Asian Highway


In the context of LIRNEasia’s work, connectivity is usually understood as electronic connectivity. But as the quote below exemplifies, in most contexts it means everything other than electronic. It is our challenge to merge these two conceptions. It is now normal in road design to include conduits for fiber. We hope that this will be written into the Asian Highway legal documents shortly.
LIRNEasia has publicly tabled the proposal of laying fiber along the Asian Highway for universal access to broadband in CommunicAsia on June 2011. At that time we called it LION or Longest International Open-access Network. Light Reading and Total Telecom were cautiously optimistic. The then boss of ITU, who also attended the event, gave cold shoulder to our initiative. Unsurprisingly the ESCAP took us seriously.
Washington Post refers to Doug Madory as, “The man who can see the Internet.” Unsurprisingly he has been monitoring Nepal’s state of Internet since earthquake struck on April 25. Outages of Nepalese data centers, ISPs and enterprises have been graphically diagnosed in Doug’s report. A recent evaluation of Internet infrastructure in South Asia commissioned by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) classified Nepal’s international connectivity as ‘weak’ and its fixed and mobile infrastructure as ‘limited’. While the loss of Internet connectivity pales in comparison to the loss of life, the ability to communicate both domestically and internationally will be crucial in coming days for the coordination of relief efforts already underway.
Six years ago eyebrows were raised when Google announced the rollout of a transpacific undersea cable named “Unity”. Bharti Airtel, Global Transit, KDDI Corp., Pacnet and SingTel were members of Unity consortium. It was activated on April 1, 2010. Google wanted to bypass the cumbersome transcontinental supply chain of broadband, as Capacity Magazine highlights: Google’s mould-breaking intervention was motivated by what, as a customer, it saw as the unnecessary complexity and inflexibility of the traditional consortium model.
It started in Rohan Samarajiva’s room at  Islamabad Serena Hotel during April 2010. I explained him the fundamental barrier to affordable broadband across developing Asia. I also showed him the way to solve the problem – laying fiber along Asian Highway to build a transcontinental open access terrestrial network. Rohan was on board. He would later briefed ESCAP, the UN outfit that fosters Asian Highway.
I have been studying how to make Internet affordable and resilient across the developing Asia. Excessive reliance on submarine cable is the bottleneck. My study shows how to overcome it by deploying fiber across the continent, exploiting the transcontinental highways. But the control-freak governments, attending WCIT 2012 conference at Dubai, have deepened the crises of Internet. James Cowie of Renesys Corporation has categorized the countries being vulnerable to different levels of Internet shutdown risk (Click on the map).
Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan has been extensively quoted in an analytical piece on backhaul concerns in Asia, published in Capacity magazine. Coincidentally, this is directly connected to the post a short while back on the data tsunami. One man, however, has come up with an ambitious concept that could potentially dwarf any existing terrestrial projects and radically reduce Asia’s reliance on subsea cables. Abu Saeed Khan is senior policy fellow at the Asia-Pacific ICT policy and regulatory think tank LIRNEasia, and his clear vision is to utilise the extensive Asian Highway Network project by deploying an open access terrestrial optical mesh backbone alongside it. The Asian highway project brings together 32 countries in Asia and Europe and is assisted by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) which aims to create a highway system from Japan all the way to Turkey.