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Singapore to double subsea cable landings in digitization push

Written by Nikkei Asia Published on   2 mins read

City explores more landing sites as tech companies and telcos diversify routes.

Singapore will double the number of submarine cable landings within the next 10 years, the government announced on Monday, as it seeks to maintain its global status as a leading network hub, connecting the economies of Southeast Asia and beyond.

The city-state currently is a landing destination for 25 operating cables and has 14 more projects in the pipeline, according to U.S. telecommunications researcher Telegeography. This is more than regional countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Japan, which hold the ends of around 20 to 22 international cables.

As part of its new master plan for digital infrastructure, Singapore said it will provide more space and landing resources “so operators can expand and further diversify the network” of submarine cables. It is also exploring new designated landing sites, of which there are three in total.

“The additional capacity enabled for submarine cable landings will strengthen digital connectivity for all of us, including our neighbors in Southeast Asia,” Josephine Teo, minister for communications and information, said Monday at the launch event of the blueprint.

Singapore’s new target comes as cable operators invest billions of dollars into diversifying their routes to better feed the region’s growing data demand. Subsea cables are critical infrastructure for the digital economy, handling nearly all international data traffic.

Governments also have been focusing on the need for more cables. During the Group of Seven meetings in Hiroshima, Japan last month, the Quad leaders of the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia announced a new agreement to strengthen cable systems in the Indo-Pacific.

Singapore, despite its limited land size, has been one of the world’s most crucial landing stations, in part for its geographical location. The country connects cables within Asia and transitions those from the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans.

By next year, Meta and Google are expected to complete a cable project called Echo, which will be the first to directly connect the U.S. to Singapore. Also next year, Meta, Singapore’s Keppel Corp. and Telekomunikasi Indonesia International, or Telin, aim to complete another trans-Pacific cable, called Bifrost.

As more operators seek to connect to Singapore, however, concerns have cropped up regarding limited capacity and the resultant longer approval times necessary to acquire permits. “Part of some projects have also resulted in backtracking,” a cable supplier told Nikkei Asia.

Marvin Tan, a research analyst at Telegeography, noted that increased landing capacity can potentially lead to more cable investments. Singapore expects the added capacity could see at least SGD 10 billion (USD 7.4 billion) in overall cable investments.

Yet, Tan noted that “it is paramount to emphasize that a long list of other key factors come into play.” Apart from providing a reliable power source, laying disaster mitigation measures, and promoting partnerships and incentives, favorable regulation is a key in attracting new cables.

Tan added that “this includes having transparent policies related to the operations of cable landing stations, ease of getting permitting licenses to land cables and clear data privacy and protection guidelines.”

This article first appeared on Nikkei Asia. It has been republished here as part of 36Kr’s ongoing partnership with Nikkei.


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