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Building on our Asia-Pacific network leadership with new investments

Business and Enterprise

Posted on January 22, 2018

3 min read

A vast network of undersea and terrestrial cables carry the data we use to connect to the cloud, stream content, shop, and socialise online. But capacity demand on these cables is increasing at around 30 per cent each year, as cloud computing scales and as we continue to use more and more data. Paul Abfalter, our Director of OTT and Emerging Markets, explains how we are investing to meet this growing demand and growing our network leadership in the Asia-Pacific region.

As cloud computing and the number and variety of digital devices in use worldwide continues to explode, so too does the demand for the international networks needed to keep them connected.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Asia, which is now home to almost half the world’s internet consumers and where tens of millions of new services are enabled every year.

While Japan has historically been the primary driver of economic growth in the Asia-Pacific (or APAC) region, China is now the second largest economy in the world and is driving the most capacity growth of any country in Asia. As an example, we saw a 25 per cent uplift in traffic across our IP network in a single day during the ‘Double 11’ or ‘Singles Day’ sales promotion in China last November.

In line with this increasing demand, we are investing in two new international subsea cable systems that will connect Hong Kong and the west coast of the United States. These investments will help us to meet the growing demand for capacity to support the growth of China and south-east Asia, and will maintain our position as the owner and operator of the largest network of Asia-Pacific subsea cables.

The first investment will see us partner to build the new Hong Kong Americas (HKA) cable, on which we will have a half fibre pair. Additionally, we will invest in capacity on the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) that will also connect Hong Kong and the US. The investment will deliver the equivalent of 6 terabits per second (TBps) of new capacity on our network.

These two cables will provide our customers with greater resiliency, bypassing areas prone to natural disasters. They will also offer two direct, alternative paths to our AAG cable – on which we operate the most capacity and which connects South East Asia to the US west coast via Hong Kong, Guam and Hawaii.

These investments follow the announcement in April last year that we had entered into a consortium to build INDIGO, a new subsea cable system between Australia and South East Asia.

We are one of the leaders in transporting the data that enables millions of consumers and businesses to connect to the internet and with each other around the world. Our subsea network is a key part of our international growth strategy and the services we provide to large and emerging cloud and content companies, global and regional mobile and service providers, as well as multinational corporations requiring connectivity across APAC.

We will continue to invest to maintain our network leadership, and this includes a commitment to investing in additional capacity on the Australia to US route, as well as investing in terrestrial networks in China, Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines to expand on our already unique positions there.

The HKA cable is expected to be completed in 2020 and PLCN in 2019.

My story: connecting Cambodia to the world after the Khmer Rouge regime

Business and Enterprise

Posted on January 19, 2018

7 min read

In his 25 years at Telstra, our international head of network evolution Andrew Hankins has never backed down from a challenge. That includes relocating to Cambodia – as a graduate engineer – to help facilitate the nation’s first international calls after the fall of the Pol Pot regime.

I remember my first job; perhaps more profoundly than most. It’s probably because it led me all the way from my home in Sydney to Phnom Penh less than 10 years after the reign of the Khmer Rouge.

The country was in a state of flux.

Before my time in Cambodia, I began my career as a junior graduate engineer at the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC) in Sydney. I was 21 years old, and had never left the country. At the time OTC (now Telstra) was charged with responsibility for all international connectivity into and out of Australia.

I worked in the satellite services team, testing and installing antennas and building small earth satellite stations. My first posting was at the Oxford Falls Cable Station in Sydney.

My time abroad with OTC started in an unlikely place – an AIDAB (now AusAID) aid project in Laos as part of an Australian government program in the late 80s. It opened my eyes to a different world; one where I was empowered to act and use my skills to make a real difference in places where it was needed.

Not long after this experience, OTC offered me the opportunity to join a four month project to build a Satellite Earth Station in Cambodia. It was 1991 and the Vietnamese military had just withdrawn after a 10-year occupation. The newly-formed State of Cambodia faced the difficult task of maintaining stability amidst the potential guerrilla warfare.

The satellite station construction was the first project under a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) agreement with the Cambodian Ministry of Telecommunications. We were tasked with building and jointly operating the country’s international telecommunications infrastructure which would, after 10 years, be returned to the government. At that time, the only international links were a handful of circuits to Hanoi and Moscow and it was nearly impossible to make a simple phone call out of the country.

Cambodia looked very different 28 years ago. The only foreigners in Phnom Penh were from the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries. Children playing in the streets would often assume we were Russian. Each morning, I would ride my bicycle to work at the satellite station and local students would ride beside me and ask questions to practice their English.

Although it was illegal to learn English in Cambodia at the time, they would innocently ask questions like, “what is your function [job]?” or “do you still have a family?” It was grimly telling. In the absence of many western staples, simple items like cornflakes became a small reminder of home. The post-war conditions saw Cambodia largely disconnected from the rest of the world.

During the testing and commissioning phase of the satellite station installation, we would work under the moonlight from 10PM until dawn. This was the testing window allocated by Intelsat (a satellite services provider). During these hours, the streets were always eerily empty. There was a nationwide curfew in place and Cambodians were required to stay in their houses at night.

To get to the cable station we would pass through the maze of roadblocks scattered across the city. What would normally be a straightforward set-up was instead fraught with challenges. One of the largest was interfacing our equipment with the country’s outdated 1920’s French operator panel. Within weeks of establishing better service, international call traffic grew about 1000 per cent.

After travelling home to Australia for 12 months, I was quick to return to Cambodia – this time as Telstra’s Operations Manager. At just 23 years of age, I became responsible for a large part of the country’s telecommunications network.

We began training around 20 local Ministry staff to operate the facilities, most of whom had studied telecommunications or electronics in places like East Germany, Hungary or Russia. Local switchboard operators received lessons from a lively Australian woman, who had flown over to impart knowledge on long distance call etiquette and fair practice.

During this time, we worked to install the country’s first automated international exchange to replace the old French model. This exchange provided automated calls and billing. Sadly, the original exchange had been partially destroyed in a sweeping attack at the height of the Khmer Rouge regime. Incredibly, we later heard stories of how the local workers had returned to the scene and rewired the exchange from memory. It was an incredible demonstration of their resilience.

In March 1992, a United Nations peacekeeping operation arrived in Cambodia bringing with them around 22,000 military and civilian personnel. It was a de-escalation process that would provide the Kingdom’s first national elections.

To enable the elections, a tender was opened for the installation of a telecom system across the country. It was a contract that Telstra won. At the height of this project, we had 50 Telstra staff in Cambodia building out a telephone network – linking all the provincial cities back to Phnom Penh. Not long after the election, Telstra also set up Cambodia’s first mobile phone number program based on our approach in Australia.

Rapidly, Cambodia was becoming a much larger international gateway. The exchange buildings were quickly upgraded to near-international standards with purpose-built air-conditioning and generators. We built larger antennas – one pointing to the Pacific Ocean and the other to the Indian Ocean thereby establishing direct satellite links to Australia, Thailand, the United States and Japan. Business was booming and traffic was growing at about 1000 per cent per year.

In 1994 I returned to Australia once again – this time for four years, and with support from Telstra I gained an MBA. But, Cambodia continued to be a magnet. In 1999, I went back to Cambodia as Country Manager and this time ran three businesses: international telecommunications, internet services (BigPond Cambodia) and a payphone business.

After an incredible 10 years, it was time to transfer the infrastructure to the Ministry thereby concluding our BOT agreement. At an official ceremony, in the presence of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, we handed over the physical keys to the foundational infrastructure. It’s a moment that’s etched in my memory. Each of us were awarded medals of service for our work to facilitate some of the country’s first international commercial calls.

The years that followed were markedly different. I arrived in San Francisco for a six month posting that became six years. Here, we would set-up some of Telstra’s first dedicated network in the United States. I suppose I had carved myself a name for taking on new challenges. In 2006, I would come full circle and return to Asia, settling in Hong Kong. It’s where I still reside today.

Establishing some of Cambodia’s first international links is among my most rewarding career achievements. From a 21 year old graduate to my role today as Telstra’s Head of Network Evolution, it’s the time in-between that stands out the most.

I always make a point of telling people starting out in their career to grab the opportunities that come your way – don’t hesitate. Grab them whenever they arise, no matter how unexpected.

After all, my story is living proof that you never know where the road will take you.


Leading the forefront of education in India

Telstra Business Women's Awards

Posted on October 17, 2017

3 min read

Last week we announced the seven finalists of this year’s Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award category. In the coming weeks, we will share inspiring stories of some of these outstanding women from India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. Today, meet Geeta Dharmarajan, Founder and President of Katha from India.

As a passionate writer and storyteller, educationist, reading advocate and community focused leader, Geeta Dharmarajan has combined these traits to create her not-for-profit organisation, Katha, which has been at the forefront of publishing and education in India for three decades. Through the years, Geeta has been bringing together India’s 2,000-year-old storytelling, theatre, dance and music traditions into her StoryPedagogy, a sustainable education model that spans the literacy to literature continuum, seeing translations as a non-divisive tool in nation building.

Family has been a big inspiration for Geeta. Her grandmother, an Indian social activist, and her father, a family doctor, highlighted the importance of empathy and equity, from an early age. Knowing that children living in poverty are not given the opportunity to learn, Geeta started the Katha Lab School in 1990, to give all children the opportunity to bring themselves out of poverty and live a better life. From mainstreaming quality into ageold government systems, to starting bold, innovative reading initiatives that impact thousands of schoolchildren, to cutting edge teacher training, Geeta is making a positive impact on poverty reduction through quality education.

Katha’s education model focuses on learning for meaning. Geeta is fostering in children a reader-leadership to create a kinder, more nurturing world. Katha’s children’s books open the world of Indian culture and diversity amongst people, helping to create a more open and inclusive society. From caring for the earth and nature, and gender issues, Katha’s focus is on equality for everyone.

As the world is rapidly digitising, technology has played an important role in Geeta’s plan to bring 300 million children in India to help bring equity in education. From this, the Katha digital lab – the organisation’s cell that creates ekits, apps, website service and online education resource – was born. Through the power of technology, DigitalKatha removes physical barriers, enabling children across the country to have access to books and learning. Enhancing the use of technology is also key to the organisation’s work with teachers and poor communities, facilitating the training of government school teachers as cloud specialists, enabling them to lead their own learning clusters of teachers.

The impact of Katha and Geeta’s constant ambition to educate children has had significant impact in India. Not only has she empowered children in government schools, in over 1000 poor communities training 350,000 women, but also 17,000 teachers in primary education. Her work has helped over 1.3 million children to date to become upwardly mobile, who otherwise would not have had access to an education. Katha books have reached 8 million children and continues to grow!

Geeta is one of seven finalists for this year’s Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award category. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 21 November in Melbourne.

Click here for more information on the Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award or to nominate brilliant business women for the 2018 Awards.

Telkomtelstra uses in-depth local knowledge in a growing Indonesian market

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on October 11, 2017

3 min read

The Country Managing Director for Telstra Indonesia, Erik Meijer, gave a short presentation at Telstra Vantage 2017 about Telstra’s work in the growing Indonesian market through Telkomtelstra — a joint venture between Telstra and Telkom Indonesia.

Meijer pointed to Indonesia as a huge growth market in the technology industry. It has a population of 262 million people — 10 times that of Australia — and a fast-growing Internet penetration of 55 percent. Technology adoption is on a steep rise, too. Most people skip older, more established technologies, such as fixed-line broadband, in favour of new wireless options. Indonesia now has 370 million active mobile subscriptions, which is how most Indonesians access the Internet, and two-fifths of the population is active on social media.

The Internet has become a central part of life for many Indonesians. Average Internet use per day per user is three hours, and — while there are only eight million credit cards in circulation — over 100 million people, or 41 percent of the population, have bought something online.

This digital savviness of the consumer market makes it increasingly important for businesses in Indonesia to follow suit. Indonesia is maturing into a global economic powerhouse. If the current GDP growth rate of 5 percent every year continues, it will have one of the 10 largest economies in the world in 2020.

Older Indonesian companies are lagging behind consumers in take-up of digital technologies, however, and brick and mortar stores have traditionally seen online as competition rather than an opportunity for growth. This presents international companies with an opportunity to expand into Indonesia, especially if they can connect online and offline worlds.

Meijer said the big growth areas at the moment for business are in financial technology (also known as fintech), e-commerce, software as a service (SaaS), and on-demand/service marketplaces. And the main trend is a move into cloud connectivity, although this is more complicated in Indonesia because of regulatory restrictions on data sovereignty.

Telkomtelstra is currently the only company that offers a hybrid cloud service to businesses that’s in line with these regulations. Telkomtelstra can also manage a company’s data and network security and infrastructure, and it can provide managed unified communications (a complicated thing in a country of 17,000 islands), SaaS customer engagement solutions, and vital insights into the Indonesian market that help forecast risk for expansion into the territory.

In the three years since telkomtelstra began operation, the joint venture has grown to manage about 13,000 business sites for more than 100 customers. Meijer said there are 130 Telkomtelstra employees on the ground in Indonesia to help serve business customers. Besides on-site support, they have a cloud contact centre, a network operations centre that runs around the clock, and a customer portal that displays the status of all network components in real-time.

The real value of all these services, Meijer emphasised, is that they allow businesses to “outsource all your boring stuff” on the technology side so that IT teams can focus on innovation and on driving the business forward.

Faster financial trading for ASX customers

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on September 27, 2017

3 min read

Telstra has announced it has entered into an agreement with the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) to become the connectivity partner for ASX’s international network services, ASX Net Global. The agreement will provide ASX Net Global customers access to Telstra’s EPL Express (Ethernet Private Line Express “EPLX”) solution, which offers some of the fastest network services on the market today for financial trading companies.

EPLX provides financial trading companies with a dedicated point-to-point service, which uses the shortest routes available to connect key financial centres to points-of-presence (PoPs) located in financial exchanges in these centres, thus minimising end-to-end transmission delays.

Brendon Riley, Group Executive, Telstra Enterprise, said the agreement extends the connectivity Telstra currently provides ASX and will directly connect ASX customers with exchange communities in some of the world’s leading financial centres.

“We currently connect ASX to our PoPs in the Chicago and Hong Kong financial exchanges. We will now connect to additional points in these cities, as well as to London and Singapore,” said Mr Riley.

The EPLX service utilises Telstra’s extensive subsea cable network, which for the second consecutive year has been awarded the highest product or service scores for High Capacity Network and Low Latency Network Use Cases in the Gartner Critical Capabilities report for Network Services, Asia Pacific 2017.

“Financial services is an important industry for us and this partnership is testament to our commitment to delivering flexible, innovative solutions that help financial firms reach global markets with speed and reliability,” said Mr Riley. “In a world where a fraction of a millisecond matters, our EPLX service provides fast, point-to-point network connectivity between key data centres and trading hubs that will provide an edge in a competitive market.”

This service is backed by Telstra’s comprehensive low latency service level agreements that help customers mitigate unnecessary risks.

“Being the largest owner and operator of subsea cables in Asia with multiple connectivity options into the US and UK, we can offer more diversity and redundancy to our customers and the ability to quickly identify and address any network issues,” said Mr Riley.

David Raper, ASX’s Executive General Manager Trading Services, said “ASX’s partnership with Telstra will enhance the existing services we provide via our ASX Net Global communications network and enable us to offer new services to customers of our international hubs. We have the functionality and flexibility to cater for a variety of customer connectivity needs, including those seeking the lowest latency or simply wanting more bandwidth.”

More information on EPL Express.

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