The impact of the Covid-19 has been unprecedented all around the world. Even the industry that is spread around to the bottom of the seas of the world has not been safe. Global telecom infrastructure and subsea network industry as a key element of that has gone through interesting times that will affect our world for a long time.
EVP Taneli Vuorinen at Cinia remembers that the first signs of the crisis were seen already in January.
"Our international technology vendors indicated that the virus and related threat of the pandemic might have an impact on supply chain and hardware deliveries in the coming months. Fortunately, we managed well through the rapidly changing situation especially in March in Finland and near-by countries", Vuorinen says.
Increasing need for bandwidth and diversity
After the initial shock it seems that the crisis did not put Cinia, or the industry, in such a difficult situation after all. Of course, times have been peculiar, but the crisis has had its upsides, too; as the global business world readjusted itself to a more or less remote work mode, demand for bandwidth has been huge. Communications is critical in today’s normal situation and specifically in times like these the whole industry is stressed to the edge. Submarine networks provide the core infrastructure for global communications.
"There has been a clear acceleration of new capacity deployment in the magnitude of terabytes. More and more services offered or required by the societies, business and private users are available only in digital form, either totally or to certain extent", Vuorinen points out.
The challenge has been to maintain normal operations when the world is closing down. When borders are closed, logistical challenges are certain. This has been challenging for the supply chains but also for the subsea cable maintenance. During the pandemic there have been a number of malfunctions in the strategic subsea cables around the world. The cable ships had to stay operational to make sure that the global need for bandwidth is met.
One of the main challenges for the service providers was to provide more bandwidth and diversity through new routes in a very short lead time. As the pandemic is global, the need for additional capacity was very much the same everywhere.
The demand is there
As we’re moving forward from the pandemic, the importance of the subsea networks is more widely acknowledged and the awareness of these being the focal part of the critical infrastructure has clearly increased. The industry can be positive for the future in the light of foreseen consistent demand and plans for additional investments.
Even if the industry is optimistic about the long-term investments there may be general nervousness regarding any investment decisions right now. The world has learned that connectivity is critical for everything, e.g. from education to health to business continuity.
Subsea networks are at the very core of the global digital infrastructure. Hopefully this will help to perceive them as a good investment and help governments permitting cable endeavors quicker.
Cinia is also continuously working on new opportunities, such as the first submarine cable in the Arctic region. No major impact on the on-going project has been faced due to the pandemic and Taneli Vuorinen remains optimistic.
"The increase in international demand for capacity was already high before the pandemic. So, the long-term demand is still there. In a shorter term we might see more caution in funding and additional contingency margins", Vuorinen says.
Vuorinen emphasizes that Cinia’s international network of partners have become very important in the time of crisis. Nobody can do everything alone and in a global industry a sound supply network is needed.
"Connectivity in the subsea industry is typically seen as connections between networks, but it is the connectivity between the people that really matters in tough times", Vuorinen concludes.