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The INDIGO subsea cable: the power of the internet beneath the ocean

Business and Enterprise

Posted on October 23, 2018

4 min read

A cable the width of your average garden hose is being laid deep beneath the ocean along a 4600km route between Perth, Singapore and Jakarta. Once complete it will boost internet speeds for Australians and provide huge opportunities for business, particularly in the areas of e-commerce, cloud services, education, research and innovation.

This new subsea cable project, called INDIGO, recently reached a significant milestone, with work on the first section connecting into Perth now complete. While we’re building INDIGO in partnership with a number of consortium partners, Telstra’s extensive infrastructure and experience in managing large scale network rollouts in Australia and around the world have been critical throughout this project.

Leveraging our network leadership and engineering excellence

Laying a cable under the ocean, across international and territorial waters, is a complex task that requires a lot of planning.

For INDIGO, we started by mapping our preferred route to lay the cable – which involved surveying and scanning the seabed to see if there were any obstacles or areas we needed to avoid. You would be surprised by what you can find lying on the ocean floor! Once we had determined the best route, we worked with various government departments to obtain permits to lay the cable.

The added complexity with boosting connectivity between nations is that the cable runs through international waters and the territorial waters of multiple countries. This means abiding by the respective local regulations and managing permits from various governments. In INDIGO’s case, we worked with our contractor and consortium partners to help obtain the necessary permits to run the cable through Singapore and Indonesian waters.

The INDIGO cable was manufactured at a specialist facility in Calais, France and we were on hand to supervise the final stages of manufacturing to ensure quality and then oversee the cable being loaded onto a special cable ship called the Ile de Brehat. Along the way, we have been in regular contact with the ship’s captain and crew to make sure we are tracking to plan and to manage any issues that may arise, such as severe weather that means we have to stop work for the safety of the ship’s crew.

We have been able to leverage our extensive network assets in Australia as part of this project. When the cable reached Floreat Beach in Perth, it was fed through a duct under the beach to a nearby manhole, where it will then be connected to a Telstra exchange. From here it will connect to our extensive terrestrial network and provide fast onward connectivity around Australia.

Connecting customers across the rapidly growing Asia Pacific region

We have now started work to lay the remaining section of cable that will connect Singapore and Jakarta. This section of cable passes through shallow waters and busy shipping ports, so we are armouring the cable and burying it under the seabed to protect it from damage.

We expect to finish laying the cable by the end of 2018 before testing begins. It will then be turned on and start transmitting data from mid-2019. Once completed, the INDIGO cable system will have more capacity than the cable currently in use between Perth and Singapore, and support faster speeds of up to 36 terabits per second – the equivalent of simultaneously streaming millions of movies a second.

Our vast subsea network is a key part of our international growth strategy and Telstra will continue to invest in additional capacity to meet the increasing demand for data and maintain our network leadership in Asia Pacific, which represents about 30 per cent of capacity in the region. This provides unprecedented benefits to our customers in today’s high-speed, connected world.

Read more: How we protect our subsea cable network

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