Subsea cables connecting the world
Business and Enterprise | Network |

Boosting Australia’s connection to the world with Southern Cross

By Michael Ebeid AM October 2, 2019

As we continue to develop the fast, high-capacity, low-latency networks that connect Australians to each other, we must also think about how we connect to the rest of the world. That’s why we’ve been working hard with our partners at the Southern Cross Cable Network to strengthen our investment in current infrastructure while planning for future growth.

72,000 leagues under the sea

You could be forgiven for thinking that connectivity between countries was predominately handled by satellites and other space-based infrastructure. In fact, the real solutions are buried deep beneath the waves. Subsea cables form a crucial part of our international network infrastructure.

Telstra operates the largest intra-Asia subsea cable network in the region, and we’re growing our footprint in Asia-Pacific with critical new cable paths. Our subsea cable network currently spans more than 400,000 kilometres – or just under 72,000 nautical leagues – under the sea. Jules Verne would be proud!

Such a vast network is enough to circle the globe more than 10 times over. This elaborate and impressive network of fibre optic cables continues to expand as we keep pace with the voracious appetite Australians have for high-speed data. But more than just planning for capacity, we’re mindful that we need to build resiliency at the same time as speed.

That’s where our investment with Southern Cross Cable Network comes in.

Almost 80 per cent of all internet traffic to Australia comes from the US, which makes the need for a high-speed and low-latency connection between our two nations paramount. Our new investment in the Southern Cross Cable Network’s (SCCN) existing cable infrastructure as well as the upcoming NEXT cable is about safeguarding that connectivity for the future.

Telstra has acquired a 25 per cent equity interest in the existing Southern Cross Cable Network, joining existing shareholders in the project. It follows several other investments in our subsea cable infrastructure, including:

  • A significant increase in fibre capacity to our subsea infrastructure using Infinera’s Infinite Capacity Engine 4, and
  • The launch of a new rapid restoration service on our assured availability “Always on” service – a world-first offering to key routes in Asia – reducing restoration time from within eight hours to just minutes.

The investment in Southern Cross builds on our existing footprint across Asia-Pacific where we carry over 30 per cent of the region’s active capacity.

Alongside these investments, we’re excited to also partner with SCCN as one of the anchor customer for its upcoming NEXT cable. Designed to carry 72 Terabits per second of traffic, the equivalent of simultaneously streaming 4.6 million ultra-high definition movies, Southern Cross’s NEXT will meet our customers’ growing data requirements well into the future.

With the completion of the Southern Cross NEXT cable scheduled for January 2022, Telstra customers will have access to capacity across the three routes across the Pacific, connecting Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and the United States, maximising diversity and resiliency.

Thanks to our subsea investments, we are now well placed to meet the growing data requirements of our customers now and into the future, right across the Asia-Pacific region.

Man on a smart phone in Singapore business area
Business and Enterprise | Network |

From Phnom Penh to Indigo West: three decades of connecting Asia

By Andrew Hankins June 25, 2019

When it comes to creating telecommunications infrastructure, there’s not much that Andrew Hankins, Head of Network Evolution for Telstra Enterprise, hasn’t seen in his 30 years at Telstra. Here he looks back on some of his experiences, from Phnom Penh to San Francisco, where he helped create the networks that deliver connectivity as we know it in Asia Pacific today.

When you think about the most connected places in the world, you might instinctively think of New York or Silicon Valley. But really you need to look to Asia Pacific where Hong Kong and Singapore lead the way.

Recently, together with our consortium partners, we announced the Indigo West subsea cable was ready for service. Indigo has a capacity of 36 terabytes per second and promises very low latency connection between Perth and Singapore. It is one of the first ‘open cables’ and deploys cutting-edge engineering to offer about 200,000 times more capacity than cables carried in the 1980s.

It’s fair to say things have changed since I first started at the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (the OTC – now Telstra). In fact, Indigo West is just one of many milestones in telecoms history I have witnessed in my 30 years at Telstra.

In at the deep end

My experiences in Asia started in the late 1980s. The OTC sent me to Cambodia where, like some other countries in the region at the time, networks were almost non-existent.

Our first job was building out international connectivity with satellite stations in the country’s capital Phnom Penh. If you wanted to make a call out of the country, you had to connect to the circuits running either to Hanoi or Moscow. It was certainly a new experience given this was around the time of the end of the Cold War and fall of the Berlin Wall.

Unlike my first postings at the Elizabeth Street office and the Oxford Falls Satellite station testing new antennas in the comfortable surrounds of Sydney’s suburbs, our work in Cambodia was characterised by frequent blackouts and trips to the Russian embassy to stock up on cornflakes.

The United Nations arrived in 1992 with a mandate to restore civil government, hold elections and rehabilitate a country ravaged by civil war and military occupation.

As the UN embarked on a nation-building program, we built a communications network for around 22,000 military and civilian personnel. This included the first mobile network in the country.

Even with the UN’s large presence, it wasn’t without its challenges. Each network site had to be checked and cleared of landmines before we could start construction. And members of our team had to travel to the Khmer Rouge heartlands to install phone lines and satellite links.

Soon the telecom market began to open up. Three mobile phone companies were allowed to set up and operate in the country. Between 1992 and 1995 we built a larger international exchange and infrastructure to connect the mobile phone networks.

Starting from scratch, Cambodia effectively leapfrogged generations of technology, including copper fixed lines. At one point, the country had one of the highest ratios of mobiles to fixed line connections in the world. And that has continued to this day with over 25 million active mobile subscriptions for a country of 16.4 million people.

Students using laptops in classroom at college campus
Business and Enterprise | Network |

Our long history in Asia – a lot more than just cables and PoPs

By Oliver Camplin-Warner June 24, 2019

As the telecommunications industry gathers in Atlanta for ITW, it’s normal for companies to focus on what’s new.

Announcements like our deployment of the brand new high-speed INDIGO cable between Singapore and Australia or our expansion of our ‘Always-on’ connection service which is aimed at providing continuous connection on our busiest Asian routes represent important developments both for us and our customers – the latest investments we have made in enhancing global connectivity and our subsea cable network.

It is also, however, a time to reflect on the entirety of what we do and highlight some of the lesser reported facts about connecting the world to Asia – and Asia to the world.

Building and operating the largest subsea cable network in APAC with 30 per cent of the lit intra-Asia capacity is not easy. But in addition to that, we have also built a strong in-country footprint across the region in markets with different languages, cultural norms, climatic conditions, not to mention complex access regimes. That’s why we’re extremely proud of the work we’ve done to become the number one foreign telecommunications provider in South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines – and one of the top few in mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.*

A shared experience creating Asian connectivity

These achievements are founded on a long history on the ground in Asia.

From the development of the first international networks into Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to work on the first Hong Kong to Singapore cable, we have been deeply involved in delivering connectivity in Asia. We were instrumental in the development on the first mobile networks in India and Sri Lanka, as well as the first 2G network in Thailand.

We are honoured to have contributed to these developments, and even more proud that some of the people who achieved these feats are still with us today more than 30 years later.

An ongoing commitment to in-country Asian expertise

Today, Asia is booming. The region’s economic rise has seen it called the “world growth engine”, driven by countries that make up more than 60 per cent of the world’s population, and those people are demanding connectivity!

By 2022, it’s expected that Asian IP traffic will grow by 32 per cent every year, ultimately carrying as much as 5.7 exabytes every day – more than every word ever spoken by human beings.

And we are playing a vital role in supporting this growth. In January, Telstra made an investment on the Japan to US route on the new-generation New Cross Pacific cable. These investments are part of a long-term strategy to capture data demand across Asia and the Pacific, in conjunction with our leading position on the HK-US route and investment in both Hong Kong Americas and Pacific Light Cable Network.

When it comes to infrastructure we continue to: build out our subsea cable network boosting capacity and resiliency delivering our always on promise, increase our investment in our backhaul network across China, Taiwan, Japan & Korea, and be at forefront of providing connectivity between US & China.

But technology and connectivity don’t meet all our customers’ needs. That’s why we continue to build our local presence and engage with the local governments and the business community, to offer local service, support and counsel to customers around the world.

Relationship goals: milestones in key markets

This enviable position is due to our culture of partnering with our customers, and of having strong engineering expertise and an exemplary service record.

We have engaged local staff, forged public and private partnerships, and invested in domestic infrastructure making it easier for our customers to do business across mainland China, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and more.

This year marks a decade of operations for our Telstra PBS joint venture in China, founded on the strength of our long-term relationships with Chinese partners. We were the first Sino-foreign joint venture with a cross-provincial IPVPN license in mainland China, building and operating data centres, IPVPN networks and backhaul that now extend to 47 PoPs in 37 cities – with more coming soon. We are the only western Telco with approval for cross border VPN into China.

We also celebrate our fifth anniversary of telkomtelstra in Indonesia; our joint venture with Indonesia’s largest carrier Telkom. Marrying Telkom’s extensive domestic network capability and infrastructure with our international and service capabilities, we offer end-to-end managed solutions across Indonesia.

Connect to Asian expertise

Individually, each of these developments offers answers to some of our customers’ biggest challenges in looking to connect with Asian growth.

But all together they underline the strength of our commitment – both in the ongoing development of our subsea network and our extensive, unique in-country people & asset footprint – to support our customers do business in Asia in bigger and better ways.

* Assessment based on three criteria, including each of total number of in-country employees, total in-country revenue and domestic network footprint.

Business and Enterprise |

Which Asian economies are winning the digital transformation race?

By Oliver Camplin-Warner December 11, 2018

Oliver Camplin-Warner, our Head of International, spends plenty of time working in Asia’s dynamic markets. He talks about the varying levels digital readiness across the region, after The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) released its second digital ranking of 11 key Asian markets.

Second ever Asian Digital Transformation Index released

One of the most striking factors in Asia’s tremendous growth over the past few decades is how the digital revolution has enabled businesses to thrive. As a professional based in Hong Kong and working across the region’s markets, I remain keenly aware of how closely a business’ fortune is pegged to the digital readiness around it. And it’s become clear during my travels that not all digital environments are equal.

As part of new global research commissioned by Telstra, The EIU has released the second edition of the Asian Digital Transformation Index, a ranking of 11 markets in the region plus three global comparators on 20 indicators covering digital infrastructure, human capital and industry connectedness. Through commissioning this research we aim to increase the understanding of digital capabilities and challenges across the region, as well as the digital environment of each economy.

Click to read the 2018 Asian Digital Transformation Index report.

While the research found established technology hubs like Singapore and Japan continue to uphold their reputation for digital maturity, it’s encouraging to observe economies like Taiwan and India making meaningful strides in fulfilling their digital potential.

Predictably, Singapore topped the Index overall for a second time driven largely by its clear digital vision and successful ICT infrastructure strategy – including 5G development plans and its fibre network rollout. While the city-state benefits from its relatively small land mass, it was also found to have the greatest proportion of telecommunications professionals within its workforce – a major advantage for the development of new technologies such as IoT, AI and Industry 4.0.

The Index also revealed Japan and Hong Kong outpaced South Korea to take second and third place, with Taiwan coming in fifth. South Korea slid backward this year to fourth place, but held onto its optimistic prospects. The technology hotspot was found to be the most prepared to meet the future challenges of automation partly due to favourable education polices, also reporting the highest tertiary enrolment rate out of the 11 Asian economies researched (94%).

Which markets are on the way up?

But to embrace the new opportunities fueled by digital readiness, organisations need to look closely at those economies climbing the ladder across some of the Index’s key measures.

Take the gains across Hong Kong’s digital environment. Hong Kong ranked as second in the digital infrastructure measure, up one place from the first Index. Hong Kong has the third highest fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) take-up rate of the Index, an integral element of next-generation networks needed to support the rapid growth in data usage. About 74% of Hong Kong’s population now has access to superfast internet connectivity – behind Singapore (97%) and mainland China (77%).

India also climbed four places thanks, in part, to 86 per cent of its population now enjoying 4G access compared with less than 20 per cent three years ago. Japan made progress in aspects of digital infrastructure following well-implemented government policy, moving up two places. Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan were found to have more affordable broadband compared to US and Australia, pointing to digital strength within many of these key markets.

When I speak with our customers across Asia, they continually cite finding the right people with the right digital skills as an acute business challenge that impacts their operations. Big data and analytics skills are identified as scarce, but The EIU found this is starting to change.

Singapore made significant gains in The EIU’s rankings of digital skills and education, moving up three places in since the first Index release, overtaking South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan to top the Index’s human capital measure. Hong Kong too reported the second largest proportion of skilled technology workers (5%), above India, Korea and Taiwan (4%).

Finally, how well organisations absorb and benefit from the digital technology available in the market remains key to creating competitive advantage. It was positive to see South Korea, Malaysia and mainland China register marked improvements in this kind of industry connectivity.

So when we hone in on a region as dynamic and as large as Asia, it’s undeniable digital transformation remains a major engine of growth. But while most economies in the Index have access to the tools they need to bring about far-reaching technology-led change, let’s ask: are we embracing not only the capabilities – but the potential – in each market?

Read the full report here.