“A disruptive change for the Indian Ocean Region”

An interview with Greg Varisco, CEO, Cinturion Corp Ltd.

Editor’s Note: Cinturion Corp Ltd. and Stonecourt Capital recently announced a collaboration agreement that will lead to a new submarine and terrestrial fiber optic cable system providing new routes between India and Europe.  Known as the Trans Europe Asia System (TEAS), it will connect 10 countries with approximately 9,000 kilometers of fiber optic cable.  Cinturion’s goal is to start the manufacturing process for the system in the latter part of this year.  It will take about a year to manufacture and a year to install.  The company is looking to have it ready and delivering services to our customers in early to mid-2023. 

SubCableWorld had the pleasure to speak with Greg Varisco, CEO of Cinturion, about the new project.

Greg Varisco: “In recent years, there has been a buildout of new submarine cable systems in the Atlantic which I led, and Pacific using the latest technologies.  Recognizing the need for  disruptive change in the Indian Ocean region for routes to Europe, I realized we had all the key relationships to do this.   The challenge of putting a private cable across the Indian Ocean was to be able to obtain rights-of-way and true diverse routes that would be needed to make a real impact on the market.

TEAS will consist of several submarine cables, called Med West (MW) and Med East (ME), which run from Marseilles, France, and Bari, Italy, to the Eastern Mediterranean coast.  A third subsea cable, known as India Middle East (IME), will run from Aqaba, Jordan, to Thuwal, KSA; Oman, UAE; and Ras Al Khair, Bahrain, and have two branches extending to Mumbai. A unique feature of TEAS will be two terrestrial fiber networks across Jordan and Saudi Arabia.  This will provide true diversity along a route that traditionally passes through Egypt.

As private cables are doing and have done in the other regions, ours needed to be designed as an Open Cable system.  For us, this really entails three aspects:

The first aspect is that our customers can use whatever technology their vendors offer on the fiber pairs they use and they are able to operate those pairs at their data center.  In this way, we’re providing fiber connectivity from data center to data center, not just cable station to cable station.

The second is that we can backhaul with multiple providers out of the cable station to the data center.  This will enable us to make our solutions economical and really bring something to market that is innovative and continues to be able to deliver high amounts of capacity and lower the cost per bit.  But to do so we need to be able to have competitive backhaul routes in each of the countries.  With that as a driver, we want to bring both a diverse route and an Open Cable system model, with the system deployed with a single owner where we have a customer relationship with each of our fiber buyers and be able to implement and operate the system.  We had to go through a rigorous process to find the right partners in each of the countries.  This project involves 10 countries and so it was quite a bit of work that had to be completed to make sure that we went about this the right way and that the partners that we work with also subscribe to the same philosophy about the way this new infrastructure with all new cabling would be put in going through their areas.

The third innovation is the technology that we’ll be using.  We’re putting in the latest optics.   All of the previous cables across the Indian Ocean had to have regeneration in the middle of the system.  We’re bringing end-to-end connectivity where you can plug your SLTE in India and you can plug your SLTE in Europe and there’s nothing but amplifiers across the system.  We have no regeneration requirements.  The only way to achieve that is with all new cable.  The subsea and the terrestrial portions are designed as an integrated system.

We have one of the most experienced teams put together to do a project like this and as a result, there are a lot of capabilities in the team when it came to working with each of the countries along the route.

To get private equity comfortable in funding a diverse route, the first thing they are very concerned about is “can this really be done?”  They become skeptical about your timelines and your implementation plans.  So that’s why it’s really critical to have a team with a very successful track record for projects that they can look into.  They can see you’ve got all the battle wounds, you’ve been through it before and you know what you have to achieve to have that credibility with investors.

Once we went about selecting the in-country partners, then we could show to the funding that we had a slightly different model to go about this and that was instead of the company getting its own license in each of these 10 countries that we traverse, we’re working with existing license service providers in each of the 10 countries.  So there’s an important shift there.  That’s why that selection process of who that service provider would be is so important, because you’re getting somebody that already has a relationship with the ministry, with the regulator in that country.  And we’re expanding their scope by them partnering with us on an international system.  Being able to bring those partners to the table for credibility who are known in country and respected within the country, we brought a package of markers that they can see could accomplish this.  They’re already putting cables in every day.  We’ve built systems many times.

Our goal was to bring that credibility to the project by bringing in those partners from the 10 countries.  That gave a lot of comfort to the investors that we had the right things that you want to kick the box on to make sure before you start putting dollars out to risk that you can look at our designs, and how we went about selecting our vendors and you can see a credible package being presented that investors had confidence that we work very closely with customers.  So they didn’t have to approve the design.  That was being approved by the customers.  And then the customers approve of our partners.

The investors can see how all these things come together and work together.  That’s a critical part: have an experienced, credible team, credible partners, you bring in the right suppliers, the right design, they have the right track record, and then that attracts the customers.  That’s all important that you’re patient and have the capability to not just try cram it through the investors to get a quick deal but to really take the time to work with them on their due diligence and close the funding.”

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