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50 Best Workplaces of the Year 2020

An Interview with Nigel Bayliff, Aqua Comms CEO: ‘We’re Committed to Delivering Secure, Resilient SubSea Connectivity’

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 “Our operating model is based on a highly efficient, intelligently managed outsource structure. This allows our highly experienced and talented team to manage various outsourced capabilities whilst setting out the core processes that these functions operate within.”

Aqua Comms provides submarine cable infrastructure solutions. Its connectivity solutions include bandwidth, dark fiber, and spectrum services for content providers, cloud-based networks, data centers, information technology companies, and the global media sectors and are complimented by its professional services offering which supports the development, delivery and operations of new systems.

The company was incorporated in 2014 and is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland.

Nigel Bayliff, Aqua Comms CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

Q. Tell us about your services in brief.

Aqua Comms is the owner and operator of America Europe Connect-1 (AEC-1) and CeltixConnect-1 (CC-1), undersea fiber optic cables interconnecting core data hubs of New York City, Dublin, and London. Aqua Comms is currently commissioning America Europe Connect-2, (AEC-2), its share of the Havfrue cable from New Jersey to Ireland and Denmark, CeltixConnect-2 (CC-2), a second Irish Sea cable, and North Sea Connect (NSC) connecting the UK and Denmark to develop a resilient dual-path network across the Atlantic between USA and Europe, creating the North Atlantic Loop. We are also building America Europe Connect-3 (AEC3) between North America and the United Kingdom, further extending our mesh of modern, resilient assets across the Atlantic. Aqua Comms operates strictly as a carrier’s carrier and our focus, therefore, is on providing high bandwidth, transport-layer subsea services in the wholesale market.

Aqua Comms offers full and fractional fiber pairs, managed spectrum, and wavelength services over its cable systems. These are all products to support our offering of Infrastructure-as-a-Service – delivering core transport-layer services to suit customers’ demand profile between key, major international data hubs including New York, London, and Dublin, with New Jersey and the Nordics to follow in Q4. The company also offers professional services that include the design and build phases of new cable development, through to operations, sales and marketing once in service.

Q. How do you provide flexible and affordable services to users without affecting scalability?

Aqua Comms’ operating model is based on an intelligently managed outsource structure. This allows for our highly experienced senior team to manage various outsourced functions whilst setting out the core, efficient processes that these functions operate within. By adopting this outsourcing model, Aqua Comms can quickly scale up as required, to ensure optimized performance as well as cost efficiencies to meet the ever-increasing demands of our customers.

Q. How reliable are subsea networks compared to other forms of communication?

Undersea cables provide extremely reliable communications networks but there are risks. For example, from mother nature -- noting that an Atlantic cable runs for the region of 5,000 km and lies mostly on the sea bed, up to a few km down, where it is hard to protect, but relatively safe given the depths involved. Having said that, they are most at risk in shallow waters near land and particularly where trawling fishing vessels operate. To minimize these risks, Aqua Comms has designed its cables to avoid shallow waters as much as possible and has chosen routes to optimize uptime. Furthermore, Aqua Comms’ customers are able to ensure that there is limited disruption by buying services on more than one route, such as both of Aqua Comms’ Atlantic cables (AEC-1 and AEC-2) to ensure diversity and resilience.

Q. How competitive is the latency Aqua Comms offers when compared to other providers?

Aqua Comms’ cables offer highly competitive routes with market competitive latencies to ensure that consumers of internet capacity requiring exceptional reliability and performance, such as global carriers and cloud-based networks, can optimize the performance of their networks.

Q. Growing the company based on employees’ passions must be a priority. Do you ask your employees what they are interested in doing and how they would like to see their career unfold?

Our staff members are encouraged to propose training that supports their personal development be it for their role today or for the role they seek in the years ahead. Besides, because the organization has experienced managers, it can be run with a relatively flat hierarchical structure and the management team regularly shares the company’s results, its plans, and strategy. With this, the employees feel engaged, aware of their part to play and it also creates a sense of the opportunities ahead. Trust and transparency are key mantras that the management teamwork to – trust the team with the information, receive trust back through being open and transparent.

Q. A good workplace stresses teamwork while still encouraging individual achievement and creativity. Does your company follow the same strategy?

With open communication, the team can celebrate successes together, understand disappointments together, and enjoy a laugh together. However, the management team always looks to recognize individual achievement within that. When working as a small team of senior managers, employees are often subject matter experts (SME), and significant achievements are often made – adding considerable value and creating great external success for the company. This positive effect can be often very tangible and this only serves to drive the team on. It also is a key to hiring – is the employee comfortable to be that SME, to be in the spotlight when the pressure is on. It takes a certain type – and for that type, it is an environment that breeds success to the benefit of the individual, the team, and the company and its shareholders. Finally, the company is ruthless in its pursuit of operational efficiency, constantly looking at ways to implement automation. This ensures that employees’ contribution is focused on their areas of expertise, and time is not spent on mundane or repetitive activities that can lead to inefficiency and time lost. We believe in doing things differently and that different perspectives provider a richer pattern. A diverse team is much better at innovating and solving problems and we apply that across the structure of our organisation.

Q. What does the future hold for Aqua Comms and its employees? Are exciting things on the way?

As for the future, Aqua Comms is adding three new subsea cables in the next few months to the two cables already in operation. Furthermore, the company has widened its portfolio by adding a professional services product suite that will support new cable developments on behalf of third parties. These services will range from acting as the operations partner to providing provisioning and order management services through to sales and marketing support. Our extensive expertise across all these areas can deliver operational and financial efficiencies to our customers. This product offering relies on the expertise and experience of the team. These developments will add scale to the company, and in turn to the employees, for their role to widen and grow. In a time of uncertainty, the company recognizes its fortunate position being in an industry that is central to businesses and individuals, to allow them to continue to operate regardless of location, with an ever-increasing demand for data and connectivity.

Nigel Bayliff: A Visionary and Transformational Leader

Nigel Bayliff serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Aqua Comms. He joined in 2016 bringing in more than 30 years of senior technical, operation, and executive industry experience while having held senior positions at Cable & Wireless, FLAG Telecom, and NTL.

“Aqua Comms was established with the vision to build, acquire, or merge with subsea fiber-optic cable networks to provide capacity networking solutions to customers that require exceptional reliability and performance.”