International bandwidth demand grows as Japan stays online

$2.8 billion in international submarine cable investment this year

The latest report from international bandwidth market analyst firm TeleGeography has found a spike in investment into international submarine cable systems this year, but building redundancy into the networks remains the biggest challenge to cable operators.

Despite natural disasters causing significant damage to submarine cable systems linking Japan and reducing internal capacity to the country by approximately 30 per cent, the firm pointed to the country as an optimal example of retaining an international link.

"The deployment of multiple new trans-Pacific cables and intra-Asian cables over the past three years proved instrumental in preventing this disaster from also disrupting communications,” TeleGeography research director, Alan Mauldin, said in a statement. The country, which indicated repairs to submarine cables as a result of disasters could extend into May, continues to operate on just over six terabits per second (Tbps) of international capacity in each of links across the Pacific and to the Asian continent. There are some 20 cable systems connecting the country with most of the damage occurring along the eastern shore north of Tokyo.

The outages also had significant effects on the international bandwidth capacity of neighbouring Hong Kong.

According to TeleGeography, the need for redundancy and alternative routes in international systems proved essential by issues in the Middle East across the past year. Political unrest in Egypt earlier this year left other countries questioning whether a local internet shutdown was also possible in their area but, according to the firm, also left carriers “scrambling to identify alternative routes” to reach the outside world, as the country also proved vital to international links to the Middle East.

The region itself fuelled an increase in demand for international bandwidth, which globally increased from less than 10Tbps in 2006 to top more than 45Tbps last year. Countries in Africa and Latin America were also regions with heightened demand.

In its latest Global Bandwidth Research Service report, TeleGeography found cable operators had responded to the demand with a spike in cable investment. During 2010 alone, operators had constructed some 10 new submarine cable systems at a cost of $2.3 billion, adding 16.1 terabits per second (Tbps) in bandwidth to international networks.

Fourteen new cables are scheduled for completion in 2011 at a cost of $2.8 billion, followed by eleven more next year.

(Are Australia’s international links enough for the National Broadband Network?)

Trans-Pacific systems had increased by 7Tbps since 2007. That could double in coming years, with the $400 million Pacific Fibre venture alone providing an additional 5.5Tbps bandwidth between Australia, New Zealand and the United States when it is lit in 2013. Main competitor Southern Cross intends to provide 1.2Tbps across its international links to Australia through an upgrade to existing systems while New Zealand venture Kordia also plans to build a new trans-Tasman submarine link.

TeleGeography has in the past forecast a drop in global IP transit costs to Sydney to $25 per gigabit by next year, a possibility NextDC chief executive, Bevan Slattery, has warned could threaten the competitive of the National Broadband Network’s wholesale costs to global providers.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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