Construction on a 20,000km subsea cable running between Marseille and Singapore has been completed, the SEA-ME-WE-5 consortium has announced. SEA-ME-WE-5 (SMW5) connects 16 countries across three continents, offering 100 Gbit/s DWDM technology and capacity of 24 Tbit/s on three fibre pairs. It has been built to deal with bandwidth demand between Europe and Asia that has quadrupled, offering amongst the lowest latency connection across the route, the consortium claims. It has carrier neutral Points of Presence (PoPs) at its main endpoints, located at Marseille, operated by Interxion; Palermo, Sicily hub, and Singapore, operated by Equinix and Global Switch.
"The completion of the SEA-ME-WE 5 project is a landmark system upgrade for all data users worldwide. This system facilitates a new age of digital transformation and innovation, catalysing greater economic activities, trade and growth across three continents," said SEAME-WE-5 consortium management committee chair Linette Lee.
Figure 12 - SEA-ME-WE-5 Cable Map
"I would like to thank all the members of the consortium for their unstinting support and commitment toward this project. Together, we collaborated across different time zones and overcame numerous challenges to achieve the complex integration of technologies as promised and on time."
The SMW5 consortium is made up of Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL), China Mobile International (CMI), China Telecom Global (CTG), China United Network Communications Group Company Limited (CU), Djibouti Telecom (DT), Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du), Myanmar Post and Telecom (MPT), Ooredoo, Orange, PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia International (Telin), Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Singapore Telecommunications Ltd (Singtel), Sparkle, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC (SLT), Telecom Egypt (TE), Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM), TeleYemen, Turk Telekom International (TTI) and Trans World Associates (Pvt) Limited Pakistan (TWA).
The system lands at Marseille, Palermo, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Djibouti, Oman, UAE, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and finally Singapore.
SEA-ME-WE-5 was first announced in June 2014, and has seen a number of landmarks over the last year, including connecting with TI Sparkle’s Sicily Hub and winning the 2016 Global Carrier Award for subsea project of the year.
Source: Capacity Media
ANALYSIS: It is indeed quite an achievement for a large cable consortium, such as SEA-ME-WE-5 which is made up of nineteen incumbents and private companies, to progress from "Contract In Force" in March 2014 to "Ready For Service" in December 2016.
However, SEA-ME-WE-5's predecessor, SEA-ME-WE-4, ran out of capacity in 2015 causing a short-term tightening of the market for Europe-Asia connectivity. This is an indication of the fact that SEA-ME-WE-5 was actually late to market.
Discussions about a replacement for SEA-ME-WE-4 were initiated by Bharti Airtel and Gibraltar Telecom, and a Memorandum of Understanding to establish working groups was signed as early as second half of 2006. The consortium at that time comprised Algerie Telecom (Algeria), Belgacom (Belgium), Bharti Airtel (India), British Telecom (UK), Cable & Wireless (UK), CYTA (Cyprus), Djibouti Telecom (Africa), Etisalat (Emirates), France Telecom (France), Gibtelecom (Gibraltar), KPN (Holland), Maroc Telecom (Morocco), Omantel (Oman), PTC (Portugal), STC (Saudi Arabia), Sudatel (Sudan), and TSA (South Africa).
It would take another five years until companies started to announce in 2012 that they would be participating in the SEA-ME-WE-5 consortium. From the original group of consortium members, only those highlighted above remained in the SEA-ME-WE-5 consortium at the end of 2016. Etisalat, Omantel, and Djibouti Telecom switched to the competing AAE-1 consortium, and Bharti moved to the IMEWE consortium which terminates in India but Bharti had onward connectivity with its wholly-owned i2i system across the Bay of Bengal. Others simply dropped out.
When the SEA-ME-WE-5 Construction & Maintenance Agreement was finally signed in March 2014, the requirement for new Europe-Asia capacity was therefore becoming critical and the time for serious compromise and co-operation was clearly upon the members.
Nevertheless, to deliver a 20,000 km system with 18 landing points and 11 branching units in 30 months is a remarkable achievement for the consortium members, the system suppliers, Alcatel Submarine Networks and NEC, and their sub-contractors. Moreover, the SEA-ME-WE-5 consortium broke the mould by running the submarine cable through the beach manhole and into the data center in Marseilles, thus removing a digital line segment and reducing latency. The consortium also developed a new arrangement for upgrades, increasing flexibility for individual members to control their own capacity utilization.
Julian Rawle, Author
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