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Case Story
New Regional International Submarine Cable Spurs Development in Three Southeast Asian Countries

Submarine high-speed network among Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand

Newly-built regional international submarine cable helps Telecom Malaysia, Ezecom and Symphony realize wider international network coverage in ASEAN.

Background

Three Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand, have competitive labor costs. Recent years have seen continuous increases in foreign direct investment, and development of their manufacturing industries. These three countries have a high proportion of young people in the population, and the demographic dividend is about to pay off. This is becoming an important factor in the development of these countries. However, a favorable demographic structure does not necessarily result in the demographic dividend. Achieving the demographic dividend also requires investment in physical and human capital, and the safeguarding of social, economic, and political systems.

These three countries have each produced their own national information and communications technology (ICT) strategies. Malaysia created the National Broadband Initiative in 2010. In 2014, Cambodia created the ICT Master Plan 2020. Thailand set forth its National Broadband Policy in 2010. As of late 2014, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand supported international outbound bandwidths of 1408 Gbps, 60 Gbps, and 1030 Gbps, respectively. According to forecasts for 2022, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the three countries' international outbound bandwidths will be about 40%. Current network resources cannot meet the requirements for future development.

  • Cambodia has never had direct access to submarine cables. Its international outbound traffic primarily relied on terrestrial cable transmission to Vietnam. This caused high latency and exorbitant costs. 
  • Thai operator Symphony did not have its own backbone network. As a bandwidth wholesaler, its business opportunities in the local market are limited. 
  • Malaysia is an important network node in Southeast Asia. It needed more connectivity to unleash the commercial value of this role.

Cooperation Between the Malaysia-Cambodia-Thailand Submarine Cable Alliance and Huawei Marine

In 2015, in response to the joint appeal for international network connectivity, Huawei Marine and Malaysia's Telecom Malaysia, Cambodia's Telcotech, and Thailand's Symphony joined forces to newly construct the 1,300 km long Malaysia-Cambodia-Thailand (MCT) submarine cable system.

Designing and Deploying for Complex Ocean Terrains
Area with several crossing, fishing, monsoon season.

The construction of the MCT submarine cable system needed to pass through busy fishing areas, and also cross a number of existing installations, including submarine cables and oil and gas pipelines. This posed challenges for route planning, permit acquisition, and construction. At the same time, the timeliness of project delivery was impacted by the monsoon season in the local sea area. Specific challenges were as follows:  
 
  • The MCT submarine cable was routed through multiple submarine cables and oil and gas pipelines. This required multiple rounds of negotiations and consultations to obtain permissions. 
  • Targeted protection measures had to be designed for the parts of the submarine cable that crossed installations. 
  • To avoid man-made damage from trawlers, anchors, and other risks throughout the busy fishing areas, the complete cable length had to be buried.  
  • During the monsoon season, surveying and construction operations are not possible. Despite this, the delivery time window had to be met.

To ensure the smooth delivery of this project, Huawei Marine's maritime routing experts visited the site several times during the design stage to conduct onsite inspections, to design appropriate protection schemes for the portions of the submarine cable that crossed existing installations. They also engaged in negotiations and consultations with the owners of oil and gas pipelines and other installations to obtain the necessary permits. On entering the seabed survey stage, in order to start construction before the arrival of the monsoon season, the project team used two survey vessels to conduct parallel surveying operations, cutting the survey time in half. After permits were obtained, local fishermen still objected to the construction. Huawei sought the assistance of local partners to quickly appease the fishermen, and to help them move their fishing cages outside of the construction area. In the end, the project was delivered on schedule.

Successful implementation of a complex routing design

Route design had to take into account the permitting and security factors involved in crossing fisheries and existing installations.

Network security is guaranteed

The entire length of the submarine cable is buried at a 1.5 m depth, and near-shore remediation was taken to meet deep-burial requirements.

Seamless interconnection with Cambodia's terrestrial cable network

The terrestrial and submarine cable networks use the same transmission equipment. This reduces O&M costs and investment in equipment.

By reducing the route length, the MCT system has become the information highway with the lowest round-trip latency between the three countries. At the same time, it also provides redundancy for the existing terrestrial and submarine cables in the region, raising the level of regional network security. Utilizing 100G technologies, the MCT system can provide up to 30 Tbit/s of international bandwidth.

  • For Cambodia, the MCT system means the arrival of faster, more affordable, and more secure networking. This resolves its international bandwidth bottlenecks.

Thanks to the MCT Submarine Cable, Cambodia now has faster, more reliable, more affordable, and, most importantly, a more secure internet connection for all.
- Samdech Kralahom Sar Kheng
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, Cambodia
  • For Thailand's Symphony, the MCT submarine cable allows it to offer existing customers more service options. It also allows it to explore new international customers, energizing its business prospects.
It will help enhance Symphony Communication's service potential for both domestic and international connectivity, promoting the telecommunication of Thailand and Asian countries.
- Teerarat Pantarasutra
President, Symphony Communication Public Company Limited
  • For Malaysia Telecom, the network uses the MCT system to cover new countries, thereby improving customer experience.
The completion of MCT submarine cable system marks another major milestone for TM as the regional managed wholesale player towards enhancing the ASEAN connectivity.
- Rozaimy Rahman
Executive Vice President, Global & Wholesale, Telecom Malaysia

The MCT submarine cable project is not merely a link between the three countries. The accompanying terrestrial cables will promote intra-ASEAN interconnectivity by also connecting to Laos, and even Burma. For end users, data centers deployed by large Internet companies in Malaysia, such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, will also be able to use the MCT services to deliver data to users in Thailand and Cambodia. This will enhance users' network experience.

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