Infinera in fast provisioning deal for new subsea cable

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Seaborn and Infinera promise capacity in 30 minutes on new Seabras-1 cable. Alan Burkitt-Gray talks to the two CEOs involved in the new project

Tom_Fallon_350Larry Schwartz, CEO of Seaborn Networks, is promising a latency of 105ms between its point of presence (PoP) in metro New York and its PoP in São Paulo, Brazil, via the new Seabras-1 cable. 

“It’s the lowest latency carrier-class solution,” says Schwartz of the cable, which was ready for service in the first days of September. 

More than that, “we can activate circuits within 24 hours”, he adds. “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,” says 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 adds. “I get paid when Larry gets paid,” he says. 

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 will. Fallon and Schwartz were speaking to Global Telecoms Business in an interview days before the new cable went into service. 

Deliver in minutes 

The hardware on Seaborn’s part of the cable is already provisioned, “every line card”, says 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 says, adding that the company aims 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,” says 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”, says 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. 

Turn up capacity 

“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,” says Schwartz. 

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,” says 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 likens the model to a type of 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 adds. “In the future we’re talking about 400-600Gbps per wavelength.”