“It’s the lowest latency carrier-class solution,” said Schwartz of the cable, is ready for service this week. More than that, “we can activate circuits within 24 hours”, he added. “You sign with us, you pay for the capacity and you get it as fast as Amazon delivers to your house – or faster.”
It can do this via a close relationship with network equipment company Infinera, which operates the systems on Seaborn’s part of the cable. “We can help our customers use time as a weapon,” said Tom Fallon, CEO of Infinera: the company can turn on bandwidth for Seaborn’s customers in 30 minutes.
Infinera has a financial incentive to be fast, he added. “I get paid when Larry gets paid,” he said. The close relationship means there is not even any need for Seaborn to touch the infrastructure: capacity can be turned up and down fast, virtually at well.
Fallon and Schwartz were speaking to Global Telecoms Business in an interview just before the new cable went into service. The hardware on Seaborn’s part of the cable is already provisioned, “every line card”, said Fallon, using Infinera’s own photonic integrated circuits. “I believe we’ll change the industry. We will be able to deliver in minutes not weeks. Why would anyone want to do it differently?”
Both Fallon and Schwartz believe this model will be used for new subsea cables as they are laid to replace current infrastructure, much of which dates back to the late 1990s and the early years of this century.
The subsea industry’s normal business model – since as long as anyone can remember – is based on indefeasible rights of use (IRUs) lasting up to 15 years, or leases. “We have a hybrid between leases and IRUs,” he said, saying the company aims at asking for steady monthly payments even as capacity increases.
“You can light more wavelengths as and when the customer needs them. The proof will be in the pudding,” said Schwartz. “It will be real when the world starts talking about it.”
Seaborn is the developer, owner and operator of Seabras-1, but other companies also have some capacity on the new cable, including Tata Communications and TIM as well as “a number of other companies”. TIM “is buying three fibre pairs”, said Schwartz, but no one is saying any more about how much capacity has been picked up.
The other significant group of customers for Seaborn is high-frequency traders, for which low latency is of paramount importance. The subsea fibre is continued, all in fibre, from the landing points – without going through a shore landing station at either end – right to the local PoP. “By definition that makes it more reliable.” Most downtime on previous cables is not caused by subsea breaks but by faults on the links to the nearest PoP. Seaborn avoids that with Seabras-1.
“We’re an entrepreneurial company and our mission is to turn up capacity as fast as possible. Our definition of quality of service includes accurate invoices, good service-level agreements and the ability to activate circuits in less than 24 hours,” said Schwartz.
“In the past customers expected to sign a contract and pay, and then expected to wait 60 to 120 days to get lit capacity. With Infinera the delivery is less than 30 minutes instead of days or weeks. Infinera will light capacity as and when the customer needs it.”
Seaborn is looking at other markets for this kind of approach. “We’ve made no secret of our interest in Brazil to Argentina, and across to Cape Town, from where we can pull traffic from the Middle East and India,” said Schwartz. “That would be a nice new alternate route.” And such a link would appeal to companies building cloud platforms in South Africa.
According to Fallon, Infinera “has talked about this [pay when you want the capacity] model to a lot of people”. He likened the model to internet service as a utility. The company’s digital signal processors and photonic integrated circuits are playing a part in enabling this new model, he added. “In the future we’re talking about 400-600Gbps per wavelength.”