title:  The view depends on where you stand


by: Scott Bradner


If the Wall Street Journal is to be believed Global Crossing has built itself a coffin, under budget and on-time.  Global Crossing holds a somewhat different view of its achievement.


Two weeks ago Global Crossing announced that it had completed its "core network."  This is a combination under-sea and land-based "IP-based fiber optic network" connecting 200 major cities in 27 countries around the world.  There are some nice maps of the network on the Global Crossing web site (http://www.globalcrossing.com) under the "Network" tab.  It does not blanket the globe in that it misses Africa, most of Asia, and Eastern Europe but is still very impressive.  This is just the sort of thing that seemed a long way off just a few years ago.


The timing of the Global Crossing announcement could have been better.  Their network is being completed during a feeding frenzy among journalists and commentators about a fiber glut.  I have stopped counting the articles I see that quote the Journal's estimate that 97% of the long-haul fiber in the US is currently unused. The Wall Street Journal's coverage of the Global Crossing achievement fit right into the frenzy and could have been printed on doom-colored paper.  There seemed to be nothing that the Journal could see that might be remotely considered positive in the whole situation in spite of a list of deals that the Journal reported that Global Crossing had signed. 


Naturally it did not take Global Crossing long to respond. The day after the Journal article ran Global Crossing posted a "statement correcting factual inaccuracies in Wall Street Journal story."  Their statement painted a far brighter picture. A picture that hints at, but does not come right out and claim , a rosy future. 


I will say that I take the extreme of the fiber glut proponents with more than a grain of salt.  Yes, lots of fiber has been installed over the last few years, 90 million  kilometers last year alone if some reports are to be believed.  But that fiber does not go everywhere.  I somehow doubt there is a fiber glut between Minot North Dakota and Wichita Kansas. And I doubt very much that there is excess fiber into Lima, Peru.  It was the completion of a link into Lima that precipitated the Global Crossing announcement.  So while there may be supply in excess of demand in many places in the US and western Europe and maybe even going across the oceans I expect that there are enough places where Global Crossing is the only supplier to ensure a viable, if not spectacular, business model.


The message here is that the time for simple, broad brush, US centric views of the technology world is gone past, if indeed it was ever a reasonable thing.


disclaimer:  The above is my own view, not a Harvard Harvard-centric one.