Postshow report: Submarine Networks World 2016

Telecom Asia Special Project Team
31 Oct 2016

The 19th annual Submarine Networks World conference in October marked 150 years of subsea communications since the first transoceanic able across the Atlantic, and found the industry looking very much to the future.

More than 400 delegates from more than 50 countries attended the two-day event, held at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, with discussions on future business models, technologies and challenges as undersea networks evolve in an increasingly connected world.

The opening address by TED speaker and author Parag Khanna focused on one of the main themes of the conference: Imagining the Future of Connectivity.

Drawing from key learnings from his latest book “Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization,” Khanna discussed the needs of a globally connected population and how it would drive the movement towards a “borderless world” where people would be netizens rather than citizens of nations.

A keynote panel comprising members from the telecoms industry, such as China Telecom, Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks and TE SubCom then joined content providers Facebook to discuss “Cables to 2020 – Cables of the Future.”

The panel discussed issues around the look of new cables route, and where they would terminate.

Is the industry building fast enough to meet the demands of a bandwidth hungry generation? The consensus that more building needed to be done as operators worked with content providers in new emerging business models.

Steve Alexander, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Ciena, the Gold sponsor of the event, tackled the issue of terabit submarine cables. Are they too big to fail?

Submarine technologies have ushered in a sea change of capacity increases in both new and existing cables. Channel speeds have leaped from 10Gbps to 100Gbps and have been squeezed even closer resulting in submarine cables capable of carrying terabits of data each second.

Alexander pointed out that a subsea cable fault that interrupts 120Gbps of traffic is bad enough, but one that interrupts tens of terabits of traffic is another.

The building of a more connected Asia Pacific was another key conference theme, as the industry discussed the creation of a new “digital Silk Road” where submarine infrastructure would play a key role in fostering economic growth and trade.

Ma Yanfeng, vice president of sales and marketing at Huawei Marine Networks, delivered a keynote address, pointing out that the low latency, less forwarding nodes backbone networks would be the cornerstone of regional and even global communication.

Ma said Huawei Marine had proposed the concept of submarine cable with ultra-large capacity, ultra-low latency, simple operation and maintenance, with a high efficiency based on an OTN network integrating submarine and land cables into a unified backbone network.

He also suggested a “+ T-SDN” strategy to provide an agile backbone network for carriers in the future.

This would allow them, he said, to achieve on-demand bandwidth, latency monetization, IP+Optical Synergy and resource utilization maximization.

Huawei Marine director Xu Jintao participated in the day two panel discussion on “Creating the Foundation for Asia’s Digital Silk Road.”

He said the construction of maritime high-speed infrastructure was an important priority in the creation of a Maritime Silk Road, because existing submarine cables could not meet the needs of the region, particularly in emerging countries where bandwidth was still expensive.

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