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Wholesale/transport services

Reliance Takes Silk Route to China

Global Cloud Xchange and China Telecom Corp. Ltd. (NYSE: CHA) have built a new multi-terabit link between India and China to address the growing need for Asia/Pacific wholesale capacity and to provide an alternative route to the fat pipes already linking the two countries.

What's novel is that, unlike the major international submarine connections, this link runs over land and, according to Reliance, is the first terrestrial connection between India and China. And, while the two carriers are already interconnected via submarine routes, this is the first network construction project on which they've cooperated, according to Reliance. (See New Cable Links India, China.)

The 250-kilometer pipe, known as the China-India Cable System, is just coming into service; has been built using Nortel Networks Ltd. DWDM gear; and has a design capacity of 4.8 Tbit/s, according to China Telecom.

It runs from the northeastern India city of Siliguri along one of the former Silk Routes that, at the Nathula Pass, links India to the Yadong region in Tibet (an administrative region of China).

The cables are "partially underground, but mostly overhead," says Reliance Globalcom senior VP of marketing Irene Cackett, who stresses that the cables haven't been laid "in the middle of nowhere – this is a route that's been developed and is used for economic trade, so there's plenty of security at the border."

The new link gives Reliance, which already owns and runs extensive subsea cables courtesy of its acquisition of Flag Telecom back in 2004, an alternative route to offer its international customers, and one that, importantly, can be used in the event of any submarine cable damage caused by earthquakes, typhoons, or other submarine hazards. (See Subsea Cable Cuts Hit Euro/Asia Route, Subsea Cable Outage Hits Mideast, India, Earthquake Cuts Cables Near Taiwan, Reliance Integrates Global Services, and Reliance Raises Flag .)

Cackett says the cable's prospective customers will typically be wholesalers looking for 2.5-Gbit/s and 10-Gbit/s connections as additional, and alternative, capacity. "With the two markets [India and China] experiencing very large growth, we expect to see fast and growing demand for capacity," says the Reliance executive.

The carrier could also, in the future, provide links to the new pipe for wholesale customers in the neighboring markets of Nepal and Bhutan, and possibly even Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Cackett, though, declined to discuss any capacity pricing details, saying only that the new offer will be "competitive."

The launch is the latest move by one of the world's main international capacity players to secure new business in the increasingly competitive data traffic transport sector. (See NTT Splashes on Subsea Assets, Hibernia Expands, Hires Euro Exec, Viking Victory for Infinera , Interoute's Healthy Fiber Diet, Pacific Crossing Offers GigE, Tata Makes Big Bets in Asia, and Tata Takes Bigger Stake in South Africa's Neotel.)

Only last week, one of Reliance's major domestic rivals, Indian operator Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) talked up its global wholesale credentials. Meanwhile, a whole herd of players has been busy building new subsea pipes to hook up Africa, as that continent gears up for communications services growth. (See Airtel Airing Out Global Wholesale Partners , Telecom Market Spotlight: Africa, ACE Submarine Cable Extended, Seacom, Interoute Link Africa, Seacom, Interoute Link Africa, and FT Joins ACE Project.)

So is Africa interesting Reliance Globalcom as a new, exciting market? "We're watching it," says Cackett.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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