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Signals of Success: What to Look for in Submarine Cable Press Releases

Network

By Jayne MillerOct 3, 2019

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I'm a cynic and you can be one, too!

This was the title of Tim Stronge's presentation during a recent webinar we did with our friends at Ciena.

Our favorite neighborhood cynic came bearing an important public service announcement for webinar attendees: just because you see a flashy slide deck or press release about a new submarine cable doesn't mean it's going to happen.

Just because you see a flashy slide deck or press release about a new submarine cable doesn't mean it's going to happen.

 

But this doesn't mean that we can't glean useful information from press releases. You just need to know how to read between the lines.

Tim reviewed 82 cables that made official announcements but ultimately failed. This gave him starting data on what the releases had in common—what we might consider indicators of failure.

Inversely, he also thought about what the announcements were missing and what might be indicators of a successful project.

First up was listing specific landing points.

Press releases that list specific landing locations illustrate more planning than those that draw a generic line between two countries. At the very least, pinpointing the cities where a cable will land is promising.

About half of the 82 failed cables mentioned specific landing points. It's a good start, but not a silver bullet in assessing the success of a cable project.

What about route kilometers? It's a similar story.

Press releases that show thought has gone into planning an actual route have more promise than those that draw a straight line between two countries. It proves that maybe some engineering work has already happened, which is positive.

In our compilation of failed cables, we see again that about half included route kilometers. It's good to see, but not a slam dunk in assessing the likelihood of completion.

When we get to construction cost, we start to get somewhere. 

Of the reviewed press releases that mentioned construction cost, 32% failed. This means that some engineering work has been done and it's likely that prospective cable owners have already paid for a feasibility study and gotten feedback from vendors.

 

Of the reviewed press releases that mentioned construction cost, 32% failed. This means that some engineering work has been done and it's likely that prospective cable owners already paid for a feasibility study and got feedback from vendors.

Tim also looked beyond press release language, scrutinizing who was writing and sending the cable announcement.

It turns out, a good indicator of cable success is if the release comes from an existing carrier and/or cable operator. Unsurprisingly, these players were more likely to shepherd their project through successfully. Only 21% of reviewed releases from a carrier or cable operator failed.

Even better? Including potential capacity or the number of fiber pairs in the proposed cable. This suggests that owners have done required engineering work and are fairly far along in the planning process. For both of these categories, we saw one in five projects fail within our sample set.

It turns out that a great indicator of success is if vendor selection is mentioned in the release.

We're getting to the cream of the crop now. It turns out that a great indicator of success is if vendor selection is mentioned in the release. This means that a specific vendor is announced and has attached their name to the release. Only 11% of projects that included a vendor announcement failed within our set of 82.

Finally, the best indicator Tim found in looking through press releases was whether or not a specific content provider was listed as participating in the initial investment. If you see Google or Amazon or Facebook attached to a press release—and their involvement is official—there's a great chance that cable is gonna make it. To date, 0% of those cables have failed. 

To learn more about why these content providers have such a high success rate, quagmires that any cable owner might face, and understanding trial announcements, listen to the full webinar.

 

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Tim Stronge

Tim Stronge

Tim Stronge is VP of Research at TeleGeography. His responsibilities span across many of our research practices including network infrastructure, bandwidth demand modeling, cross-border traffic flows, and telecom services pricing.

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