When we think about streaming and sharing information, most of us look up. We think of satellites and radio waves moving information around through the air. But in reality, much of the information we consume and share is from data transmitted through subsea cable networks. From emails to emojis, Netflix to the New York Times, almost all of it happens not in the sky but beneath our feet.
Since joining Telstra, I’ve been astonished to discover the scale of Telstra’s fibre-optic subsea cable network and what it enables. Threading more than 400,000kms under the ocean floor, it circles the world almost 10 times – it’s what I am calling Telstra’s best-kept secret.
This week, we announced two new investments on the Japan to US route, expanding our footprint as the largest subsea cable network in the Asia Pacific. We made Telstra’s first large capacity purchase on the new-generation New Cross Pacific (NCP) cable, and a further investment in the Faster cable. Both investments not only grow capacity from Asia to the US, but are an important part of our overall Asia Pacific vision.
What’s driving this strategy and investment? Demand and need – demand for data and the need for resiliency.
In 2015, Telstra purchased Asian-based telecommunications provider Pacnet. With that Telstra acquired a substantial intra-Asia and Asia-out subsea cable network. Since then, we have fully sold some of that capacity and we are now strategically investing in additional capacity and infrastructure to meet the increasing demand for data, right across the Asia Pacific region, carefully mapping international paths and investment.
In December, Telstra entered into agreed terms to purchase a 25 per cent stake in Southern Cross Cable Network (SCCN). Subject to definitive agreements and regulatory approvals, the agreement includes capacity on the existing Southern Cross network and new Southern Cross NEXT subsea cable – set to become the lowest latency path from Australia to the US. This is an incredibly important route as US to Australia traffic accounts for more than 80 per cent of all the internet traffic to Australia – and is growing.
Last year we also boosted our Asia to US operations with a half fibre pair investment in the Hong Kong Americas (HKA) cable and a 6Tb capacity purchase in the Pacific Light Cable Networks (PLCN) cable, both due to be completed in 2020. These new-builds complement Telstra’s major half fibre pair investment in the INDIGO cable system from South East Asia to Australia, which has reached a major milestone with the completion of the 4,600km Indigo West cable lay from Singapore to Perth just before Christmas.
As the Asia Pacific’s economy grows, so do we. These investments are part of a long term strategy to capture data demand across Asia and the Pacific. Capacity demand on our international network has almost doubled over the past two years alone. What’s driving this? It’s predominantly the explosion of cloud computing, but also significant growth in video streaming and e-commerce. Once completed, Telstra’s investments in SCCN, HKA, PLCN and INDIGO, will further grow Telstra’s subsea cable network.
Telstra has been in this market for over four decades. We want to continue to grow our unique footprint across Asia Pacific.
Beyond capacity however, the increased scale brings diversity and resiliency. There is no doubt that the Asia Pacific represents one of most challenging environments for subsea cables in the world. Shallow waters around Asia combined with a high volume of commercial shipping and fishing activity are a recipe for disaster. The giant anchors of container vessels can easily sever a cable if dropped in a no-stopping cable zone. Combine that with natural disasters like underwater earthquakes that can disrupt the seabed and dislodge cables and typhoons that can cause underwater avalanches, and you have an environment that threatens to damage subsea infrastructure daily.
We protect our network in a number of diverse ways, but having scale and multiple network paths allows us to quickly divert capacity across our network when needed. For our customers, resiliency is vital and our growing footprint increases the peace of mind of our customers.
While the scale of Telstra’s subsea cable network might be a secret under the sea, we don’t want to keep it that way. Our ongoing investment in our subsea cable network not only aims to deliver the best connectivity to businesses, but also hours of entertainment to consumers like you and me.