Carriers Plan $500M Transpacific Link

A group of 17 carriers and government bodies is planning a $500 million transpacific communications cable, called the Asia-America Gateway (AAG), that will link Southeast Asia and North America. (See Subsea Network Planned.)

The consortium, led by Telekom Malaysia Bhd. , wants to avoid a repeat of the connectivity problems that plagued Southeast Asian countries for months following the earthquake near Taiwan on Dec. 26, 2005. (See Earthquake Cuts Cables Near Taiwan and Quake Shakes IP Transit Market.)

Among the carriers funding the AAG are some that were most affected by the earthquake, including Singapore's StarHub , PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk. (Telkom) , and Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Corp. (See StarHub Updates on Cable Damage.)

Others involved include AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), BT Global Services , Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) , Saigon Postel Corp. , and Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS)

The 20,000-kilometer cable, which will handle traffic up to 1.92 Tbit/s, will be designed and built by submarine optical system suppliers Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), and is expected to come into service by the end of 2008 with an initial capacity of 480 Gbit/s. (See AlcaLu, NEC Win Deal.)

It will run from Malaysia to the west coast of the U.S. via Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Hong Kong SAR, the Philippines, Guam, and Hawaii, a route that avoids the earthquake zones and subsea volcanoes that could cause the sort of disruption experienced just over a year ago.

For Australian carrier Telstra, the new cable will be another fallback to its subsea connectivity plans, as it's already building a direct link from Sydney to Hawaii. (See Telstra Picks ALU for Subsea.)

Today's news comes just months after a separate consortium announced the $500 million, 18,000-kilometer Trans-Pacific Express, which will run from China to the U.S. (See Carriers to Connect China With $500M Cable.)

And there's more. Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (VSNL) (NYSE: VSL) announced last year it had beefed up the capacity of its cable, called the Trans-Pacific Network, while Pacific Crossing Ltd. (PC-1) recently raised some cash to invest in its link between Asia/Pacific and North America. (See VSNL Boosts Asia Subsea Capacity and PCL Raises $50M.)

It's not just the transpacific route that's seeing new submarine action, though. Maroc Telecom just landed its Atlas Offshore cable in France, Mediterranean Nautilus is upgrading its network, Telia Carrier is expanding its subsea capacity, Reliance Communications Ltd. (RCom) is investing heavily in the FLAG Telecom Ltd. new IP network, and VSNL is investing in a pan-Asian cable. (See AlcaLu Lands Maroc Deal, Alcatel Wins Med Deal, TIC Expands Subsea Capacity, FLAG Announces NGN, and VSNL Boosts Asia Subsea Capacity.)

And with so much submarine capacity work ongoing, capacity upgrade specialist Azea Networks Ltd. has just landed a new round of funding to help it capture some of the emerging business. (See Subsea Firm Azea Raises $20M.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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