Subsea cables not just about capacity

Anthony McLachlan/Ciena

The Asia-Pacific region has over 124,000 km of subsea cables, valued at $8.5 billion, with another 14,000 km planned for rollout in the next couple of years.

Demand for capacity has grown eight-fold over the past four years, driven by both public Internet traffic and private networks including those of large enterprises such as Google, Facebook and Alibaba. TeleGeography projects demand to increase another 40% through 2021.

It is no exaggeration to say that affordable, reliable cable infrastructure underpins the success of the wide range of web-scale businesses in Asia, forming a virtuous cycle of capacity, cost and consumption.

Alongside increasing capacity and demand, there have been sharp declines in price across intra-Asian submarine networks over the past couple of years — median 10Gbps prices throughout the region decreased 32% last year. The decline in price is attributed to the low incremental cost of supply available on some parts of the network.

Continued investment in network infrastructure has led to an increase in intra-Asia submarine cable capacity, which stood at 211 Tbps. An overwhelming 65 Tbps of new capacity was deployed in 2014 alone.

Major upcoming projects in the region include the Asia Pacific Gateway and the Bay of Bengal Gateway, as well as Asia-Africa-Europe-1 (AAE-1) — a 25,000-kilometer cable system from Southeast Asia to Europe, connecting Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Yemen, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Greece, Italy and France.

However, simply adding raw capacity on its own is not enough. Asian enterprises are going “web-scale” by creating an explosion of traffic driven by on-demand video streaming, enterprise cloud adoption, virtualized network functions, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).

These dynamics are challenging network operators’ capabilities in terms of speed and scalability. With the widespread emergence in the region of web-scale trends such as cloud data centers, as well as the rapid rise in Data Center Interconnect (DCI) and cloud computing, there are increasingly sophisticated demands being placed on intra-Asia Pacific cable infrastructure.

Mobile trends such as LTE and LTE-A backhaul, the latest trends in mobile data, machine-to-machine (M2M), also require very specific network functionalities from undersea networks.

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