Ed McCormack, VP international accounts and submarine systems at Ciena, a global network solutions firm, sees strong growth potential in the region.
CommsMEA Tell me about Ciena’s presence in the Middle East. How has business been in the past few years?
We have been in the Middle East now for coming up to three years, and we have established a very strong presence primarily in expanding domestic networks. We won our first carrier Ethernet deal in the Middle East last year. We are building private networks. We also had a significant role in the upgrade of SeeWeMe4, which is a cable from Asia to Europe and we have been building on that with upgrades to cables owned by Reliance and we see several other upgrade opportunities on the horizon.
CommsMEA Do you mainly work with subsea cables?
We are a global network solutions provider so we offer a submarine solution, and end-to-end solution, a switching solution that goes end-to-end and then we support data centre development and mobile backhaul, so we are agnostic with regard to terrestrial and submarine. The products we have perform equally well on a terrestrial basis or a submarine basis. Rather than upgrade the submarine element of a network, we upgrade it on a city to city basis. This is particularly important on some routes like the Atlantic, where there are markets for high volume capacity for internet backbones and markets for high frequency trading which are driven primarily by lower latency.
CommsMEA How do you go about upgrading an undersea cable?
The upgrade is a physical process that requires putting equipment at each end. You don’t touch the underwater element at all. We take equipment that has been installed in the last one to 15 years and put alongside it or replace it entirely with equipment that is a fraction of the size, consumes a fraction of the power and has many times the service levels and capacity. We believe that most cables that have been built over the last 15 years are upgradeable to some extent and that their capacity can be multiplied. We know of instances where capacity has been increased 10-fold.
CommsMEA How do you see this sector panning out in the next few years?
What’s obvious in this business is that demand is soaring and to meet that the offering needs to improve. During a recession you can’t meet the booming demand without price reductions, which come about through competition and liberalisation that we have seen here. The good thing in this region at the moment is that more cables are coming into service, like GBI, and cables like SEMEWE4 and IMEWE are being upgraded so you have the ability to load balance across different cables. When one cable upgrades it does tend to drive the upgrade of other cables simply because you have got to be able to load across different cables.