A senior UN official has blamed the telecoms networks for threatening the road safety across Asia and the United States of America.
With less than a million citizens, Djibouti struggles with the abysmal ICT indicators. Its internet hums with 12% penetration while mobile SIM penetration is 36% only. Now flip the page. Nine submarine cables transit at Djibouti to link Africa, the Middle East and Asia with Europe. Australia is coming soon!
While the aviation sector is “Trying to make sense of the new TSA electronics ban” – the submarine cable industry is sending an SOS. The Trump administration may ban the usage of any ship that deploys or maintains the submarine cables, unless it is built in a U.S. shipyard. It also mandates that minimum 75% of the crew are to be the U.
Bangladesh badly needs a second submarine cable for steady supply of international telecoms connectivity. The second cable is also critical to efficiently serve the cross-border customers. That’s the strategic significance SEA-ME-WE 5, the sequel of SEA-ME-WE 4 submarine cable, for Bangladesh. The new cable has been timely ashore but plugging it to the country’s telecoms networks remains uncertain. Multiple state-owned telecoms outfits, historically inefficient and corrupt, hinder the domestic transmission works of SEA-ME-WE 5.
India is the point of transit for every submarine cable connecting Asia with Africa and Europe via Middle East. Altogether 19 submarine cables have landed in five different Indian locations: Mumbai (11 cables), Chennai (4 cables), Cochin (2 cables), Trivandrum (1 cable) and Tuticorine (1 cable). These sparsely located landing points are good enough to make India the home of a highly resilient international connectivity. Early this week Cyclone Vardah has, however, exposed India’s, notably of Bharti Airtel’s, fragility instead. Bharti Airtel has stakes in five submarine cable networks: i2i, SEA-ME-WE 4, EIG, I-ME-WE and AAG.
Bangladesh is emerging as an important player in regional connectivity. Recently it has connected Northeast India to faster lane of Internet through a 10 Gbps international link of its submarine cable systems. It has prompted the landlocked Bhutan to be in the cue. Currently a Bhutanese telecoms delegate is negotiating a 5 Gbps international internet bandwidth deal with their Bangladeshi counterpart. Terrestrial transit through India is critical for Bhutan to access the submarine cable facilities of Bangladesh, says a press report.
India is finally plugging the mainland with Port Blair and five other islands (Little Andaman, Car Nicobar, Havelock, Kamorta and Great Nicobar) of the Andaman and Nicobar though an undersea optical fiber cable systems. Taxpayers will count $150 million (INR 1,102.38 crore) for capex and initial five years opex of this maiden sub-oceanic telecoms initiative for the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. This cable from Chennai will be activated in 2018 while its capacity and ownership remain unannounced. Home of about 380,000 people, including the indigenous Jarawa, the archipelago is about 1,300 km east in the Bay of Bengal.
“Either we disrupt or we get disrupted,” warned Cisco’s outgoing CEO John Chambers in his last speech to the industry last year. He also said that 40% of companies will be dead in 10 years. “If I’m not making you sweat, I should be,” Chambers quipped. He was referring to the rising tide of innovation that breaches the dyke of comfort zone where conventional verticals reside. Less than a year after Chambers’ keynote, GSMA has reported how the mobile industry has failed to secure a sizable share from $3.
Bangladesh simultaneously exports and imports Internet bandwidth to and from India. Its geographic location and state of international connectivity have contributed to this interesting scenario. The first submarine cable (SEA-ME-WE4) was landed at Cox’s Bazar in 2005. This facility of Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company (BSCCL) has dramatically improved the country’s overall international connectivity. Yet, the industry remained nervous about outages due to maintenance or accidental snapping of SEA-ME-WE4.
China Unicom has built the US$50 million China-Myanmar International (CMI) terrestrial link. But it is yet to be activated for unknown reasons and Myanmar keeps suffering from outages. Now Beijing has ceremoniously announced its plan to build a Sino-ASEAN submarine cable network without revealing any details. South Asia and Southeast Asia has become the hotbed of Sino-Japanese rivalry, especially after the formation of AIIB. This new development bank has gained unprecedented global membership at a lightning pace.
It has been estimated that submarine cables carry traffic associated with over US$10 trillion in transactional value globally per day. It is being also claimed that submarine cables transport 99% of the international data worldwide. These are largely true, yet exaggerated marketing pitch. Terrestrial cables also carry huge volume of international data traffic across the borders, especially within Europe and across the Eurasian routes. It, however, makes no difference with the consumers as long as they remain online.
Indian government has endured stormy opposition when Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), its international telecoms arm, was privatized in early 2000. Since then, through merger and acquisition along with new build-outs, the Indian carriers – Tata, Reliance and Bharti – dominate the global connectivity business. Moreover, each submarine cable linking Asia with the Middle East, Africa and Europe hops in India due to its location. Therefore, like Japan in transpacific and the United Kingdom in transatlantic routes, India could emerge as a formidable transoceanic telecoms connectivity hub in the region. That has not happened, primarily, due to the Indian carriers’ mindless obsession for dominance.
SEA-ME-WE4, the only submarine cable of Bangladesh, has been down again for 10 days. This outage has affected the business of BSCCL, the state-owned subsea cable monopoly. Doug Madory of Dyn Research, the global Internet performance monitor company, has shared with me the diagnostic image of BSCCL traffic (Click on the thumbnail). Evidently the six cross-border terrestrial operators of Bangladesh have been keeping Internet alive via India. There is, however, a huge risk.
Asian countries, despite being located in the world’s largest landmass, are interconnected through submarine optical fiber cable networks. Ciena Corp. has found that a terrestrial cable gets cut in every 30 minutes and a submarine cable is damaged in every three days somewhere in the world. And the IT downtime costs more than $25 billion a year to the customers. Ability to rush the maintenance crew ensures the terrestrial cables’ lower downtime than its underwater counterpart.
TeleGeography’s 2014 Middle East telecoms map is now available. It depicts 48 active and three planned submarine cable systems. Five terrestrial cables are also shown in this map. The landing stations and respective owners are also provided. The infographics embedded in the map present major intraregional and interregional voice and Internet routes.
TeleGeography’s 2014 Submarine Cable Map shows 285 cable systems that are currently active or will be activated by 2015. It also shows the location of 44 cable laying vessels as of December 6, 2013. An inset map presents geographically accurate submarine cable paths and cable maintenance zones. This year’s map incorporates coverage of the companies that lay and maintain submarine cables: The Protectors of the Internet. Information graphics provide detailed information on the following: Cable landing stations in key regions; Cable faults and repairs, including the number of breaks and mean time to commence repair by country; Cable system components and cross-section; Cable route seabed profiles.