Singtel-led group wants to bolster Southeast Asia’s subsea capacity

A consortium comprising six telcos will plough $300 million into yet another new cable system connecting Southeast Asia and China.

Due to go live in the third quarter of 2025, the Asia Link Cable (ALC) system will span 6,000km, landing in Brunei, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, and Hainan in China. The consortium funding it is co-led by Singapore incumbent Singtel and China Telecom Global (CTG). Globe Telecom and DITO Telecommunity of the Philippines, China Telecom Corp (CTC), and Brunei’s Unified National Networks make up the other members.

With eight fibre pairs each delivering up to 8 Tbps of throughput, Singtel said the ALC will add more capacity and redundancy to the region’s Internet infrastructure. This could come in handy, because according to forecasts published by Google, Temasek, and Bain in their most recent e-Conomy SEA report, the value of Southeast Asia’s Internet economy is expected to reach $200 billion this year – three years earlier than expected. While the longer-term outlook remains foggy due to macroeconomic volatility, Google et al still believe the market could exceed $300 billion by 2025, and reach somewhere between $600 billion and $1 trillion by 2030.

“The ALC will bring greater connectivity capacities to transform industries, unlock more opportunities for innovation, further enhancing the digital experiences of Southeast Asian consumers and supporting the growth ambitions of the region,” said Bill Chang, CEO of Singtel’s group enterprise and regional data centre business, in a statement on Tuesday.

Once up and running, the ALC will complement a whole host of other submarine cable systems in the region. Not the least of which is the Asia Direct Cable (ADC), a 9,400km system connecting Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Shantou in China, and Japan. Construction is due to complete some time this quarter.

Also under construction is the Asia Connect Cable (ACC-1), an 18,000km system that joins Singapore (again), Indonesia, Timor Leste, Australia, the Philippines (again), Guam, and Los Angeles.

In July, Southern Cross Cables (SX) completed its third transpacific system. Called NEXT it’s a 15,840km network that joins together Australia, New Zealand, Pacific islands, and the US. Also in July, Philippines-based PLDT put the finishing touches to yet another transpacific cable system. Called Jupiter, it connects the archipelago to Japan before crossing the Pacific to California. When it went live, it increased PLDT’s international capacity to nearly 60 Tbps.

Then of course there are the various Sea-Me-We cable systems that stretch tens of thousands of kilometres in the opposite direction, connecting Southeast Asia to Western Europe via the Middle East. Construction of the latest of these, Sea-Me-We 6, is due for completion in Q1 2025, and will offer 100 Tbps of capacity, more than double that of the earlier Sea-Me-We cables.

“Southeast Asia is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, with rising digital demand from consumers and businesses, accelerated by the pandemic,” said Singtel’s Chang on Tuesday.

“Consumers and businesses are increasingly relying on services and solutions that require higher-bandwidth and lower-latency connectivity for their work, studies or entertainment,” he said.


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