Revamped Seaborn plots slightly altered submarine network course

July 14, 2020
Company executives believe Seaborn is well positioned to maneuver in an increasingly competitive market as a result of its recent reorganization.

Submarine cable network operator and services provider Seaborn has emerged from the Chapter 11 filing of its Seabras-1 cable system with a changed corporate structure and slightly altered priorities when it comes to footprint expansion. Company executives believe Seaborn is well positioned to maneuver in an increasingly competitive market as a result of its recent reorganization.

Seaborn Networks entered the market with the deployment of Seabras-1, a submarine cable system that links  São Paulo, Brazil, with New York; it began service in September 2017 (see "Seabras-1 submarine network operational with Infinera XTS-3300 meshponders"). Seaborn Networks and Seabras-1 operated as separate entities, explains Andy Bax, COO of Seaborn. Seabras-1 ran into trouble when market conditions changed from a focus on indefeasible rights of use (IRUs), which bring in significant cash up front, to leases. As the undersea system’s financing was based on an expectation for IRUs, the change (alongside increased competition and instability within Brazil’s economy) put Seabras-1 in a difficult position that led to a Chapter 11 filing in December 2019, according to Bax.

The subsequent reorganization saw Seabras-1 co-owner Partners Group step up to an ownership position of Seabras-1 and Seaborn Networks, which are now a single entity, Bax says. The process also lowered the company’s debt by 30%. Meanwhile, Seabras-1 customers stood by the company; in fact, Bax asserts the Seaborn has seen the best revenue performance in its history over the past two quarters. IP network services, which the company offers in collaboration with managed cloud services and data center operator EdgeUno, are particularly strong, Bax says.

With its financial house in order, Seaborn is now looking at expansion opportunities. The company had announced plans for a submarine cable, ARBR, that will link Brazil and Argentina (see “ARBR submarine cable to land at Telecom Argentina's landing station in Las Toninas”). Bax says those plans are still on the table, but priorities have shifted elsewhere. Up first is the lighting of fiber on the AMX-1 submarine cable system, which will provide path redundancy for Seabras-1. Seaborn also has near-term plans for a branch from Seabras-1 to Northern Brazil; Bax says construction should begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

Seaborn also is in the exploratory phase of offering connectivity into Central America, a market that Bax says has been overlooked so far in the general explosion of submarine network build activity. He expresses optimism that plans for such an initiative will come together by the end of this year. The company also hopes to expand into the Caribbean, although Bax acknowledges such an effort will require significant collaboration before it moves forward.

"We are excited about the future and sincerely thank all of our employees, customers, providers and other business partners for their continued commitment to the company,” Bax was quoted as saying in a company press release announcing its new financial footing. “Our world-class team will continue to work hard to deliver innovative advancements and new, industry-leading solutions for our customers and partners for years to come."

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