Connectivity triumphs over politics in Asia

Posted on October 26, 2014  /  1 Comments

The politicians of China, Japan, South Korea and Viet Nam have locked horn over the maritime rights in South China Sea. Simultaneously, the telecoms carriers of these countries have been laying optical fiber cables underneath the same disputed water to connect each other.

Dubbed as “Asia Pacific Gateway” or APG, this cable lands at Tanah Merah (Singapore), Kuantan (Malaysia), Songkhla (Thailand), Da Nang (Vietnam), Tseung Kwan O (Hong Kong), Toucheng (Taiwan), Nanhui and Chongming (mainland China), Busan (South Korea), and Shima and Maruyama (Japan).

These nine countries had 900 million Internet subscribers in 2013, representing 69% of the 1.3 billion Asian subscribers and 32% of the 2.8 billion around the world, according to Korean press. Initial capacity of APG cable is 38.4 terabits per second (Tbps). In simple term: it can transmit 7,200 movies in one second. This consortium has, however, weathered a bumpy voyage:

Since its proposal in 2009, the consortium of carriers has had trouble bringing the APG to fruition. Lack of funding from investors as well as competing consortiums launching their own cable systems (the Asian Submarine-cable Express and South-East Asia Japan Cable) almost resulted in the project being shelved. The APG only gained momentum when Facebook and Malaysian network TIME dotCom were accepted into the consortium as investors in 2012.

Now the APG cable is cruising full-speed-ahead and it will be managed from the network operating center at Busan, Korea. Hwang Chang-gyu, Korea Telecom’s chairman, is naturally upbeat about the nation’s first and only submarine cable control center:

“With the 11,000-kilometer-long APG being operational today, KT’s submarine cable network operation centre will handle about 30% of data traffic around the globe. This is one of the largest in the world.”

This submarine cable initiative once again proves that geopolitical rivalry cannot stop the countries from getting interconnected. And a good project also attracts good investors, as Facebook and TIME dotcom joined APG. Members of Asian Highway of ESCAP should keep in mind while building the Asia Pacific Information Superhighway or AP-IS.

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