at which the wholesale industry operates. Having said that, he is going to do what is in the best interests of Egypt.
My hope is that he will bring in two major changes: drop the prices to cross Egypt significantly and create an eco-system which will attract data center operators to come in. I think his major challenge is to work internally with the government and convince them that it is in Egypt’s interest to drop the bandwidth rates and move on to the next phase of the industry. I also hope he will find a way to work with Israel rather than continue the decades-long standoff.
I think this is a good development. Nasr is smart, young and is probably the only hope Egypt has to move away from the murky past so that Egypt is looked upon as a friendly nation rather than with fear and anger as it is today as it pertains to the submarine cable industry. Read more……..
The Submarine Cable Industry Finally Gets A Human Face
So Vodafone announced yesterday that the portion of the 2Africa cable owned by them along with a few other offshoots is going to be named SHARP which is a short form for System Honoring Achievements of Rick Perry. Rick is the Head of International Network Planning for Vodafone and has been in the industry since 1974 and is the longest serving submarine cable expert at Vodafone.
I have always admired Rick and have always fondly called him Sir Rick Perry. We have had our battles especially in the Bay of Bengal Gateway (BBG) cable but I have tremendous admiration for him, especially his Never Take No For An Answer attitude. For example, it took almost 10 years for him to put the BBG deal together but he stuck in there in spite of the gloom and doom around and finally won. I have not seen this kind of doggedness in any person ever. He is perfect for the submarine cable industry.
And I am really happy that Vodafone has acknowledged his contribution and named a cable after him. This is the first time the submarine cable industry has seen a human face with most of the cables given nonsense names like Sea-Me-We-6 and TAT-14. Thank God Rick works for a large corporation which is open to change. Because this industry has had an absolute terrible record of acknowledging talent, leave alone rewarding them right from the dark days since AT&T was the self-proclaimed God of the industry.
The innovators of the industry — the entrepreneurs — are treated worse than the untouchables of India. Bullies like Telecom Egypt steal projects like AAE-1 and the rest of the industry looks the other way because nobody wants to speak up for fear of reprisals. There is another project where yet another large corporation is in the process of stealing a project from an entrepreneur. With their armies of lawyers and unlimited money, they can and do get away with these shameful acts.
And that is why there are very few entrepreneurs left in the industry and those that are left will also be gone sooner rather than later. More than the money involved, at least the entrepreneur wants to be acknowledged for the contribution and encouraged to come up with more innovation and better ideas which will help the industry in the long run. But this industry would rather run away the innovators and out-of-box thinkers so they can retain control. And that is why I don’t see a future for this industry other than the sheer acts of throwing money at the problem by large carriers and OTTs. I hope Vodafone’s act of kindness becomes a trend and not a one-off act. In any case, it is too little, too late for the handful of entrepreneurs left who have been advised to close the door when they leave. Read more……..
No News Is Good News For Tata Communications
When ALS (Amur Swaminathan Lakshminarayanan) succeeded Vinod Kumar as CEO at Tata Communications in October 2019, I was pretty certain ALS was brought in to sell the company either as a whole unit or in pieces. After all, he came from TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) and headed its Japan office. What would he know about running a global telecom company?
But his recent actions suggest that he is here to run Tata Comms and is modeling the company with his own expertise in mind: Services. Tata Comms went through the most spectacular transformation of any company I have seen since the early VSNL days when it was a 100% India-based carrier. Tata’s brought in professional management and transformed the company to a global entity especially when it bought the submarine cable assets of Tyco Submarine Cables as well as Canada-based Teleglobe which made a global leader in voice.
Vinod transformed the company from an infrastructure-based wholesale carrier to an enterprise-focused global carrier. And I believe ALS has started the transformation from enterprise to a focus on services since he took over Tata Comms about 6 months ago.
It just so happened that the COVID situation has created an unprecedented demand for video-based communications and Tata too has jumped on the bandwagon with a very powerful relationship with Microsoft Teams acting as its platform partner. On the other hand, there is severe cost cutting going on resulting in hundreds of employees being laid off or leaving to join other companies.
Is Tata Comms going to be an outlier with an amazing transformation from infrastructure to services? And what are the new services that are going to make Tata one of the winners in this pandemic? And is this model worth replicating for the rest of the carriers of the world? And which is the submarine cable it has signed up for recently going to India? Read more……..
Facebook’s Apartheid Of Israel In 2Africa
2Africa will land in 23 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. And to its credit, no country, however small, has been ignored — even Djibouti with a population of less than 1 million and a GDP of $3 Billion has found a place on the 2Africa map.
More importantly, there are about 10 branching units that will be deployed in the water for future connections to 2Africa. The countries targeted are: Morocco, Tenerife Islands or Western Sahara, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameroon, Namibia, Comoros Islands, Somalia (2nd landing), Cyprus and Greece.
But there is one country missing that neither has a landing point nor a branching unit for a potential landing point in the future — Israel — America’s ally and the most high tech country in the region with a GDP of $370 Billion. A country that has the least number of cables in the region. Look at how many cables Djibouti has. And for its size and influence, Israel needs 2Africa more than any country on the map. To add insult to injury, Israel is a stone’s throw away (no pun intended) from the route of the cable especially when it is extended to Cyprus.
Every small and large country or island along the cable route either has a landing or a branching unit planned for future landing — except Israel. So why this blatant discrimination of Israel by a US company? Read more on LinkedIn……..
2Africa Is Good For Africa
To be honest, I had apprehensions last year that 2Africa would turn out to be an oligopoly cable. But after going through multiple documents and phone calls with many people, I am now convinced that 2Africa is anything but an oligopoly. This is the best thing that has happened to Africa.
And after a bunch of mishaps especially in Asia, Facebook has finally found its groove: a formula for building cables that is good for the entire ecosystem. Facebook’s challenge is now to replicate this formula around the world. That is not going to be easy. With 4-5 kings running their own fiefdoms in different regions of the world with no strong leadership, each king wants to build cables in his/her own way.
Unlike Google which has a central leadership running its submarine cable group, there is no chance to do anything different but build monopoly cables in each region of the world. Google’s monopoly cable building is an insult to every regulator in the world who has worked hard to break down barriers in the telecom industry. This is my take on Google’s Equiano cable. Facebook’s 2Africa cable on the other hand is a breath of fresh air and good for the entire ecosystem.
The 2Africa formula has a whole bunch of winners in every country in Africa and only 6 losers. But until there is a vaccine for stupidity, Facebook will keep on finding such stupid carriers around the world for its formula to work effectively. Trust me, there are a lot of them out there.
So what is this Facebook’s formula that has worked? And who are these 6 stupid carriers? And why should Facebook get rid of the fiefdoms and centralize its submarine cable strategy under a central leadership? Read more……..
2Africa Is NOT A Submarine Cable Deal
Don’t get me wrong. I think 2Africa is a fantastic project and I have nothing but good things to say about Facebook’s initiative and leadership in getting the deal done with a number of industry stalwarts. And frankly speaking nobody else would have been able to pull it off. Even Google’s Equiano cable deal is still struggling and nowhere near the scale and audacity of 2Africa. And ASN’s world class engineering feat to build this cable along with Facebook’s technical team is going to be off the charts.
But let’s be clear here. 2Africa is NOT a submarine cable deal. To understand Facebook’s motivation, you need to closely listen to my speech (45 minutes) on Simba (now 2Africa) in Johannesburg last year at SAFNOG.
The entire story revolves around increasing Facebook’s valuation by increasing eyeballs in Africa. And that is why if you really want to analyze the deal, you need to focus on the side deals done by Facebook and not the cable itself. I focus more on the side deals than the real deal in any cable project because that tells you the real motivation and intention of the cable investors.
I have spent a lot of time in analyzing each one of 2Africa’s side deals including the Oman landing. I have reason to believe that Facebook’s side deals go way beyond the minimum $100 million amount I mentioned earlier in my last blog. Here is a list of winners and losers in Facebook’s 2Africa side deals. Read more……..
The Side Deals Of 2Africa
Back in the go-go days of Global Crossing when just an announcement of a new cable was worth a few billion dollars in the stock market, all the meetings used to be in really exotic places like Cebu, Bali and Phuket. And while the meetings used to go on throughout the day, the real action was negotiation of the side deals at night. To make sure nobody else could see them, the ones doing the side deals would go to smoke filled dingy bars and do their side deals over cigars and cognac.
Not too much has changed even today and as early as this January, I witnessed several such deal making going on in dingy bars in Hawaii over glasses of Bourbon but without the smoke. That was just before COVID-19 started.
I can just imagine the anguish of the deal makers when travel was out of question and the deal making had to be done in order to close the 2Africa deal. I am sure there is some seedy room on Zoom where the deal making happened.
At least $100 million worth of side deals were made by Facebook in order to get the main deal done. And the beauty of it is that the side deals were not necessarily done with the consortium members of 2Africa. They will find out now after reading my blog.
Let me explain exactly how the deals went down and who got the free moolah. And why these side deals make perfect sense for Facebook. And why nothing has changed in 3 decades in the submarine cable industry. Read more……..
Oman Gets A Free Ride On 2Africa
No, OmanTel is not a system owner nor an investor in 2Africa. Yet, Oman gets a landing point on this $1 Billion cable.
The branch to Oman was negotiated at the last minute and Oman held its ground and said it would not invest any money in the cable.
In spite of this, the system owners of 2Africa decided to extend the cable at their own expense and will also pay the O&M on the cable for 25 years. The branch cost is around $15 million. Let’s put this in perspective. On an average, carriers had to shell out $40 million per landing point. And this was the only exception made by the consortium to give anyone a free ride.
Yet this is probably the best decision the 2Africa consortium has made. Oman is the only country that gets a free ride.
What is going on here?
2Africa Is A Done Deal
You have to hand it to Facebook. Getting a deal done during the pandemic is one thing but getting the $1 Billion 2Africa deal done connecting all the African countries is a whole different level, especially since it has been tried multiple times before and failed every time. The system lands in 23 countries in Africa, Europe and the Middle East and spans 37,000 Km under the ocean.
This is probably one of the most complex deals to put together. So far, Sea-Me-We-3 was the most complex deal to get done in the submarine cable industry with 93 investors and 5 different suppliers followed by the Flag Telecom deal. But those deals was put together in a series of meetings at exotic locations like Phuket while sipping Singapore Slings.
While 2Africa has only 8 partners, bringing all the African countries to the same virtual table is no small task either. Especially under the current circumstances with kids running around the Zoom conference table and dogs barking to get attention. Let us all bow down with respect to Ricardo Orcero who put the deal together.
There are a few interesting things to note: For the first time after Flag, 2Africa has been granted a new path parallel to the Suez Canal which is much safer compared to the traditional route.
More importantly, the cable also lands in Salalah, Oman which as I said before, is the new Marseille. This also cements Portugal as yet another upcoming interconnection point in Europe.
This is a consortium cable and the partners are: Facebook, China Mobile, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, STC, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC. The cable has a maximum of 16 fiber pairs and a minimum of 8 fiber pairs depending on segment and will carry an average of 180 Tbps of traffic.
Post-COVID Mantra For The Telecom Infrastructure Industry
Just like the perennial mantra for the real estate industry is Location, Location, Location, the post-COVID mantra for both the global submarine cable as well the data center industries is Diversity, Diversity, Diversity.
The entire industry must come together and try to eliminate or at least substantially reduce the impact of the single point of failures in the entire telecom infrastructure chain — no matter how painful it is.
On the submarine cable side, it means immediately finding solutions for Egypt, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Miami and New York. Fortunately the UK situation is now under control because of Brexit related build outs to Southern Europe. Of utmost importance in Asia is to find a replacement hub for Hong Kong and a hedge against Singapore.
On the data center side, there are many candidates — one of them being GPX in Mumbai which has become a single point of failure ironically due to its huge success. Here is a list of several single points of failures and potential solutions — chief among which is my take on the new proposed Asian hub as a counter to Hong Kong and Singapore.
The long-term thinkers should also start thinking of changing the network architecture from a hub-and-spoke architecture to a distributed model which in my opinion is the right model for the industry — which was my thinking when I designed Project Oxygen 20 years ago. Which means going back to the drawing board for all of the OTTs — something that is impossible to envision. Read more……..
Invoking Force Majeure To Void Lousy Business Deals
In the pre-COVID days, the focus of the submarine cable vendors was on getting the contracts at any cost to keep the factories going. And there were quite a few deals that were signed which did not make business sense — especially with hard charging clients like Orange.
But now things are different all of a sudden. Submarine cables are now identified as critical infrastructure and a lot more projects are being planned. And because there is a limit on suppliers and their capacities, prices for new projects are going up.
So there are reports that at least one submarine cable vendor is going through each signed deal to see if they can get out of it using the Force Majeure clause. If they cannot get out, at a minimum they are trying to re-negotiate the contracts to extract more money out of the customers.
All of the submarine cable projects that were under construction are going to be delayed by at least one year. And that gives the submarine cable vendors a lot of leeway to re-negotiate prices and timelines or both. In fact, there is a third element to this — technology. If the projects signed with the older technology are delivered one year late, the technology signed-up for is already economically obsolete. In my opinion, every submarine cable deal under construction needs to be re-evaluated. Here is a list of projects that definitely need to be re-evaluated. Read more……..
With Unlimited Money At Their Disposal, Why Can’t OTT’s Build Submarine Cables Fast Enough?
Talk to any OTT and they will admit that their Asian submarine cable strategy has failed beyond repair. I can cite major problems in every Asian cable the US OTTs have invested in and in almost every case, they have regretted their decision.
And as far as timing goes, the OTT cables are no different compared to the carrier cables. Take the example of Simba (aka 2Africa), the African cable. 5 years in to planning, by the time it is built — if at all — it will be at least 7-10 years since Facebook had its first Simba meet in London with Google and a bunch of carriers.
Now with carrier-led or entrepreneur-led cables, the time delay is understandable because there are always funding or financing issues. But in the case of Google and Facebook, they are eager to write the checks on Day 1. In fact, one of the biggest complaints carriers have against them is they flood the supply chain with so many projects — in many cases — just to keep the carriers from getting in the vendor queue. And the amount of money they spend of submarine cables is a fraction of the amount they spend on data centers every year. So why can’t the OTT’s build cables faster than the carriers?
Because the OTTs are arrogant, selfish and only think of themselves. They are not trying to solve the industry problems. Just like the carriers fight with each other while building cables, the OTTs are no different. They not only fight with the carriers, they also fight with each other. For years, I have tried to tell them to try and solve the industry problems and they will get nothing but total cooperation from the carriers. But treating the carriers like their retard cousins does not motivate anyone to help them move the project faster. What are the industry problems the OTTs can solve? Read more……..
India’s Telecom Laws Need Revamping
A common joke when Russia was the USSR was that the government pretended to pay its employees and the employees pretended to work. There is a similar joke about India: The Indian government pretends to make sane telecom laws and the carriers pretend to adhere to them.
Take the example of the Lawful Intercept and Monitoring project also known as LIM where the government wants to monitor every bit of information coming in to the country including voice, video, text and so on. So the government has mandated that every carrier must install LIM equipment for the entire traffic coming in to the country at the carrier’s own expense.
Now this LIM equipment is very expensive and the only way the carriers can afford to pay for it is if they can pass on the expense to its customers. And therein lies the problem. No customer wants to pay for this imposition of the government.
And in this great country that invented the word Jugaad (loosely translated as hack), a formula is derived which suggests the amount of cheating everyone in the system from customers to the carriers to the government is comfortable with. You will be shocked to know what that discount percentage is. Read more……..
The Largest Potential Market For Submarine Cables Is A Basket Case
India is a total basket case when it comes to submarine cables although having the potential to at least double it’s more than a dozen cable count. A cottage industry has developed around the stupidity of the Indian government to exploit this resource with countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Oman, Hong Kong, UAE and Djibouti mooching off huge chunks of the Indian market.
The last cable connecting India was the Telecom Egypt-stolen cable called AAE-1 in 2017 after 5 years of dirty politics. Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE — each with a fraction of a fraction of India’s population have almost the same number of cables landing. India should have been and still has the potential to be the largest hub of submarine cables in the world.
What went wrong? For one, nobody in the Indian government understands or cares for submarine cables. TRAI, the regulatory body is probably the most incompetent telecom entity in the entire world as far as submarine cables are concerned. And all of this coupled with greedy and constantly at war Indian carriers have kept the market lukewarm. Bharti Airtel has been accused of cheating its partners of $200 million over the years on account of the RIO regulations.
The Indian Government impounded a cableship that was installing the EIG cable. And the $50 million bond posted by Bharti Airtel was not released for almost 10 years.
You have to add at least an extra year if you want to land a cable in India to account for the government nonsense. So no foreign carrier wants to come to India. And no cable vendor wants to supply to India. Even I have given up on India — even though I have been its biggest supporter for 30 years. Read more……..
Parked Oil Tankers Pose A Big Threat To Submarine Cables
There are more than 9,000 oil tankers in the world representing 11% of the total ships around the world. And guess where they are all right now? They are all parked in shallow waters along the coast lines of all the countries in the world, each billing their clients $30,000 per day just to sit. There is no more demand for oil and no customers wanting delivery.
Below is the map of all the tankers in the world. And how interestingly, they mirror the landing points of all the submarine cables in the world,
OTTs Take 2 Different Paths To Address Hong Kong Crisis
The OTTs are a strange bunch. While they are mandated internally to connect their data centers with around 5 different submarine cable paths, they have created a number of single points of failure in the data center destinations they chose. One among many is Hong Kong. With the current state of affairs in terms of US-China relationship and in light of Team Telecom not approving the Hong Kong destination for PLCN, billions of dollars of data center investments in Hong Kong are in trouble,
To address this situation, two solutions are emerging. Google and Facebook are in one camp as to how they see the situation evolving whereas Amazon and Microsoft are in the other camp. Interestingly, they are not working with each other in both the cases but it shows the thinking. In my opinion, both solutions are flawed as they are perpetuating the same old problems. There is no creative thinking at all.
It Took A Pandemic To Ease Permitting For Submarine Cable Repairs
Used to be that getting permits for submarine cable repairs used to take weeks if not months in most countries. And even after getting permits, a whole range of government bureaucrats like customs, tax authorities, etc. used to bother the cableship personnel especially in countries like India. There was no understanding why a foreign cableship would want to repair a cable in their country and there was always suspicion about its real objectives.
The pandemic has changed all of that. Now telecom infrastructure is classified as critical infrastructure and the fear of the country losing Internet access means the authorities go out of their way to make sure that all permitting activities are done quickly.
To make sure that personnel are not held up due to Coronavirus issues, cableship personnel are sent to the country where repairs need to be done 2 weeks in advance where they self-quarantine under government supervision while the permits are being processed. And after testing negative, they board the ship to do the repairs — permits in hand — and no more interference from anyone. Read more……..
The Post-Covid-19 Rise Of India As a Manufacturing And Technology Hub
I have always wondered how highly professional companies like Apple allowed China to be the single point of failure as far as their supply chains go. Yes, it has taken them decades to get the efficiencies and price points in China they need. But one thing every company in the world will have to think post-Covid-19 is how to eliminate single points of failure at every phase of the supply chain.
Already, more than 100 large companies have started thinking of either shifting all their manufacturing to India or to have a second base. I think eventually nobody will completely move out of China because of the eco-system that has developed there. But I am convinced that India will become a second manufacturing base for most of the large companies. Which means hundreds and thousands of new manufacturing plants and millions of new jobs.
Which means that the submarine cable guys need to start building cables to India now. The last cable that went to India was the stolen AAE-1 cable. Since then, nobody has been able to build a new cable there. The demand will be staggering and cable owners will mint money. And of course, more money will be made by the new data center investors. And a lot of new data centers are being planned. Read more……..
The Die Is Now Cast In India
With its $5.7 Billion investment in Jio picking up almost 10% equity, Facebook has bought political patronage in India. For years, Facebook tried to go it alone starting with Free Basics where it spent $100 million campaigning in India but could go nowhere.
And with 400 million WhatsApp users, India represents the single largest market in the world which could potentially go to zero as politicians of all parties are miffed with it for its end-to-end encryption making it the social network of choice for terrorists and the underworld.
This is a huge win for Jio which has been desperately looking to raise money after its deal with ARAMCO fell through. And as it tries to compete with Amazon and Walmart in India — not to mention building out its 5G network, it needs deep pockets. And there is no better company in india than Jio to provide the political patronage Facebook seeks as it tries to monetize WhatsApp. And perhaps the launch of Libra? Read more……..
Google Will Not Pay Any Taxes On $400 Million Blue Raman Profits
Blue Raman is going to be the most profitable cable for Google. And the cable is already sold out — even before the supply contract is signed. But the most important news is that Google has structured the deal in such a fashion that it will not end up paying any taxes on the profits it makes on the cable.
Zoom Wine Tasting Anyone?
Welcome to Silicon Valley where wine making is classified as an Essential business. So guess what? The wineries and liquor stores are all in full swing and liquor sales have gone up by 40% — more than bandwidth increases on the last mile network.
And of course, Silicon Valley has to start a new trend — no matter under what conditions. So wineries are now sending you wines by mail and you can join in from your home on Zoom and be part of the wine tasting group — joined by fellow wine enthusiasts.
And of course, there are Zoom Happy Hours where employees of all companies hang out and gossip as they usually do in the office. Of course, the Google and Facebook employees are not happy because they have to cook their own food! OMG.
So this little Silicon Valley company Zoom went from 10 million subscribers to 200 million in a matter of weeks. It is being used by almost all educational institutes and more than 50% of the Fortune 500 companies.
Now how did this happen when all of the heavyweights like Google, Facebook and Microsoft have their own video solutions like Hangout? For one, Zoom as designed from the start to scale whereas other solutions lacked the scalability and the quality because of the architecture.
Zoom is now worth $35 Billion and was the only stock going up while the rest of the market was crashing.
So what’s the story with Zoom’s privacy issues? And what’s the Chinese connection here? Read more…….
Getting Your Urgent Message Out
As most of you probably know, my blog has a wide reach and is read by almost every carrier in the world. In addition, there are about a couple dozen regulators that also read my blog. So in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, if you need any urgent message to be sent out to the entire community, I am very happy to send it out, of course complementary. There have been a few times when carriers have requested me to send out urgent messages. The one that was the saddest was when the Chinese government called me at 3am in the middle of my sleep and asked me to inform the carrier community about the sad demise of Happy Zhang, the China Telecom executive who was on the Malaysian Airlines flight that went down. And within a couple of hours, the entire industry knew about it even before the press found out about it. I am really worried about the logistics of the telecom industry including the equipment and the movement of cable ships and will be monitoring that closely with the help of my industry friends. This is a time when we need to come together as one unit and help each other to the fullest. Read more…….
Facebook To Get 10% Stake In Reliance Jio
Facebook is in talks with Reliance Jio to pick up 10% equity in the company. The deal was supposed to close by the end of the this month but has been delayed because of the COVID-19 situation. It is now becoming clear why Jio had a big fallout with Google last year. First Jio embraced Microsoft with a cloud partnership and now with an even stronger equity partnership with Facebook, Jio has chosen its allies. Jio needs the billions of dollars from Facebook for its 5G infrastructure as well as its submarine cable expansion through the IEX and IAX cables which could also potentially see Facebook as a customer or partner. The Indian carrier situation is quite bleak with most likely Jio and Bharti Airtel being the only remaining survivors. Read more…….
Giving Up Privacy To Save Your Life
There are multiple reasons why China has been able to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in a matter of 2 months. But the most important reason is that the Chinese government knows where every person has been and who are all the people that have been in the vicinity at that time. Basically, there is no privacy at all. The Chinese government has a back door entry in to the carriers’ database. In addition, in cities like Nanjing, every person had to log in his personal QR code even if he wanted to eat at a restaurant. And this pandemic has proved to the Chinese government that this strategy works perfectly. So going forward, in my opinion, the Chinese government will be able to contain any further outbreaks of this and other pandemics very quickly and with precision. This is impossible to do in the West at this time. But I have a feeling that the Chinese success is not going to be overlooked by the West given the grave situation of the economy and the ability to save millions of lives. Perhaps the governments will set up a separate body to use the information only in emergency situations like the current one. But my bet is that privacy is dead going forward. Read more…….
European Commission Issues Guidelines To Streaming Services, Operators And Users
In light of the significant increase in Internet traffic due to everyone locked in their homes 24/7, the European Commission has advised streaming services like Netflix to downgrade the quality to standard from high definition and to co-operate with the telecom operators to their fullest. Users are also advised to apply settings that reduce data consumption by opting for lower resolution for their content viewing. The EU is also setting up a review board to monitor the Internet traffic situation in every member state so the EU can respond to capacity issues any member has. Basically, the EU is of the opinion that the streaming services, operators and users are all responsible for the continued well being of the Internet. Here is what I think. Read more…….
Globalization Is Dead
Whether it takes 18 weeks or 18 months to get out of the current situation, one thing is for sure. Globalization as we know it is dead. And it is going to have a massive impact on the submarine cable and the telecom infrastructure industry. The entire global infrastructure developed by the OTTs has been based on the bet that globalization would be around — forever. That is why you see the hyper scale data centers in the Scandinavian countries with almost no populations feeding data to the rest of the world. The new era will demand exactly the opposite. Each country will want to be self reliant and will demand independence from their data being controlled from outside of their countries. The OTTs will have to completely rethink their global architecture. They never learnt their lesson even after the Hong Kong PLCN and China NPC debacles. Now not only the carriers but the OTTs will have to first pledge data localization to every country in the world. Each country will also demand that Internet services will continue uninterrupted even if they were isolated from all other countries or even if all submarine cables were cut. The OTTs will spend the next decade undoing everything they did until now. Read more…….
Team Telecom Needs To Get Off The High Horse And Approve PLCN ASAP
I am increasingly getting nervous that Egypt is going to implode. I have been literally begging the carriers of the world for years to build a Egypt-bypass cable but to no heed. I even got death threats from Telecom Egypt asking me to shut up. If Egypt implodes, you can pretty much see most of the Middle East go dark or be severely limited in terms of Internet bandwidth as 100% of the Middle East and Asian traffic from Asia to Europe goes through Egypt. If we lose Egypt, most of the Middle East, India and Asia will be dependent on the trans-Pacific routes. PLCN is a cable that is already built and is waiting for Team Telecom approval for years. Facebook and Google have a 40 Tbps-fiber pair each on the cable which terminates in Hong Kong. And the sole cable that connects Hong Kong to the Middle East is the Telecom Egypt-stolen cable called AAE-1. Given the extraordinary situation the world is in right now, I think it is extremely important that Team Telecom make a temporary one-time exception and allow traffic to flow all the way to Hong Kong with immediate effect. Let us not wait until it is too late. I request all the regulators who read my blog to write to Team Telecom and ask them to do the right thing. Read more…….
Global Disaster Recovery System Needs To Be In Place ASAP
So far, each carrier has been on his own as far as restoration is concerned. Almost no carrier has an inter-carrier restoration plan laid out in case of a real disaster. With submarine cable maintenance ships most likely to be delayed for mundane reasons like visas, permits, customs and personnel issues (shipping personnel are from all over the world), cable repairs are going to take longer and individual carriers are going to face the brunt of it as they are at the mercy of their competitors who have historically been reluctant to help. There is an urgent need to create a global disaster recovery plan and carriers have to realize they are all in it together. If one carrier fails today, they are the next in line. This is not a time to profit from someone else’s disaster. The global bandwidth supply chain is dependent on the carriers doing the right thing in these difficult times. Read more…….
An Appeal To The Interconnection Companies
Talking to a number of carriers, a theme is emerging as to what would make it easier for them to share their excess capacity with each other for restoration purposes in times of crisis. I appeal to the interconnection companies like Equinix and Interxion to offer free cross connects for incremental connections for all their customers until this COVID-19 crisis passes over. This action on part of the interconnection companies will go a long way in potentially building a long-term global restoration network and every one in the eco-system will benefit eventually. As the world leader in the space, I think Equinix should step up to the plate and take the leadership in this area. Read more…….
Forget Net Neutrality Until Things Get Back To Normal
I have been in touch with multiple carriers and regulators with regards to how they are tackling the current situation. One of the European regulators mentioned that it is becoming very active in trying to change regulations to deal with the situation. They are trying to pass new laws in short order to address some of the issues I brought up. One additional thing they are thinking about is to repeal Net Neutrality until this issue is behind us. That will enable carriers to intervene through traffic management and prioritize some kinds of traffic. Although I am a big proponent of Net Neutrality, I think given the situation, it is a good idea to put it on the back burner until business is back to normal. I will keep on updating my blog as I hear from other carriers and regulators as to what steps they are taking to address the difficult situation we are in.
Global Networks Are Being Tested
As each home is being transformed in to a mini office, the networks and the last mile in particular is being tested to its fullest. With both parents working from home and kids using video conferencing to log in to their schools, the networks were not designed to take the load. So networks will slow down and there will be disruptions. In my opinion, the biggest problem is a 180 degree change in how the networks were designed to work — from a point-to-point network to a distributed model. Already, there are indications that some data centers belonging to Google could be affected which will have an impact on some services being shifted or reduced temporarily. It is time that every content player and carrier decide to work with each other not withstanding who would win or lose temporarily to do whatever is necessary to make the networks more resilient. If that means opening up more ports for peering or sharing excess bandwidth with one another so as to achieve maximum restoration possible, it is time the carriers and content players step up to the plate and do what is right for the industry as a whole. If the global networks go down or if entire countries go off the grid, the carriers and content players will have themselves to blame for the disaster and anarchy that will follow. My suggestion is that Google take the leadership role in this regard since it has the relationships with all the carriers and also their respect.
Bandwidth Hoarding Should Be Outlawed
The most inefficient supply chain in the world is the telecom network, specifically the bandwidth supply chain worldwide. Used to be, carriers would come together and build submarine cables for their requirements 25 years ahead of time and most cables used to be no more than 10% lit for years. Things have significantly improved since then, yet still carriers build cables for their requirements about 10 years ahead of time. Consequently in the early years, few cables are more than 25% lit. So every carrier in the world has excess capacity on certain routes and not enough bandwidth on others. And that’s how carriers make money from each other — by selling the excess capacity at high prices. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I think it is imperative that the bandwidth supply chain becomes highly efficient for no other reason but to make the global network extremely resilient. I am not proposing that carriers give away their bandwidth for free to others. But I am proposing building a platform which will enable carriers to borrow excess bandwidth from each other until the COVID-19 pandemic is no more. While the rest of the supply chains go under, at least the bandwidth supply chain needs to function in perfect order to save the world from a meltdown. I am happy to share my solution to any carrier in the world. This is the time for all carriers around the world to come together and work with each other for an urgent cause.
Responsibility Of The Telecom Services Industry In Light Of Coronavirus
While the supply chains of the world are faltering and tens of millions of people have stopped traveling, the online services industry will see an upsurge like never before. As people stay at home, they are ordering more stuff online, they are logging in to their office from home, video conference calls have replaced one-on-one interviews and meetings, doctors are encouraging video calls instead of going in to the facilities, people have more time to catch up on digital educational programs. Harvard just announced that classes will be held online. Bottom line is the people have no choice worldwide but to embrace the digital lifestyle. So the most important thing from the carriers’ perspective is to make sure that the telecom facilities have a flawless execution. In order to effectively to that, it is of utmost important that carriers forget their petty politics and open up their infrastructure to their competitors, especially those that have excess capacity. In fact, regulators and governments of the world should pass laws that force carriers as well as content providers to share facilities with each other in these difficult times. And that has to be done immediately because if is far easier to do it when the networks are running smoothly compared to when entire countries are off the grid. And that day may not be too far away. I am happy to take the lead on this if any government or carrier in the world wants me to.
Team Telecom Is Hurting The US Cloud Business
Personally, my experience with getting licenses approved by the US Government has been amazing. I had no problems in obtaining licenses for both Flag Telecom and Project Oxygen. That was pre-Team Telecom. Things have changed significantly since Team Telecom has taken over the approval process. While I completely understand that it is Team Telecom’s responsibility to keep America safe and they have major concerns with Huawei and other vendors, the telecom industry has now shifted to the cloud model and Team Telecom has not kept pace with the times in my opinion. So PLCN was founded 7 years ago and still does not have permits to land the cable in the US. Admittedly, a lot of the time was spent in trying to put the deal together but the reality is the technology, configuration and pricing are all obsolete and in a sense it does not matter whether or not the approval is given at this point. The bigger issue is the billions of dollars the cloud companies have invested in Hong Kong — they are now in limbo. The OTTs and cloud companies now are dependent on their global operations and data centers around the world. In my opinion, Team Telecom needs to review their policies taking in to account the new business models. Read More……
Google Running Circles Around Jio In The Submarine Cable Industry
Jio is the undisputed King of the Indian telecommunications industry but when it comes to the submarine cable industry, it is merely a pawn. Last year, Google had a falling out with Jio when Jio embraced Microsoft and consequently demanded a huge premium from Google to participate in its IAX cable to Singapore. At the time of the fallout, it seemed that Google was in a fix since Jio was so powerful in India. But Jio did not realize that Google has become politically very savvy in the global submarine cable industry with more than 10 years and billions of dollars behind it. So Google joined hands with NTT and got fibers on the MIST cable from India to Singapore. And now is working on a India to Europe Egypt-bypass cable called Blue Raman which will completely change the economics and make Jio’s IEX cable economically obsolete even before they sign the supply contract. That’s what they call Check and Mate! Read More……
Egypt-Bypass — Holy Grail Of The Submarine Cable Industry
Egypt is the biggest single-point-of-failure in the entire world. With 15 cables crossing Egypt and another 6 or so waiting to be signed, almost a third of the entire world’s population is dependent on Egypt for its Internet access. To make matters worse, Telecom Egypt has built a cable called TE North and forces cables to buy fiber pairs on that one single cable. A cut on this cable alone will disrupt traffic in a dozen countries. And of course, it costs more to cross Egypt than to build a cable all the way from Singapore to Marseille. The Egyptian Army and the Prime Minister’s Office sets the political landscape for all cable crossings. So Google’s planning of the Blue Raman cable is the biggest news in the submarine cable industry since the start of the industry 3 decades ago. Not only will this cable provide the ultimate route diversity going through Israel, it will also decrease the cost of Asia to Europe traffic by at least 50%. Google gets all the credit for achieving the impossible. Find out the exact route, how the deal went down, who are the parties involved and why this is not going to be easy for others to emulate. Read More……
Who Is The Biggest Winner And Loser In The Oman Australia Cable (OAC)?
One would assume without a doubt that the man with the golden touch, Bevan Slattery is the biggest winner in the latest deal he announced today — the Oman Australia Cable or OAC — the cable from nowhere to really nowhere. But there is indeed a method to the madness. And the biggest winner is not Bevan. And obviously, the biggest loser is not Bevan either. Find out how the deal went down and who is the biggest winner and the biggest loser. Read More……
Why Does SingTel Hate Apricot With A Passion?
SingTel’s SJC-2 cable is being constructed as we speak and will have an RFS date of Q1, 2021. It is almost exclusively a carrier cable except Facebook has been allowed to participate by SingTel as a favor for giving it some data center business in Singapore. Apricot is a new cable that already has chosen Subcom as the vendor and has been waiting for its CIF for more than a year. Given the Coronavirus issue in Asia, that could take some time although it shouldn’t as majority of the cable is owned by the OTTs. The configuration is pretty much the same except a few changes such as adding a branch to Guam. But this is SingTel’s worst nightmare as its entire new strategy I spoke about in my previous blog SingTel Changes The Consortium Model is being challenged by Apricot. And SIngTel is not taking this lying down. This is war and that’s the main reason for the significant delay in Apricot’s CIF. Read More……
Why Is Topaz So Critical For Google?
Topaz is the next-generation trans-Pacific cable that Google is working on. And this one is mostly a solo cable with nobody else getting access to it. I think it is fair to say that Google is relying heavily on this cable for its Pacific strategy which has changed significantly because of recent regulatory decisions by Team Telecom. With 7 years in the planning, PLCN is still not approved. A final decision is expected by April but with the Coronavirus issue, there is no telling what will happen. This has made Google completely re-think how it’s traffic will flow from the US to Asia. Carriers and OTTs not privy to this deal are at a significant disadvantage. Read More……
2020 Is Pretty Much Shot For The Submarine Cable Industry
The submarine cable industry is quite unique in the sense that every deal is very much international and cross-border. And ironically, while the video conferencing industry boosted the fortunes of the submarine cable industry, all the meetings have been held in person at exotic locations like Hawaii, Bali, Amsterdam, Cebu, Dubai and so on. Also, it is almost impossible not to have these negotiations in person because all of side deals take place one-on-one in dark bars after the general meetings are over. Now that travel to Asia is pretty much out of the question due to the Coronavirus problem, it is becoming an issue even in Europe with Italy under the scanner. Two of the biggest deals in the pipeline to be closed are 2Africa (Simba) and Blue Raman. But I know that already 2Africa is getting delayed as 2Africa North lands in Italy. And Blue Raman has a huge Telecom Italia component. There is no way that can be resolved by video conferencing. In my opinion, 2020 is going to be a time for reflection for the carriers of the world. Where did they go wrong and give up control of the entire industry to Facebook and Google? Read More……
XSite Modular Sold: Huge Win For Amy Marks
Prefab Cable Landing Station maker XSite Modular has been sold with Amy Marks keeping some equity in the company and cashing out at a very handsome profit. Amy has been relentless in her pursuit of convincing carriers in more than 40 locations that prefab CLS’s are better, more economical and can be constructed faster compared to custom builds. What I admire about Amy is she has been very successful in mostly a man’s world paving the way for scores of other women to enter the submarine cable industry. And selling a CLS in remote places in Africa or in one of the islands in the Pacific Ocean is no small feat — for a man or a woman. She achieved this success because she has been the best evangelist I have ever met and never taking No for an answer. Another reason I am happy for Amy is in an industry where there is one bad news after another in the private cable industry, there is finally some good news. I wish her the best of luck at her next gig with Autodesk. Read More……
Technology Change: Clear Path To A Petabit Cable
A major submarine cable vendor is planning to significantly upgrade its technology from SDM to SDM2. The SDM technology allowed for long-distance (trans-Atlantic) cables to carry 320 Tbps of traffic. The new SDM2 technology will enable achieving the 1 Pbps speed — something that is hard to get your head around. And it will be much more than that taking in to account the Shannon Limit. So what does that mean to the business? Well, to me its very clear. All of the cables that are being funded today will be financially obsolete within X years (X in the paid version). Now the game of Pass the Hot Potato will start. The game is to pass on the bandwidth to the next sucker as soon as you can and not be left with anything before the new technology hits the market. Let me tell you more about the change in technology, the vendor, the exact timeframes and precisely how the vendor is able to add so much new bandwidth. Read More……
I Have Found The Next Marseille
It is with 100% certainty I can say that I have found the next Marseille. As you know, Marseille not only changed the fortunes of the city but also that of France and to a large extent that of Europe as well. So this is a really big deal for the country I am talking about. There are only 4 companies (couple of usual suspects and couple of others) who are pouring money in to this place as if there is no tomorrow. Within the next 3-5 years, everyone will be saying I wish I knew about this before it is too late as it is in Marseille now. The influence is already huge. Google just told a private company that the only way Google would consider buying a fiber pair in that cable was if it landed in that country — and the cable configuration was changed. Is this place justified in being the next Marseille? Absolutely. I think I am pretty good at submarine cable strategy. But these guys are in a whole different league. You think Jio is good? These guys can run circles around Jio in the submarine cable space. Google and Facebook are bending over backwards to cater to their demands. Below is a complete analysis of why I am betting this place is the new Marseille with facts and figures and stories that will amaze you. Read More……
Billions Of Dollars Worth Of Bandwidth Will Now Be Financially Obsolete Even Before The Cables Are Funded
When I designed the Egypt-bypass cable 2 years ago, I knew I had a winner. However, I was not able to raise the $500 million it would take to build the cable — story of my life. To Google’s credit, they were able to do the deal because money is not really an issue for them. And I congratulate Google for running with my idea and turning it in to reality. Now the issue is what happens to the half a dozen other additional cables planned to go to Europe through Egypt? With heavy Egyptian signing fees of $XX million per fiber pair plus $YYY,000 to have the privilege of lighting up a 100 Gbps circuit (X & Y values in the paid version), the Blue Raman cable is at least 50% cheaper compared to the Egyptian route. Now the question is will the arrogant owners of the cables planning to cross Egypt put their heads in the sand and actually invest billions of dollars just to prove they can close the deals they started even if the cables will be financially obsolete before they are lit up? So they can declare victory and claim their hefty bonuses? Or will they stop the stupidity and copy the Blue Raman cable design and go through Israel? Do you hear me 2Africa (ex-Simba), Sea-Me-We-6, IEX, Majan, PEACE, Africa-1, AquaComms and the rest of the Masters of the Universe? Read More……
Google’s Behavior Is Shameful
Google has finally cracked what seemed like an impossibility to the entire telecom community for 3 decades — they figured out how to bypass Egypt through its new proposed cable, Blue Raman. And I am really happy they were mostly inspired by my design of this route 2 years ago. But hey as far as I am concerned, I am happy to contribute to the efforts of anybody who can achieve the impossible — bypass Egypt which has been the holy grail of the industry. But I am absolutely furious at Google that they are not sharing their cable with anyone else — unless of course for a huge premium. But the whole point of bypassing Egypt was that Thief Telecom Egypt has been stealing from the community for decades. Now Google wants carriers to give them the money instead of to Egypt? This is utterly shameful and reprehensible behavior on part of Google. Carriers of the world should condemn this greedy act on part of Google. Read More……
The Unbelievable Indian Telecom Disaster
From zero spectrum charges to the highest spectrum charges in the entire world, India never got the telecom industry right. From outright corruption in 2G spectrum allocation (giving one hour to submit multi billion dollar bids) to not changing the laws because they would get accused of corruption (in spite of a very clear unfair revenue sharing agreement), the Indian telecom industry is in a huge mess. Starting with a dozen or so carriers, they are down to 3 and most likely 2 after the dust settles. Investors and lenders have lost almost hundred billion dollars. And at the end of the day, what is this uniquely Indian and totally unfair tax called AGR? And which is the one single company that is not affected by it and will rule the Indian market probably forever? Read More……
The $900 Million Centurion Cable
We live in a strange industry where a $900 million cable does not raise eyebrows. And the Centurion cable is not the only one with that price tag — there is also the 2Africa cable — the Simba replacement. But there is a difference. The promoters of the Centurion cable — the mirage of the Egypt-bypass cable — are not the Facebooks of the world by any stretch of imagination. So are these guys on to something or never really left the pre-2000 submarine cable boom time and are stuck in a time warp? Read More……
SingTel Changes The Consortium Cable Model
SingTel has from the early days been a bellwether of changes to come in the submarine cable industry. For example, it was SingTel that introduced the concept of MIU*Km pricing for the first time in the industry in Sea-Me-We-We-3 that was responsible for the downfall of Flag to a large extent. Since then, the MIU*Km model became common in most consortium cables. SingTel is now focused on the demand/supply equation and the resulting price wars and low bandwidth prices which will have an existential impact on the carriers. I believe this new formula introduced by SingTel will be the de facto formula used by most consortium cables going forward. To get an early glimpse of SingTel’s thinking, I have spent a lot of time analyzing the impact on the global submarine cable industry. Read More……
How Much Impact Will Coronavirus Have On The Submarine Cable Industry?
With 3 cruise ships under quarantine in Japan right now, things are not going to go well for the installation and maintenance cable ships that ply the oceans of the world. This is especially true since much of the personnel from cable ships are sourced from multiple countries. In fact there are several Asian crewmen on board the ships that are working in Europe, Middle East and the Americas as well — all of whom need visas to enter the countries. So I think the next few months at least are going to be extremely difficult for the industry. It is possible that cable faults will not be repaired on time, ships will not be able to sail on time, there will be personnel issues on almost every ship, and so on. I pray that I am wrong and things will be business as usual but at a minimum, the industry has to prepare itself for the worst case scenario. Read More……
Amazon Shareholders Hurting Because Of Jeff Bezos’ Personal Hobby: Washington Post
You can argue both ways whether or not Washington Post is justified in writing what they write. But the reality is that Washington Post has nothing to do with Amazon — except it does. Because Jeff Bezos the founder and CEO of Amazon is also the 100% owner of Washington Post. And the biggest problem with WaPo is that it is no longer a newspaper. It is an extreme liberal mouthpiece and in this era of right-wingers coming to power in multiple regions around the world, WaPo is not liked — to put it very mildly. So what? Well, it didn’t matter until Amazon shareholders were not affected by Bezos’ pet hobby. But this is becoming a huge problem for them not only in the US but also in other countries around the world — and Amazon has lost Billions of dollars already — and more on the way. And how does this affect Amazon in the submarine cable space? Huuugely….. Read More……
PLCN Disaster Does Not Bode Well For Hong Kong As An Asian Data Center Hub
So finally, Google and Facebook got tired of waiting for Team Telecom to make a decision on PLCN, a submarine cable connecting the US to Hong Kong, Philippines and Taiwan. How much longer can you wait if permission is not granted for 7 years even when the entire cable is built with $500 million down the drain? So finally the US content providers have asked Team Telecom to allow them to send traffic only to Taiwan and Philippines and not to Hong Kong where the landing party is Dr. Peng, which is suspected of ties to PLA. With this development coupled with the political protests and the Coronavirus problem, Hong Kong in my opinion will become the pariah of the submarine cable industry. And Singapore is now the reigning king of Asia for data centers and as a hub. But there is a desperate need to find another data center hub — as replacement to Hong Kong. I have suggested one and am seriously thinking of building a cable there. Which is this country I am a big fan of? Read More……
Why Do Private Submarine Cables Fail?
From time to time, I get invited to bid on doing a feasibility study for a new submarine cable. And before I sign the NDA and get to know the project, I have a very simple question for the company wanting to do the study. Are they looking for a real study or they are looking for a CYA study? Because I will not take on a CYA study no matter how much money is at the table. Let me explain. First of all, CYA stands for Cover your A**. So typically in any private cable, you need a minimum of 3 studies — one by the entrepreneur, one by the fund investing equity and one by the bank or lender. Sometimes, even the vendor may need one if they are taking on substantial risk. Now let me explain how the system works. Read More……
Fiber Meltdown Starts In The Atlantic
As expected, GTT is about to officially put Hibernia on the block. GTT had bought Hibernia which includes Hibernia Express and Hibernia Atlantic cables for $590 million less than 3 years ago. GTT is seen as largely getting out of the pure infrastructure business and focusing on IP network services. So what has caused the meltdown so quickly? And what is the price carriers would be willing to pay for Hibernia’s assets? And how is it going to affect the remaining players in the Atlantic such as AquaComms? More importantly, who is going to buy this white elephant? The last I head in the market, GTT was willing to let these assets go for $400 million. What is the maximum I would be willing to pay for them and why? Read More……
I Have The Right To Re-Name The Blue Raman Cable
I was really happy when Google decided to name the India to Europe cable after Sir Chandrashekhara Venkata Raman. After all, he also also been honored by getting the Nobel prize as well as Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award and represents the new India with its high tech force around the world. However, the politics that went on behind closed doors where certain people did not want to honor an Indian were just horrible. And as a compromise, the Blue Raman name was agreed to keep everyone happy. The official reason given is it is an amalgamation of the Raman cable and Telecom Italia’s Blue Med cable which has been merged together. I totally disagree with this compromise formula. Raman should be honored in the entirety (Raman Cable). If that is not possible, then I should have the right to rename the cable. After all, the cable design has largely (98%) been influenced by the design I had published 2 years ago which is attached. I have submitted a new name — the Freedom Cable which represents freedom from Egypt. Blue Raman is not acceptable. Read More……
NTT’s MIST Deal Is In Danger
I first reported on NTT’s $350 million MIST deal (Singapore-Myanmar-Chennai-Mumbai cable) a couple of months ago and it really fascinated me because it was different than the usual submarine cable deals. So I spent a lot of time peeling the layers of the onion and trying to understand what was going on underneath. And I am convinced that this deal will be in financial trouble if it does go through. In order to analyze the deal, you need to first understand the motivation of NTT with their data center assets in every landing location and how the cable fits in to the equation. NTT is normally a very conservative company but the MIST deal is anything but. It is a pure speculative play and therein lies the trouble. Read More…
Chinese And Indians At Each Other’s Throats Over The Sea-Me-We-6 Cable
A war of sorts has erupted in the inner sanctum of the Sea-Me-We-6 Management Committee as Indians and Chinese have started fighting with each other over control of the $600 million cable. There are at least two major issues which has led to this unfortunate situation which I will talk in great detail as if I was the fly on the wall. One of the two issues revolves around the vendor selection. The Chinese carriers are adamant that Huawei should be given the contract and in fact, Huawei has been shortlisted and close to being awarded the contract. And what is Singtel’s stand on this issue? After all, SingTel is the Godfather of the Sea-Me-We franchise. And what is the even bigger second issue that has pitted the Chinese and Indians at each other’s throats? Read More…
I Am Proud Of Google’s Blue Raman Cable
More than 2 years ago, I had proposed a new cable which would be an acceptable solution to the Egypt crisis. And I am really happy that even though it took a while for Google to decide to finally have a face off with Egypt, they now have adopted the design I had proposed for the most part. Attached is the solution I had proposed. You are welcome, Google. The pleasure is mine. That doesn’t mean it is going to be easy sailing for the cable with intense opposition from Egypt. With regards to the name, Google is still having problems. They had proposed Infinity as the new name but unfortunately, similar to the Simba cable having IP infringement issues with Disney, Google ran in to the same issues with KDDi. This is why. So search for the new name continues. Read More…
Facebook’s New Strategy: Steal From Stupid Carriers And Give To The Smart Ones
For someone who needs to invest $150 to $250 million all in, in Facebook’s African network, these are the stupidest carriers in the entire world. You would think before investing that kind of money, they would at least spend 45 minutes hearing my speech on The Submarine Cable Crisis in Africa. But as they say, the stupid and their money are soon parted. And yet, there are the really business savvy carriers who have taken the time to really understand the game and negotiated a deal with Facebook which has resulted in them getting $50 million of free bandwidth without investing any money. Of course I am not kidding. Want to know more? Read More…
Massive Changes Expected In Egypt This Year
I can tell you with almost surety that massive changes will be forthcoming in the telecom sector in Egypt this year. For those that pay out tens of millions of dollars to the Egyptian government, this is a critical year. To begin with, the tree will be shaken and the the topmost branches will be the first to fall. Am I involved in some way in this shakeup? I can’t say but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. And I have two. Below are the pictures that will give some indication of what is going on. In my opinion, Egypt is sitting on a goldmine worth billions of dollars which is not being exploited. Read More…
Google Search Is On For A New Name For Blue Raman
After a huge embarrassment for the Google team who could not justify the name Blue Raman to their management after I called them out on my blog, search is on for a new name. One Googler was so mad at me that he said he would be happy to name the cable after me if I were to die soon enough. Aw…..so sweet of Google to consider giving me such an honor. But no thanks. I don’t want my soul to be in misery after my death for 25 years going from one cable to another, unable to find moksha. In any case, I have suggested one name which I think reflects the essence of the cable. Read More…
I Stand With Facebook On The Tierra Del Mar Cable Landing Issue
I blame the media for hyping up the story about Facebook’s Oregon landing of the Jupiter cable which also is owned by Amazon, NTT, Softbank and others. I am convinced that if Facebook were not involved in this cable, there would have been absolutely no news about the cable landing in Tierra Del Mar. The left media generally hates Facebook and often times, they go overboard. It is not fair. I cannot believe that a small hamlet of a town like Tierra Del Mar can hold a major submarine cable hostage. You may not like some things that Facebook does but to hold up a major cable that will be the lifeline of communications between Asia and the United States is just wrong. Read More…
Strange Request At PTC
Now I have been to every PTC meeting since the start. And I have had my share of interesting experiences. But this time, there was one request that came for 3 different people from 3 different companies that was the strangest of all. Each one independently requested me to write about their companies because they said their management gives them little information and they learn more from my blog about their companies than as an insider. Go figure. Read More…
Simba Is No More
For one of the largest corporations in the world in terms of market cap, I really don’t understand whether it was the arrogance or don’t care attitude of Facebook which resulted in getting a legal notice from Disney not to steal their intellectual property by naming the cable Simba after their world famous movie character. So Simba, the cable is no more. So what’s the new name of the cable now? Read More…
Microsoft Once More Enters The Submarine Cable Industry As An Investor
This is the third time Microsoft in entering the submarine cable industry. The first time was a complete and total disaster when it invested $50 million in Asia Global Crossing along with Softbank and lost all the money when the company went bankrupt. This was especially painful for me because I had a received a term sheet from Bill Gates and Masayoshi Son from Softbank to invest $50 million each in Project Oxygen but decided to opt for glamor rather than substance. Read More…
Google Should See a Psychiatrist Before It Names Another Cable
I mean seriously what is wrong with Google when it comes to naming cables? It has this obsession of naming cables with dead people’s names. And I have explained in detail why I don’t think it is ok in my LinkedIn article. I think they are confused now whether to listen to me or not as it has given two names to a project. Would any sane person even think of naming a cable Blue Raman? Most of the you would have a fit if you found out why. Read More…
I started thinking early last year: How can I contribute to the submarine cable industry in the coming decade that could have a lasting impact on the industry? Of course, I am a submarine cable developer Read More…
As everyone knows, I love writing I Was Wrong blogs which I write from time to time based on additional information my readers provide me on my initial observations. Read More…
In the last month, I have been writing pretty depressing articles about the submarine cable industry. But secretly, I was hoping I was wrong. Read More…
Facebook Wants Jio To Land Simba In India
Facebook is desperately trying to find sucker carriers to fund the $1 Billion Simba cable. And truth be told, carriers are falling for it. Read More…
NTT’s MIST Is Not A Submarine Cable Deal
I am sorry to throw a spanner in the works in to what seems from outside as a fast growing industry with huge potential and exciting growth prospects. Read More…
Do you remember when was the last time a new cable to India was announced? That was 2 years ago — a cable called IOX which never got fully funded and is now defunct. Before that? AAE-1. The Tagare cable stolen by Telecom Egypt 7 years ago. Before Read More…
Hong Kong’s Future As An Asian Hub Is Tainted
For the largest content providers in the world, the three biggest hubs in Asia have been Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. While Japan is a hub to many cables, it also is a destination country Read More…
Orange Is Hard Of Hearing
I mean seriously, how many times have I said that customers do not want to put their valuable data in a carrier-owned data center? Show me one carrier in the entire world Read More…
GTTs Fall A Writing On The Wall For Infrastructure Investors
Not too long ago, GTT was on a roll as everyone looked on in amazement as it bought company after company in disparate sections of the communications services industry and created a behemoth. GTT investors were thrilled to death as they saw the market cap of the company zoom up to $2.5 Billion Read More…
Indian Carriers Get A 2-Year Reprieve
The Indian Government came up with a financial package to help the carriers. Basically, they do not have to make the payments for 2 more years. Read More…
The Core Problem Facing The Industry
So with almost a dozen cables being planned for India, none of them have seen the CIF signed. And the companies behind these cables range from the largest content providers in the world to all the large carriers in India all the way to entrepreneurs with a powerpoint presentation and a dog. Read More…
A Solution For India
(And The World)
I forgot to mention one more thing about why I believe the private cable investments are dead. It’s the valuation. I mean seriously, these projects are so hard and when I looked at the valuation I received, I was saying to myself Read More…
The End Of Private Investments In Submarine Cables
Having gone through 2 years of trying to raise money for the Octopus cable — and having received a term sheet — and having turned it down — I have a very unique inside in to the investment climate for submarine cables. Read More…
Indian Carriers, Submarine Cables In Deep Trouble
Depending on whom you talk to, there are at least half a dozen to a dozen new cables being planned to land in India. Unfortunately, most of those cable plans will either not go through or will be put on hold indefinitely. Read More…
Smoke And Mirrors: New Orange Strategy
So Orange put out a press release Orange To Build International Network in West Africa. The press release is pretty impressive — it gives the impression that Orange is building out something similar to Google’s Equiano submarine cable plus additional cables in a number of West African countries. Seemed like at least a $500 million build. Pretty impressive. Read More…
Egypt Won The Battle But Lost The War
If there is any country in the entire world that could have been the world’s hub of the Internet, it was surely Egypt. With close to 20 cables now passing through Egypt, it could have been bigger than Marseille, Singapore and Hong Kong combined for hosting the world’s data. Read More…
Google Building An Egypt Bypass Cable
STC from Saudi Arabia initiated the Egypt-bypass industry about 5 years ago. What started off as a totally illegal, undercover business is now a healthy portion of STC’s wholesale revenues — and quite profitable as they do not have to pay the heavy Egypt-bypass fees. Read More…
Interxion Sold To Digital Realty
In what could probably be the largest merger in the data center industry, Digital Realty bought Interxion mostly for its 53 carrier-and-cloud carrier-neutral facilities in Europe. Read More…
Orange Cannot Be Trusted Any More
I have been trying to put the Octopus deal together for close to 2 years now. And while it took Ellalink 7 years to put its deal together, I was not willing to wait that long. Read More…
OTTs, Global Politics And Policy
So what prompted this blog was the recent decision by the US Defense department to award a $10 Billion War Cloud contract to Microsoft for its Azure platform rather than to the Amazon AWS platform. Read More…
Orange Is Not Acting In The Best Interests Of France
I have been really impressed by the Port Authority of Marseille with their bold initiative of creating a passage for submarine cables clear from the shipping routes to encourage more safety and security for the cables. Read More…
Orange Wholesale Nemesis Got A Huge Funding
When the undersea fiberoptic cable business got started in 1989, it quickly became a mafia business headed by AT&T with its side-kicks British Telecom, KDDi, SingTel and France Telecom (Orange). Read More…
Why I Am A Big Supporter Of Libra
Remember the pre-Uber days when calling a taxi was expensive, difficult and not to mention, a cumbersome process. And God forbid if you hailed a taxi on a street. More than likely, the taxi driver would refuse to take you Read More…
I Was Wrong About Egyptian Crossing Pricing
A happy day for me is when I get email from my dear friends in the industry telling me that I made a mistake. Because that keeps me grounded and I get to learn from my mistakes. Read More…
Israel Is Planning A High Density Cable To Europe
For more than 10 years, Bezeq has been trying hard to build a submarine cable from Elat to Djibouti. But no matter how hard they tried, it has not worked out because they realized it was impossible to get Egypt’s approval for permits to cross Egyptian waters in the Red Sea. Read More…
Why Is Nobody Talking About AAE-2?
What happened to the genius at Telecom Egypt who claims to have come up with the brilliant idea of AAE-1? Why is he not continuing to innovate and enrich the submarine cable world with his God-given super intelligence and wisdom? Read More…
The Black Marketeer Of The Submarine Cable Industry
India has 14 submarine cables landing in the country. India’s population is 1.4 Billion. Saudi Arabia’s population is 34 million of which 11 million are temporary workers Read More…
WhatsApp At The Heart Of The Kashmir Internet Blackout
Its been almost two months since the Indian government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A from the Indian constitution and made the region a formal territory of India administered as two separate centrally ruled regions called Ladakh and Kashmir. Read More…
Reliance Jio And Its Dhando
First of all, let me talk about the major embarrassment that took place in Singapore at SNW. On the very first day, Bill Barney, CEO of GCX was supposed to deliver the keynote speech and we all read in the news the very same day that GCX had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Read More…
Cybersecurity And Spooks In The Submarine Cable Industry
I have not seen as much talk about cybersecurity as there was in Singapore at SNW. There were only a handful of talks on the subject but the amount of talk on the sidelines was surprising. First of all, let me admit that I have been interviewed by the spooks multiple times. It goes with the territory. Read More…
The Many Woes Of PLCN
PLCN looked like a guaranteed winner on paper. What with Google as the US landing party with supposedly deep ties to Team Telecom joined by Facebook to the hip to share the CAPEX and Dr. Peng as the landing party in Hong Kong with deep ties to the PLA and therefore the Chinese government. Read More…
And Now India Interferes In US Presidential Elections!
Tired of always being on the receiving end of the Western media constantly interfering in the Indian elections and constantly telling Indian voters to vote against the Modi government, in a twist of grand irony, Read More…
Sea-Me-We-6 Sold Out Even Before Submitting An RFQ To Vendors
So Sea-Me-We-6 is sold out to any additional investors. An RFQ will be sent out to the vendors in the next couple of months. This is quite unusual even for SingTel. Usually, they involve the vendors much sooner in order to get a price point. Read More…
Africa Will Be Controlled Mostly By Non-African Carriers and OTTs
So now I have a clearer picture of what is going on with Simba. Facebook is expecting to have the CIF for Simba by the end of the year. Facebook along with five other carriers will be the only ones sitting at the table. Read More…
US Presidential Candidate Sues Google
Tulsi Gibbard, a Democratic Presidential candidate has sued Google for banning her advertising account after the first presidential debate when she was the number one candidate trending in the debate. Because of this ban, she did not even make the third debate and is now considered out of the race. Read More…
The Submarine Cable War Between Facebook And Google
Exactly two years ago in 2017, there was a grand meeting held at Google London headquarters between Google, Facebook, Vodafone, Seacom, MainOne and a couple other carriers interested in Africa and it was decided that everyone would participate in a single cable surrounding Africa Read More…
“I have known Sunil since the last 25 years and I look forward to his views on the industry. OpenCables blog has opened up a new window in to the industry of submarine cables and in my role as regulator it has helped me to better understand the fundamental role that submarine cables play in international connectivity.”
José S. Barros, Director of External Affairs, ANACOM (Regulator), Portugal