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Tags: Submarine
September 21, 2017

Andy Bax Talks About Turning Up Seabras-1

By Scott Jackson
Vice President, Subsea Business Group

Andy Bax, COO at Seaborn Networks
Andy Bax, COO at Seaborn Networks

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Andy Bax, Chief Operating Officer of Seaborn Networks. Our discussion is captured below.

Scott: Thanks for taking the time to chat today, Andy.  Can you start by telling us a bit about Seaborn Networks?

Andy: We are the only truly independent developer-owner-operator of submarine cable systems, which enables us to be flexible in both our architecture and business approach to building and operating subsea cable systems. Everything we do is in house, and from our design and engineering teams to our fully operational network operations centers (NOCs), sales and finance teams, our entire organization is solely focused on subsea.

Seaborn Networks

Scott: What is Seaborn’s business model and what makes you different? 

Andy:  We’re changing the way submarine cable capacity is bought and sold by introducing the industry’s first carrier-ne

utral business model. We combine innovative pricing and agreements that are only possible with the flexibility of an independent cable operator. We’re using a “pay-as-you-grow” model for content providers, carriers, governments and internet service providers (ISPs).

Scott: What can you tell us about Seabras-1?

Andy: It’s our subsea cable from New York City to São Paulo. The system is the culmination of more than five years of hard work and more than $520 million USD of project financing. It’s owned by the Seabras Group, a combination of Seaborn and our equity investor Partners Group, and provides an exciting platform for future systems. With a projected build time of 18 months, Seabras-1 was ready for operation on time and on budget!

Seaborn Networks’ Seabras-1 Subsea Cable
Seaborn Networks’ Seabras-1 Subsea Cable

Scott: That’s a great story! What are the reach and capacity of Seabras-1?

Andy: Seabras-1 is a combination of over 10,600 kilometers (km) of submarine fiber, more than 750 km of terrestrial fiber, and 13 points of presence (POPs) spread across São Paulo, New York, New Jersey and two cable stations. As the longest in-service, fully coherent subsea system designed specifically for 100 gigabits per second (Gb/s) technology from day one, until a little while ago it was expected to support 12 terabits per second (Tb/s) per fiber pair of capacity. However, we were very pleased to recently set an industry benchmark for capacity-reach performance by verifying up to 18.2 Tb/s for one of our Seaborn fiber pairs using 8QAM with the Infinera XTS-3300.

Scott: Thank you. We were very pleased and excited as well about this achievement. Besides the wet plant or government approvals, what was your biggest concern over getting Seabras-1 into service on time?

Andy: The list of potential challenges in building a cable system of this magnitude, together with the enhanced terrestrial networks across so many different POP locations, is way too long to write down, but as a seasoned project team we focused heavily on ensuring that we not only picked the best construction and permitting/licensing partners possible, but also worked closely with them to maintain the timelines we had set ourselves. Front of our minds at all times was making sure we did not make the same mistakes that are often made on projects like this, so we made sure, for example, that our cable stations, backhaul fiber networks and POP locations were secured and in place well before the subsea cable was ready to be lit. I think for many people in our sector, the fact that our cable station and terrestrial network in Brazil were ready well ahead of the date we needed them was a major accomplishment for Seaborn. That’s not to say we didn’t run into challenges along the way, but they were nothing that we didn’t expect and that we had plans for how to address ahead of time.

Scott: Did it take longer than expected to get the initial link results once the subsea fibers were available?

Andy: I have to say that we were both amazed and delighted with how quickly the initial link results from Infinera were available. In less than 30 minutes, Seabras-1 was active and performance expectations were exceeded. Of course, we just shrugged as if we’d expected that to be the case all along, but the Infinera project folks knew we were delighted.

Scott: Thanks for the compliment! What do you feel is the biggest differentiator that you have as a subsea cable operator?

Andy: Our innovation, focus on service and flexibility. As examples, our SeaCloud and on-demand services. In an industry where capacity can only be bought in set amounts and takes weeks if not months to deliver across what are fairly basic networks, we have taken the view that in today’s cloud environment that’s just not acceptable. We’re taking the pain out of international connectivity with flexible bandwidth offerings that grow as you do and that we deliver within two days. We’re also delivering SeaSpeed, providing the lowest latency link between the financial centers of Brazil and the U.S. When you take our enhanced level of service, SeaSpeed and the fact that Seabras-1 is the only direct cable system between the U.S. and Brazil, this is a game changer in our industry and a key factor in enabling a broader competitive landscape on key international routes.

Scott: How did Infinera help you realize SeaCloud?

Andy: It’s the cloud scale Instant Bandwidth solution that starts with the DTN-X XTS 3300. It’s a high-capacity 1 rack unit (1RU) rack-and-stack meshponder that fits into the data center but connects directly to the wet plant and delivers outstanding capacity-reach performance. With a click of a mouse we can turn up 100G instantly. Combined with Infinera’s bandwidth-on-demand service, we are able to add network capacity within minutes, as opposed to going through the traditional, and painful, upgrade path. This means we can deliver our SeaCloud service to anyone on any scale.

Scott: That’s the power of Instant Bandwidth. And may I ask why you chose Infinera?

Andy: We look for certain attributes in a partner and in any relationship that we commit to. In Infinera we have a partner that is leading the field in technology and deployment capabilities and has shown a commitment to our partnership that matches our own. Just as importantly for us, we see Infinera as being very much aligned with our thinking and approach with innovation, flexibility and a willingness to work with us, even on our craziest of ideas! At the end of the day it’s all about delivering on your promises, and they have not missed a beat.

Scott: We all agree with that! What’s next for Seaborn?

Andy: With Seabras-1 now ready for operations, we are excited about changing the landscape of subsea cable operations and leading the field in terms of service and delivery performance. And of course, there are more subsea cables to come. We’ll shortly be starting the build of Argentina’s first independent subsea cable system connecting it to Brazil (ARBR) and linking it with Seabras-1. There are plenty more subsea cable opportunities for us out there, and we’ll be making some exciting announcements in the coming months around what they are.

For more information on Infinera’s subsea solutions, please contact us.

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Andy Bax is Chief Operating Officer at Seaborn Networks. Infinera thanks him for his contribution.

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