Typography

EXA Infrastructure, the largest dedicated digital infrastructure platform connecting Europe and North America, today announced the commissioning of a new fiber optic network link between London and Paris that is now the most direct route, and the first under the English Channel for 20 years.

The new route will offer greater capacity, resiliency and the lowest latency digital infrastructure connecting the two financial and data center hubs, with a data round trip taking less than 5.5 milliseconds.

The single fiber pair link will run over Crosslake Fiber’s new 550-kilometre CrossChannel cable from the data center hub of Slough, UK, through London and then directly to Paris via the shortest route possible, including sub-sea between Brighton, UK, and Veules-Les-Roses, France. This enables lower operating costs due to fewer amplification sites and a reduced risk of outages. It forms an integral part of the most critical digital network routes in western Europe that carry traffic between the economic hubs of Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris.

“This new link will boost network capacity significantly, and bring the ability to carry data over more diverse routes between the UK and mainland Europe as we continue to broaden our geographic coverage to lead our sector. It will also become a critical part of the chain that connects European digital infrastructure with North America over transatlantic sub-sea cables,” said Ciaran Delaney, Chief Operating Officer, EXA Infrastructure.

“CrossChannel is a welcome tonic now and for the future, as many of the fiber optic cables that were laid across the English Channel in the late 1990s and early 2000s are nearing the end of their commercial and technical lifespans. It will make sure there is sufficient capacity between London and Paris now and well into the future, making use of the very latest technology,” he said.

Earlier this month, EXA announced capital investment of €190 million, due to rise to €340 million by its first anniversary in September, across its European network. The program will see 7,000 kilometers of new terrestrial and sub-sea routes created, and dark fiber lit to increase capacity on many existing links.

EXA Infrastructure’s capacity on that cable comes as it builds up its own European footprint. EXA was created in September 2021 after the acquisition by private equity firm I Squared Capital of GTT Communications’ Europe-wide, subsea and North American network infrastructure and data center assets. It claims to have invested €190 million in adding over 7,000 kilometers of network across Europe in its first half-year, with a promised additional capex outlay of up to €150 million before its September anniversary. (Via other portfolio companies I Squared Capital says it has committed over $3 billion to over 120,000 route kilometers of fiber globally…)

It was the second “complex carve-out of fiber and data center assets from an integrated telecom company to an independent, carrier-neutral infrastructure platform that we have completed,” Gautam Bhandari, Managing Partner at I Squared Capital said at EXA Infrastructure’s launch last year and EXA — which owns 112,000 kilometers of fiber network across 32 countries via a network linking 300 cities — rapidly landed a marquee customer in London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG), for which it is providing on-network dark fiber, wavelength and Ethernet services via LSEG’s new co-lo Isle of Dogs site (the LSEG migration cutover is October 15).

“Current subsea systems are all nearing their commercial and technical maximum lifespan of approximately 25 years… all subsea systems between the UK and Western Europe were deployed in and around 1999/2000. There is a growing risk the UK could become digitally isolated unless a new generation of subsea fiber systems is deployed” it said at launch.

To EXA Infrastructure’s Andrew Haynes — who joined earlier this year from global IP backbone provider Arelion, where he was COO — such historical underinvestment continues to leave scars on the industry.

“I would say that — because of the nature of the legacy investments that were made years ago [during] years of capital constraint — that institutional memory about being poor all the way through the [market] lows drives a lot of behaviour. A lot of the execs in this industry cannot help but reach back to [the days of] ‘how did I manage the company when we only had three pennies to rub together?'” he says wryly.

“The consequences of that are internal management setups and paradigms where [as an industry] we’ve historically just not really good at leaning into customer demand and going, ‘how can I help? I’ve got a solution!’ We’re sort of better as an industry at going, ‘oh, let me kind of think about that. I’m going to need to go and do a lot of modelling and then talk to the CFO 27 times before we can make him an offer…”

The new London-Paris fiber optic link and EXA’s own European investment are a welcome sign that appetite for dramatically upgraded infrastructure has returned,

“But if you look at the way that companies are reinventing themselves around information utilisation, you can look at two different companies that are in agriculture or financial services or insurance or in music and they have wildly different approaches to what they’re doing with data, how they’re using data, and therefore the intensity with which they need the infrastructure that supports that” he says, speaking on June 20.

“In retail for example, there are retailers with electronic Point-of-Sales to the shops, and that’s it. Then there are retailers that have blanketed the shop with video, with sensors, with music that’s optimized in real-time via data centers algorithmically to try and nudge people to purchase more stuff! When you look at a shop needing to connect to a data center, what’s really happening is back in those — probably two or three — data centers, there is a wealth of complexity in the calculations that are happening between different data sets and different data centers, trying to calculate what should happen next. It’s in that area that we see this explosive growth: It’s that data center-to-data center; cloud-to-cloud; intercloud-to-intercloud; application layer on the most digitally-driven companies.