Canada to USA through Lake Ontario

IG Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Jasmine Bedi speaks to Mike Cunningham, founder and CEO of Crosslake Fibre, and discovers how the first submarine cable under Lake Ontario has connected Toronto to Buffalo through high-capacity fiber optic cables. Cunningham is also on the board of Quintillion Subsea, a 1,700-mile subsea and terrestrial cable system serving the north coast of Alaska. He was formerly the CEO of Arctic Fibre, the predecessor project to Quintillion.

Can you take us through the genesis of Crosslake Fibre?

At Crosslake Fibre, we bring a couple of unique value propositions, the first of which is new infrastructure. There hasn’t been a lot of new long-haul infrastructure built in Canada for a while, going back to the dot com boom. Our subsea cable from Toronto to Buffalo represents the first new significant long-haul build along that route. The system represents a much higher fiber count cable than the cables installed previously, and this is the first new fiber optic route constructed between Toronto and Buffalo in almost two decades!

The second value proposition is diversity. There are a number of points of failure on different long-haul routes that currently exist from Toronto to Buffalo, which is one of the main roads for traffic from central Canada into the United States. A number of these cables traverse along the same rights of way with the same bridges going across the Niagara River. Our route is physically diverse from that. So, as opposed to going from Toronto and then west around the lake, we go from Toronto, a bit east and through the lake. It provides physical diversity and is a shorter route, which creates a lower latency route.

The last proposition is dark fiber. Long-haul dark fiber in Canada is hard to come by, and we enable customers to acquire fiber and get the scale.

Can you also talk about the terrestrial and the subsea components of the system?

We’ve got two terrestrial ends, one in Canada and the other in the United States. The one on the Canadian side is more ‘front-haul’, going from the beach MH directly to the 151 Front Street and Equinix TOR2 data centers downtown. We have directionally drilled both the landings to enable a lower impact along the shoreline, as well as to provide additional protection for the cable. On the US end, we’ve got a longer terrestrial route, about 60-65 kilometers, and an ILA (in-line amplification) shelter for amplification colocation along the way. In Buffalo, we are going into 350 Main Street. The submarine segment is, in many respects, very straightforward, as it goes from beach manhole to beach manhole on a fairly straight line across the lake. Just by nature, Lake Ontario is a fairly benign place and it is relatively easy to build a cable given the lake’s sandy seabed.

Mike Cunningham CEO, Crosslake Fibre

Do you get requests for connectivity into 151 Front and 905 King?

151 Front and 905 King are both connectivity hubs in Toronto, and our business requires a critical mass of customers on both ends. 151 Front Street definitely provides a critical mass of customers just by nature of the fact that the building has been there for a long time and has evolved to become a major interconnection hub. In many respects, 151 Front is the hub and there are many spokes going off of it. You’ve got a number of new kinds of large-scale data centers, such as Equinix and Digital Realty/DFT (former Toronto Star facility in Vaughan), that have been built and that provide a lot more data center space. But, from a connectivity perspective, 151 Front Street and Equinix TR2 are the places to be.

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