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New subsea cable to connect Australia and Southeast Asia

The Indigo submarine cable will provide additional capacity to mitigate disruptions caused by fibre cuts, as well as meet the growing demand for internet services in the region

A subsea cable to be built by a regional consortium will provide faster and more reliable connectivity between Australia and fast-growing markets in Southeast Asia when it is ready in mid-2019.

Called Indigo, the subsea cable will span 9,000km, connecting Singapore and Perth, and onwards to Sydney. With landing stations in Singapore, Australia and Indonesia, Indigo – to be constructed by Alcatel Submarine Networks – will also allow connections between Singapore and Jakarta.

Google and other members in the consortium – including Australian research network AARNet, telcos Indosat Ooredoo, Singtel and Telstra, and SubPartners, – will be able to share ownership of spectrum on the cable, giving them the ability to independently take advantage of technology advancements and future upgrades as required.

The improved connectivity between Australia and Southeast Asia comes at a time when internet traffic in the Asia-Pacific region is growing, thanks to the fast adoption of cloud and mobile technologies among consumers and businesses.

Each of two fibre pairs on Indigo is designed to provide a minimum capacity of 18 terabits per second, which can be increased in future. This will make it possible to transmit 7.2 million high-definition movies simultaneously from Singapore to Sydney.

According to Google, Indigo’s capacity will also enable people in the two cities to join eight million simultaneous high-definition Google Hangout video conference calls. “This is just another example of Google Cloud’s remarkable network backbone – the largest of any public cloud provider,” Google executives wrote in a blog post.

David Burns, Telstra’s group managing director of global services and international, said with internet data consumption growing by 70% in Asia in 2016, investments such as Indigo are critical for meeting the connectivity needs of consumers and businesses.

“This will be an important piece of technology infrastructure connecting Southeast Asia and Australia, and follows a number of recent network enhancements Telstra has undertaken to meet growing demand for data and better connectivity from our customers across the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

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Ooi Seng Keat, vice-president for carrier services at Singtel’s enterprise group, agreed, noting that the construction of Indigo is timely in meeting the rising demand for high-speed broadband between Asia and Australia.

“This cable system complements our global connectivity that links Asia, the US, Europe, Australia and the Middle East. Indigo will be a new data superhighway that facilitates Singtel and Optus to catalyse the development of digital economies across the regions,” he said.

The Asia-Pacific region is currently served by a number of subsea cable systems, though fibre cuts to major cables such as the ageing SEA-ME-WE 3 had affected internet services in recent years.

In late 2016, SEA-ME-WE 3 failed due to a cable cut 1,125km away from the Singapore Tuas Cable Station, affecting the primary core network path between Singapore and Perth. This follows several cuts to the same cable – typically caused by ship anchors and earthquakes in the region – between 2013 and 2015.

Clement Teo, principal analyst at Ovum, told Computer Weekly that Indigo would provide additional capacity to not only mitigate outages, but also offer more connectivity choices for telcos and cloud service providers.

The fact that Google is part of the Indigo consortium is also indicative of the cloud giant’s efforts to deliver higher service levels, Teo said. “Rather than rely on third-party telcos to provide the links between its datacentres, Google will be able to do so on its own and get guaranteed bandwidth at a more predictable cost.”

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