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Australia-Singapore submarine cable connection cut again

The damage to the SEA-ME-WE3 cable took place more than 1,000 km from Singapore, affecting Australian internet users who can expect increased latency to Asian destinations

An ageing submarine cable that links Australia to Southeast Asia was cut for the third time this year, underscoring the urgent need for a more robust connection to support the region’s growing internet traffic.

According to reports, the nearly 20-year-old SEA-ME-WE3 subsea cable that connects up Perth in Western Australia to Singapore and onwards to other landing points in Europe, the Middle East and Asia was cut in the early hours of 3 December 2017.

The cable fault occurred approximately 1,126 km from the cable landing station in Singapore. Until the link is restored, internet users in Australia can expect to see increased latency to Asian destinations.

The latest damage follows a series of cuts – typically caused by ship anchors, storms and earthquakes in the region – to the same cable in recent years, including an outage in August 2017 when its insulation near Hong Kong was damaged.

“These faults can be tricky to fix and, as a cable system ages, become more prominent,” said Luke Mackinnon, head of Australian network service provider Vocus International.

Vocus is in the midst of building the Australia Singapore Cable, a 4,600 km submarine cable system linking Perth to Singapore via Jakarta in Indonesia. Vocus is expected to lay the cable in early 2018 between Singapore and Christmas Island.

“Later this month, the components will be loaded on a ship and brought to Singapore. We expect it to arrive in January. At this point we will offload a third of the cable and repeaters at Singapore. The cable laying ship will pick them up in January and start laying in February,” Mackinnon said.

Apart from Vocus, a high-powered regional consortium comprising Google, Australian research network AARNet, telcos Indosat Ooredoo, Singtel and Telstra, and SubPartners is building the 9,000 km Indigo subsea cable that will link Singapore with 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.

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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.

Google executives said with a capacity of 18 terabits per second, Indigo will provide enough capacity for people in Singapore and Sydney to join eight million simultaneous high-definition Google Hangout video conference calls. 

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