Subsea Asia - Leading in Innovation

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As the world readies itself for 5G, the demands on network infrastructure becomes even greater, especially for subsea.

In addition to 5G, data hungry innovations like IoT, AI, machine learning and automation mean that the infrastructure needs to scale quickly and securely in order to support these new technologies.

In December 2018, Korea became the first country to offer more than one commercial 5G network after all three of its major mobile operators switched on 5G networks simultaneously. SKT, LG Uplus and KT all turned on fixed wireless access (FWA) networks based on 3GPP 5G standards at midnight on 1 December, offering the service to its business users.

This has been further supported by the 5G Country Leadership Index, compiled by management consultancy Arthur D Little, which found that South Korea and the US are the leaders in 5G deployment, followed by Australia and Qatar.

In fact, SK Telecom is now so far ahead in the 5G race, it has signed agreements with Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung Electronics in order to jointly research and develop advanced 5G and 6G mobile network technologies.

In other parts of Asia, Measurement Lab (M-Lab), a US-based open source project, found that Taiwan now boasts the fastest broadband speeds in the world, closely followed by Singapore.

In June, three Chinese network operators announced that it will have 5G coverage in at least 40 cities this year, with investment reaching $2.53 billion, according to CCID Consulting, part of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), in a white paper on the development potential of 5G.

As for the global picture, spend on cloud infrastructure services increased to 39% from the second quarter of 2018, according to recent figures from Synergy Research Group. As well as this, operators believe that cloud gaming could represent 25% to 50% of 5G data traffic by 2022, based on the rapid progression of cloud gaming services in recent months.

So between the demands of gaming, cloud, 5G, 6G, increasing internet speeds, capacity and route diversity, Asia is becoming a hotbed of activity in the subsea infrastructure space.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Cisco and Superloop partnered on 400G deployments on the INDIGO West and INDIGO Central cables, linking Singapore to Australia and Perth to Sydney, respectively. The agreement will see Superloop leverage Cisco’s NCS 1004 solution, giving the company the basis for connectivity between its existing metropolitan networks and further expansion into Asia, creating a fully meshed, pan-Asian network to meet growing customer demand across the region.

Both INDIGO West and INDIGO Central was launched by a consortium of AARNet, Google, Indosat Ooredoo, Singtel, SubPartners and Telstra, both systems will feature new spectrum-sharing technology enabling each member to upgrade their networks and make capacity increases on-demand. The INDIGO system comes in response to increased connectivity between Australia and the ‘fast-growing South East Asian markets’, according to Telstra’s Oliver Camplin-Warner.

In May, Capacity spoke to subsea vendor, NEC’s Atsushi Kuwahara, senior manager, head of sales & marketing. According to Kuwahara the company is hard at work on a number of mixed consortia subsea projects.

One of the most recent being the Bay to Bay Express project connecting US to Singapore. The 15,600km system, which holds the world record for the longest direct connection, has Facebook as one of the consortium partners along with China Mobile and Amazon Web Services.

Additionally, the Okinawa Cellular Telephone Company selected NEC to design, engineer, and build a subsea system connecting the island of Okinawa with Kagoshima, Japan.

“Up till now there have been only two subsea cables connecting Okinawa to mainland Japan – this will be a new route connecting the western side of Okinawa to mainland Japan. This route will bring added diversity,“ said Kuwahara.

But that’s not all, the rest of 2019 is looking equally as busy for NEC as its hard at work on its Southeast Asia -Japan Cable 2, connecting more than 10 countries across Asia.

“We are also working on the Japan –Guam –Australia Cable System. This is one of our private projects, its owned by RTI – a US private company,” Kuwahara said. “We’re also working with RTI on their Hong Kong–Guam Cable System but this system is also in partnership with Google.”

Another highly anticipated system is the PEACE cable, which spans Asia, Africa and Europe. The 12,000km system is privately owned by Hengtong Group, offering carrier-neutral services to its customers, across the shortest direct route connectivity. In April of 2019, Hengtong signed an agreement with Cybernet Pakistan to act as landing party of the cable in Pakistan.

Adding to the series of first, H2 subsea system will be the first to connect Australia and Hong Kong with direct access to China. In addition, the system has also been designed to allow for a number of branch units to locations such as Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Island, Guam, Queensland, Hawaii and Los Angeles. During SubOptic 2019, H2 Cable and SubCom entered into an agreement for the supply and installation of the H2 submarine cable system.

Late 2018 saw Vocus put its Australia-Singapore Cable into service. After which the company announced plans to build the Coral Sea Cable System, a 40Tbps system connecting Sydney to Port Moresby and Honiara.

In response to all this activity Capacity is launching its first ever Subsea Asia Summit taking place the day before Capacity Asia (2 December). Key topics include enhancing connectivity between North and South-East Asia, cable updates on the systems coming into operation in the region, opportunities for investment in independent subsea infrastructure projects, as well as the interplay of carriers and OTT in cable consortiums. With a unique focus on the APAC subsea market, this event promises to bring together the wider subsea industry including subsea vendors. investors, consulting firms and industry service providers. 

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