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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

Tags: subsea cables,

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 percent 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, like a subsea cable, 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 percent 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.

Cable building better links between Perth and Singapore


Posted on April 6, 2017

2 min read

While it takes a little over five hours for us to fly between Perth and Singapore, data is transmitted under the ocean at close to the speed of light. Now, work is about to start on a new subsea cable that will further strengthen links between Australia and one of our largest trading partners – and beyond.

This new subsea cable system, called INDIGO, is being built by Telstra in partnership with Google, international telecommunications providers, Indosat Ooredoo and Singtel, and Australian telecommunications infrastructure providers AARNet and SubPartners. Once completed, it will have more capacity and more innovative features than the current cable that runs between Perth and Singapore.

With an ‘open cable’ design and spectrum sharing technology, each consortium member will have the ability to independently take advantage of technology advancements throughout the life of the cable. This means we can better respond to the future needs of our customers, including increasing capacity if needed.

INDIGO will have two fibre pairs, with each supporting a minimum capacity design of 18 terabits per second using coherent optical technology. This is around 40 times more capacity than the current cable that runs between Perth and Singapore. It’s also the equivalent of downloading 1,000 movies a second, or streaming millions of movies simultaneously. This will enable better connectivity for consumers and provide huge opportunities for business, particularly in the areas of e-commerce, education, research and innovation.

With internet data consumption growing at around 70 percent in Asia Pacific last year, the INDIGO cable will be a critical piece of infrastructure that will build on the more than 400,000km of subsea cables we already operate. This is the largest and most diverse network in the Asia Pacific region and the centrepiece of our global business – it underpins the services we provide other telcos and the OTT tech giants, and it is the core from which we add on top our value added services, like cloud and unified communications, for enterprise customers. We will continue to look for opportunities to build on this network leadership.

Work is expected to start soon on a marine route survey to ensure the cable will be laid using the most optimal route. Construction of the cable and other equipment will then commence, with the cable due to be completed by mid-2019.

Find out more about what’s involved in building a new subsea cable.

Building a growing subsea cable network


Posted on August 30, 2016

5 min read

Have you ever thought about the infrastructure behind the everyday things we do online, like shopping, streaming a TV show or updating friends on Facebook? It’s something many people take for granted, but there is a complex, interconnected submarine network keeping everyone connected. Darrin Webb looks at what it takes to build a world class subsea cable network.

As more people around the world consume more and more data and digital products, the cable network under the sea becomes increasingly important.

Submarine cables carry more than 99 per cent of international data traffic (satellite accounts for less than one per cent). Telstra operates the largest submarine cable network in the Asia Pacific, accounting for up to 30 per cent of active intra-regional capacity. Our latest addition to our network is the Tasman Global Access (TGA) submarine cable system, which is designed to significantly improve connectivity between Australia and New Zealand and to strengthen New Zealand’s links with Asia. Once completed, the TGA cable will run 2,300km from Raglan in New Zealand to Narrabeen, just north of Sydney in Australia.

As one of three consortium partners building the cable, we are responsible for coordinating the multitude of tasks involved in adding a new part to the global subsea internet architecture and landing the cable in Australia. This week marked a significant milestone as the Ile de Re, a specialist cable, ship docked near Narrabeen to start laying the cable from the Australian side. On hand to meet the ship was a large crew, including a dive team to help connect the cable from the land out to sea.

So just what does it take to build a subsea cable network?

Building and maintaining a submarine network can be complex, involving multiple regulatory rules in different markets, and requiring specialist boats and skills. It’s a serious logistical exercise, but can broadly be broken down into three steps:

1. Planning. The longest part of the process. There are a number of factors that go into developing the plan – from gaining the necessary permits and licenses to mapping. Sonar technology is used to physically survey the underwater area so we can determine the best route. To do this we take into consideration things like the depth of the seafloor and whether there are any underwater obstructions in the area, like shipping containers, which often fall off container ships. In simple terms, the deeper the water the safer it is for the cable as it is better protected against hazards like fishing trawlers and the anchors of large vessels. If the water is any shallower than one kilometre, we tend to bury the cable under the sea floor to avoid damage.

2. Manufacturing. Submarine cable needs to be specially manufactured and only a few companies in the world have the both capability and location to do it – their base needs to be near a port with water deep enough for a large ship to enter so the cable can be loaded – in this case over 2,000km of it and it’s coiled just like your typical garden hose! There are two components to the cable – the optical fibres which carry light (i.e. data) and a plastic tubular cover to protect the fibre.

3. Laying. This is where the precision of the planning really comes into play. Out at sea, the ship’s crew use GPS co-ordinates to drop the cable into place. In some cases cables can be laid up to 9km deep. Just like a plow on the back of a farmer’s tractor, the cable is slowly released off the back of the ship using a joystick-like control device. When the crew get closer to shore, a directional bore is used to guide the cable from a manhole on land, under the shore line and out to sea. A dive team is usually on hand to help connect the two pieces of cable.

Our growing subsea network

While establishing a new submarine cable is a complicated and resource intensive task, it is central to enjoying the internet service so many people enjoy every day. Our global network is increasingly in demand and is the centerpiece of our growing international enterprise business. That is why we have been expanding our network.  In addition to our stake in the TGA cable, we:

  • Recently built an overland fibre cable in Taiwan – a unique route from southern Taiwan to Hong Kong, which provides lower latency and diversity away from the earthquake prone Luzon Strait. This allows us to better service both the Taiwan market, and then beyond Taiwan to provide a unique redundancy link for traffic travelling from Japan and the US to Hong Kong and Singapore that other carriers cannot easily replicate.
  • Have acquired 1000Gbps capacity on the new 10,000km trans-pacific subsea “FASTER” cable system “FASTER” that connects Japan with the west coast of the US and makes use of 100Gbps wave technology. This enhances our network diversity and increases options for our customers.
  • Are enhancing our EAC-C2C cable, increasing capacity on the fibre pairs to 10 times their original design and extending the life of this cable by seven years until at least 2035 (at more than 36,000km this is the largest privately owned and operated cable in Asia).
  • Introduced a new highly resilient fibre ring network in South Korea, which brings new options and improved network resilience.

This network investment is critical to ensuring we can offer our customers around the world fast, resilient connection.