The two big words at the conference were “AI” and “Geopolitical Risk.”
There was a near-religious belief that AI would drive bandwidth and processing demand growth to rates never seen before. However, there was little data to support AI-driven demand growth, or even “killer app” use cases [AM Comment: I did not see a single market study analyzing how AI would impact various parts of the communication sector ecosystem. It makes me wonder if we are at the start of an AI bubble]
The second major topic was geopolitical risk – specifically in the Middle East and China. Several senior executives said the current environment was riskier than any other they had experienced in their lives. Perceived geopolitical risk has a significant impact on submarine cable routing, with many submarine cable operators under pressure to have diverse cable landing spots and/or work around certain countries. New Chinese Pacific Ocean cables, for example, are seeking to avoid Hawaii. [AM Comment: The increased demand for path diversity will likely help formerly second-tier markets get fiber termination points they otherwise would not have seen. In turn, these second-tier markets may see more data centers built]
It was clear senior executives continue to take environmental responsibilities seriously. Several executives indicated that for data centers, having a zero-carbon plan was “table stakes” – needed to even be considered by major customers. Zero carbon policies, especially if considering the supply chain, require deep reviews of internal operations, those of suppliers and investment in new technologies, often forcing consolidation. This year, there was an increased focus on water conservation and electric availability. [AM Comment: Data centers are responsible for 1%-2% of global electricity use. For newer larger data centers, access to affordable power is becoming increasingly important in data center location decisions]
Note: Multiple sessions were running simultaneously, so I was not able to summarize all of them.