Cable Fault to Prolong Pacific Bandwidth Crunch

TOKYO (04/17/2000) - Asian Internet users can expect to see more congestion on routes outside of the region after a key new undersea telecommunications link between Asia and the U.S. has been delayed by around six months because faults were found in fiber optic cable already laying at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

The Japan-U.S. Cable Network, a 21,000 kilometer cable comprising both north and south routes across the Pacific, was due to come on stream sometime between April and June and provide 80G bits per second (bps) of capacity between the two countries.

With future plans to push the bandwidth up to 640G bps with new technology, the cable was set to become a major telecommunications route between the Asian and North American continents but the opening of its southern route is now not expected until October, while the northern route is not expected to be on line before November, said Haruhiko Maede, a spokesman for cable consortium member KDD Corp. A group of 43 telecom carriers own and are building the network.

"When we tested the quality of the cable we found out the quality was not sufficient," said Maede. The problems, in the southern portion of the cable, mean contractor Alcatel SA will have to lay replacement cable and that will delay the launch, he said.

For Asian telecommunications companies and Internet service providers trying to keep up with the increasing demands of the region's Internet users, the delay is bad news.

"Right now, the cable systems are pretty filled up," said To Chee Eng, senior analyst specializing in IP (Internet Protocol) and Internet infrastructure in Asia at Gartner Group. "There is very little trans-Pacific capacity left and there is a big shortage right now. Everyone is hoping the cable will come on fast, many people are banking on this so they will be a bit disappointed."

This problem has led to an increasing number of ISPs (Internet service providers) turning to satellite operators for capacity to the U.S., said To.

Satellites introduce a transmission delay because of the distance signals need to travel into space and back, so they are not as popular as circuits on cables. "It's not their first choice but at this point there isn't much of a choice."

The delay is also a boost to competing new cable systems like the China-U.S.

Cable Network and Pacific Crossing 1 cable. The former was partially put into operation in January, although won't come fully into service until later this year when the entire system will have a maximum capacity of 20G bps. The latter is due to begin operation in the summer, according to the operators, and will have a capacity similar to that of the Japan-U.S. Cable at 80G bps.

The Japan-U.S. Cable Network can be found online at http://www.japan-us.org/.

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