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As the industry continues to grow, EXA Infrastructure’s intention is to continue expanding its capabilities strategically as a focused partner and infrastructure provider for customers. Read more details about the company’s strategies for 2024 in this exclusive interview with Nicholas Collins, Chief Commercial Officer, EXA Infrastructure.

Why is EXA Infrastructure the ideal partner of choice for organizations seeking unparalleled access to Europe?

With over two decades of expertise in building and operating critical digital infrastructure between North America and Europe, EXA is the leading partner of choice for organizations who need connectivity across the Atlantic and onwards to markets across Europe.

Today, we serve a wide range of organizations from tech to finance, gaming to research, and service providers to broadcast. While our customers vary in size and scale, what they do have in common is their need for a partner that can deliver high bandwidth over a secure, low latency, and reliable terrestrial and subsea fibre network.

We are perhaps best known for EXA Express which is our flagship transatlantic route, offering the absolute lowest latency between North America and Europe. However, the majority of customers we serve look to EXA to provide both transatlantic connectivity and connections onwards to European markets. We do this by leveraging our expansive European network which extends well beyond the traditional FLAP hubs. Our recent investments in the Iberian Peninsula and across Eastern Europe and into Turkey provide unparalleled optionality for organizations.

We are excited about the opportunity we see in the market to be the digital bridge between North America and Europe. The demand we see from our customers is, in part, driven by the strong economic ties between the US and EU, which taken together constitute close to one third of world GDP in terms of purchasing power, according to the European Union.

Of course, all of things we do at EXA is made possible by our team of experts who work closely with customers to ensure we are a trusted and dependable partner.

What strategy guides EXA’s investments, particularly the latest transatlantic routes?

Last October, we announced two new transatlantic cable routes to further strengthen our data center-to-data center mission. Both Dunant and Havfruve subsea cables extend our reach to ensure EXA can connect the US to Europe and into EXA’s extensive European backbone, more quickly and reliably than any other player. We want to ensure our customers can benefit from the multiple protection and diversity options which in turn provides extremely high levels of availability. We are always looking to grow strategically; Dunant avoids the major conventional transatlantic traffic passages and establishes EXA and its strategic partner, Bulk Fiber Networks, as the industry leaders offering diverse and robust infrastructure. It is also the only system serving the northern corridor today and is the first transatlantic system ever to connect to Norway.

Our investment strategy is all centered on our customers' growth plans, but also what we’re seeing is how technology can bring the world together. EXA’s Trans Adriatic Express (TAE) is a low-latency route spanning 4,500 kilometers from Marseille to Istanbul. This strategic route effectively brings Europe’s digital infrastructure closer to that of the Middle East and Asia by providing a unique new, direct, low latency, highly-resilient and reliable route through this region.

EXA Infrastructure announced numerous strategic partnerships and expansion plans in 2023. What continues to drive your growth?

The short answer is we are a hyper-focused infrastructure business that is committed to investing for growth. It is this commitment that, we believe sets EXA apart in the market. 

Ultimately, our success is guided by the role we play in enabling our customers to scale and grow. This means our customers play a very central role in how we evaluate and prioritize network investments and partnerships.

I often speak about the hyper-focus of EXA in terms of the customers we serve, the intentionally narrow product portfolio and the markets we operate in. We are not a business that is looking to serve everyone, everywhere. Quite the contrary, our focus, which is core to our strategy, allows us to align our investments and partnerships with a level of precision, as well as enabling us to deliver a brilliant customer experience.

The industry, as a whole, is seeing growth coming from the ongoing adoption of and migration to the cloud as well as new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the increasingly important role of edge computing to support high-performance and low-latency applications. As such, connectivity has never been more important, particularly with intercontinental data traffic flows between different regions of the world. Network investments and partnerships become critical in scaling networks to serve this demand. 

From a network investment perspective, EXA continues to lead the market, having invested in a 142,000 kilometer fiber network across more than 500 optical Points of Presence (PoPs), spanning 34 countries.

Thanks to our ongoing investment in network infrastructure, EXA has become the largest dedicated network for connecting Europe and North America. Within Europe alone, EXA’s network carries half of the continent’s internet traffic, which has positioned us as the backbone for digital and economic advancement, both in and out of the region.

By diversifying our cable routes and acquiring unique landing stations (EXA currently has the only transatlantic cable with a landing in Canada!), we have also been able to avoid the typically congested hubs and provide customers with exceptional levels of choice and service.

Simply put, connectivity fuels growth and innovation and we will continue to invest to support our customers.

As it relates to partnerships, this is another area that is a major focus for us at EXA. We believe our industry is fairly unique in the way partnerships work and how customers and competitors can sometimes be the same thing. I think this collaboration is important to delivering the best possible service, extending connectivity to more communities and growing the sector as a whole, while being conscious of resources and the environment.  As an example, we recently announced new partnerships with Hurricane Electric and Grid Telecom.  Both quite different businesses in terms of the markets they operate in and the customers they serve, but they share a common growth-minded goal of broadening capabilities and reach to serve their customers by leveraging EXA’s infrastructure.

How will EXA strengthen its portfolio in 2024 and beyond to attract more customers and drive monetization?

When we think of growth, we do so through three lenses.

First, from a network investment perspective, we have a strong track record in this area having invested over €200 million in the past two years. This investment will deploy over 34,000 kilometers of new network that will underpin our ability to serve more customers in more places. We have an approved roadmap of additional investments planned for 2024 which will further strengthen EXA’s presence in existing markets, while also opening up new markets.

Second, we believe in being close to our customers. Ensuring that customers have a positive experience when working with EXA is always a priority for us. Our team members are friendly, knowledgeable and easy to do business with, and we are focused on empowering growth for our customers whatever their goals may be. Flexible pricing options, for example, is just one way we offer to support our customers.

To support our plans to serve more customers in more places, we are expanding our salesforce by 20%. This investment has included more customer-serving sales and technical professionals in the United States, France, Germany, Austria, Ireland and the United Kingdom. We are excited about the opportunities we are creating at EXA for both early-stage and seasoned professionals.

The final lens relates to partnerships and acquisitions. The role of partnerships in our industry cannot be overstated. We are building meaningful partnerships across the ecosystem and believe these are a strong catalyst to grow the overall market. In relation to acquisitions, this is an area that may allow us to accelerate some of our plans, but in itself, we are excited about the organic growth opportunities we have in front of us.

In 2024 you can expect even more growth from EXA – watch this space!

With the recent "Best Fiber Infrastructure Deployment" award from Telecom Review, how will the company’s fiber strategy contribute to its long-term success?

Firstly, it was a huge honor for EXA to be awarded the Best Fiber Infrastructure Deployment Award for the Trans Adriatic Express (TAE). TAE is a joint venture between EXA and Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) AG and is the only direct connection between south-east and western Europe. TAE was recognized for its innovation and unique fiber-optic network and it is humbling to be recognized within the industry as we continue to differentiate EXA from our competitors.

Our strategy will see this continue in 2024 with plans to continue to invest in expanding and enhancing our network. We see this as not only contributing to our growth and success, but also the growth of our customers. We are building a digital infrastructure network that is robust and secure for the future, using only a select pool of best-in-breed suppliers. EXA stands out as the preferred digital infrastructure partner by combining cutting-edge technology, as well as our commitment to innovation.

From your perspective, which ICT trends will be dominating globally and how will EXA Infrastructure leverage these demands?

We are seeing a surge of international bandwidth, which is more than doubling every two years, according to TeleGeography. This means the industry as a whole needs to align on investment. EXA is focused and committed to building the infrastructure that will support this demand and fuel further economic growth and innovation for years to come.

The buzzwords of the moment are AI and machine learning (ML) which will bring interesting use cases in the coming years, particularly around adoption and streamlining workflows, data analysis and decision-making processes. I don’t see AI as a threat but an opportunity for our industry to invest and meet this increasing demand for data. Similarly, edge computing capabilities to reduce latency and enhance overall performance of applications are exciting.

More broadly, cloud integration, blockchain technology and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity are intrinsically linked with the evolving ICT industry trends due to the number of connected devices. These devices need reliable infrastructure for seamless connectivity.

Lastly, there is a growing demand for connectivity from younger generations and a burgeoning middle class in developing nations. Africa is an interesting example, where there is a shift from mostly downloading content, towards uploading in greater volumes. This impacts where routes need to be planned to connect the continent to where a lot of that content is housed in Europe, meaning Southern Italy and the Mediterranean have become strategically important.

As the industry continues to grow and our customer base expands with growing connectivity needs, our intention is to continue to expand our capabilities strategically as a focused partner and infrastructure provider for our customers.

2023 has seen EXA invest in our network and expand more than anyone else in the European market, and 2024 will see much more. 

Cloud-based businesses and services are on the rise. Can you expand on how EXA is able to support these businesses?

Technology has made the world smaller and we have come to expect access to global services instantaneously, meaning lots of this century's most successful businesses are cloud-based services. Cloud-based businesses can experience rapid growth, as seen by social media brands and cloud gaming companies that have garnered huge customer bases in a short timeframe. Deployments taking months instead of weeks can cause lost momentum and progress.

For this customer segment, speed of delivery can be as important as cost. It is essential that cloud-based businesses have access to the appropriate infrastructure and expertise to allow them to scale to new markets quickly.

EXA provides modern infrastructure which is suitably adapted for modern communication requirements; we are able to support any business that delivers services over the Internet.

We work with large household name brands that have travelled down this road of global expansion, and scale-up brands hoping to tread the same path. As businesses in this segment grow, they need reliable, high-capacity infrastructure and wavelength services that can connect customers across continents. EXA’s network footprint and hyper-focused products allow cloud-centric businesses to scale into new markets. EXA continues to out-invest the market to ensure its infrastructure is future-proofed to handle the growing demand for cloud-based services.