Peter Zwinkels is the Chief Commercial Officer responsible for driving global commercial strategy and product development for Aqua Comms’ transatlantic network solutions. He has over 15 years of experience in sales and business development in the global telecommunications industry.


SubOptic 2016 is one of the biggest events in the submarine networking industry, and is taking place this week in Dubai. One of the hottest topics to be discussed is the deployment of new submarine cables in many regions of the world for commercial, competitive, diversity, modernization, and even political reasons. Aqua Comms is one of these new submarine cables being turned up and represents a new breed of submarine cable. Brian Lavallée, Director of Portfolio Marketing at Ciena, sat down with Peter to discuss the submarine networking market.


Brian: For those new to your company, who is Aqua Comms?

Peter: Aqua Comms is the owner and operator of two fully operational subsea cable systems; namely, CeltixConnect and AEConnect (America-Europe Connect).  CeltixConnect (131km) connects Dublin (Ireland), to Holyhead (Wales, UK), and AEConnect (5522km) connecting Killala (Ireland), to Shirley (US), enabling high capacity services between New York, Dublin, and London. AEConnect represents one of the first transatlantic cables to be built in over a decade, with existing public customers that include Microsoft and PCCW.


Brian: What is the corporate vision of Aqua Comms?

Peter: We see that there is a market opportunity for us to address the growing demand for capacity generated by Cloud and Content service providers, and want to continue to build subsea fiber routes that meet the demands of those players, in both capacity and routing. New routes will likely follow the same philosophy as our current systems: they will be optimized for the highest capacity and reliability, and designed to be open networks that connect the key data centers, which are open to customers and partners. The high reliability is achieved by a combination of choosing the shortest route (with deep burial and least shallow water exposure) of the continental plates and by offering diverse backhaul routes that offer quick restoration in case of a network fault.

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Brian: What’s unique to your specific business model that sets you apart from the competition?

Peter: Our unique business model allows our customers to buy and/or lease dedicated subsea cable dark fiber and/or lease high capacity managed services across our high capacity and high reliable transatlantic route. Our network is designed to meet specific application and business requirements of content providers, cloud-based networks, data centers, IT companies, and the global media. Flexible services further differentiate our business model.


Brian: Why did Aqua Comms decide to build your new transatlantic AEConnect submarine cable?

Peter: The transatlantic corridor is one of the highest capacity submarine cable routes in the world. Respected analyst firm TeleGeography forecasts transatlantic traffic to grow at +40% CAGR to 2021, much of which is Data Center Interconnect (DCI) traffic. Although existing submarine cables serve this undersea information highway, much of this subsea infrastructure has been in operation for decades, so although there have been Submarine Line Terminating Equipment (SLTE) upgrades to the latest in coherent modem technology, the wet plant itself was optimized for non-coherent 10G channels. The AEConnect wet plant itself is optimized for coherent SLTE modems for optimal performance. This places us in a unique position to offer highly differentiated services that scale alongside our web-scale customers, which we interconnect across the Atlantic Ocean.


Brian: What can you tell us about your new AEConnect submarine cable?

Peter: AEConnect is designed around a coherent-optimized cable. By letting the Digital Signal Processing (DSP) technology embedded in our SLTE transponders compensate for wet plant dispersion, transponder reach is upwards of 2.5 times better when compared to traditional subsea cables designed around 10G technology. We’ve already successfully trialed 8QAM modulation on AEConnect and expect that with the next generation of coherent modem technology, 16QAM may be possible on the same cable, which will further improve the spectral efficiency.


Brian: How is AEConnect different from other transatlantic submarine cables?

Peter: Besides being a coherent-optimized subsea cable, AEConnect is also different in the way it was designed to address emerging transatlantic DCI market demands. We’ve incorporated the most important data center locations in New York, Dublin, and London as key Points of Presence (PoP) into our network. Our network is also designed to allow us to put 100G SLTE transponders directly in data center locations, by leveraging Ciena’s GeoMesh solution, which creates a 100G end-to-end connectivity between any of our data center PoPs. We also differentiate our end-to-end network via backhaul route diversity from Cable Landing Stations (CLS) to our inland PoPs allowing us to quickly and proactively restore our customer services in case of a network fault.


Brian: What is Aqua Comm’s view related to open submarine networks?

Peter: We are firm believers in an open network and all of the values and benefits that it offers to network operators and end users. As such, we’ve chosen the best of both worlds for our wet plant and SLTE solutions allowing us to open up our spectrum so customers can choose their own SLTE solution, subject to approval, of course. We offer carrier-neutral transatlantic high capacity connectivity with PoPs strategically located in primary data center locations, which are also open to customers and partners. The biggest benefit of openness is that it allows us at Aqua Comms to choose best-in-breed networking technologies across a broader range of vendors, which allows our services to also be best-in breed and highly differentiated today, and in the future.


Brian: Why did you choose to work with Ciena?

Peter: Aqua Comms prefers to work with vendors that implement a consultative approach. This allows us to work with a partner, not a supplier. Ciena has made significant inroads into the submarine upgrade market over the past few years by offering best-in-breed SLTE products that are an integral part of their GeoMesh solutions. We wanted to match our modern coherent-optimized wet plant to SLTE products from Ciena, who pioneered coherent technology overland and undersea. We’re also working with Ciena to offer encrypted transatlantic services that allow our customers to securely connect their PoPs, which further differentiate Aqua Comms from the other submarine cable operators serving the transatlantic corridor. Ciena understands submarine networks.

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