LKA should look beyond SMW5 to be a regional hub

Posted on October 12, 2014  /  2 Comments

Submarine cables in Sri Lanka historically land nearby Colombo at Mount Lavinia. And they have been the branch from  main cable’s trunk. Not any more. The SEA-ME-WE 5 submarine cable will directly hop at a new location – Matara. Therefore, this new submarine cable’s landing, at 160 km from Colombo, will make Sri Lanka’s international connectivity more resilient.

Evolution of technology also injects faster bandwidth and relieves Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) from the burden of building a mammoth landing station by the Matara beach. SLT will be able to manage its bandwidth in SEA-ME-WE 5 directly from the data center in Colombo instead. This new feature of 100G technology converts the traditional data centers into virtual cable landing stations.

It significantly reduces the capital and operational expenses of the carriers like SLT. Good news for Sri Lanka, indeed! Mr. Lalith De Silva, Group CEO of SLT, however, seems a bit carried away:

“SEA-ME-WE 5 has the capability to handle traffic from the cable starting point to its end – from Singapore to France – with lightning speeds of less than 90 milliseconds which in fact is the fastest speed achieved interconnecting Asia pacific to Europe,” Silva stated.

“Another important feature of this cable system is the facilitation of POP to POP connectivity with no barriers,”

“This will enable operators to connect with the required POP directly from the landing point at no extra cost, thereby offering cost benefits to operators that opt to connect to Sri Lanka via the SEA-ME-WE 5 cable.”

Mr. De Silva thinks low latency, route diversity and POP-to-POP connectivity of SEA-ME-WE 5 will make Sri Lanka the regional hub of IP transit. It’s, regrettably, not that straight forward.

Djibouti is also one of the members of SEA-ME-WE 5 consortium. And this East African country is already linked with the Gulf Bridge International (GBI) submarine cable, the Europe India Gateway (EIG), EASSy, SEACOM, SEA-ME-WE 3 and regional cable Aden-Djibouti. Yet, Djibouti’s telecom market is ‘a serious handicap to competition in the sector’. Nobody knocks at Djibouti’s door.

Sri Lanka needs to overhaul its regulations and comprehensively address policy adjustments to be in the data center and cloud computing indexes. Otherwise, the carriers will be least interested in “peering” their traffic at the soil of Sri Lanka. Hubris don’t impress the investors, good policy does.

Points to ponder: SLT should peer its traffic either with Oman or with Iran to bypass the choke-point at Suez Canal.  It’s not even Mumbai, let alone Djibouti, but Qatar and Dubai at the western front while Singapore and Hong Kong in the east are Colombo’s rivals in terms of IP transit hub.


  1. Connecting via EPEG in Oman is also one option as is using du in UAE.