NTT Com designs earthquake-proof Asia submarine cable
Layout of the Asia Submarine-cable Express
Amounting to US$430 million investment (NTT Com contributes to half of it), the undersea cable will be jointly constructed by NTT Com and three other carriers in Asia: Telekom Malaysia
. While the undersea cable covers Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Hong Kong, "We look forward to extending more connections across Asia and details will be announced in due course," said Junta Nakanishi, director of network engineering, global network business, NTT Com.
Called the Asia Submarine-cable Express (ASE), the undersea cable is designed as an ultra-low latency network that incorporates the latest 40 Gbps optical technology, and has the capability to extend to 100 Gbps in the future, said Nakanishi.
Nakanishi added the ASE's Japan-Singapore connection with an industry-leading latency of less than 65 milliseconds latency, is 3 milliseconds faster than routes via other subsea cables.
"The ultra low-latency connectivity of ASE is especially targeted at carriers, internet service providers, cloud service providers and financial enterprises, such as high-frequency trading firms that issue huge numbers of buy and sell orders for financial products, which must transmit such information instantaneously," he said.
The ASE will also be tasked to deliver NTT Com's private, public and hybrid cloud services via its global data centers.
In an interview with Asia Cloud Forum's Carol Ko, NTT Com's Nakanishi explains how ASE is designed to be earthquake- and typhoon- resistant, so as to minimize their potential disruption to IT services delivery, including cloud computing services.
Junta Nakanishi leads NTT Com Asia and HKNet's network engineering and leads the development of the ultra-low latency network, Asia Submarine-cable Express. He also manages the network design and engineering of NTT Communications' Tier-1 Global IP network, the Arcstar private network, and a landing station at the upcoming NTT Communications Hong Kong Financial Data Centre.
Asia Cloud Forum: How was the Asia Submarine-cable Express specially designed to "withstand earthquake and typhoon damage"?
Junta Nakanishi: Areas such as the Bashi Channel south of Taiwan in the region are vulnerable to frequent earthquakes and typhoons (see figure 1 below). In order to enhance NTT Communications' global network services that meet the region's increasing needs for global traffic, low latency and reliability, ASE was specially designed to avoid these areas where undersea earthquakes have disrupted international communications in the past few years.
Figure 1. Location of Asia Submarine-cable Express (ASE) and the Bashi Channel
(Source: NTT Communications)
How deep was the ASE constructed below seabed?
Nakanishi: The ASE goes up to over 3,000m water depth and is constructed up to 10m below seabed for additional safety.
What are possible damages and implications on IT service delivery for a typical undersea cable?
Nakanishi: Past occasions like earthquakes and tsunamis have interrupted the delivery of services of the telecom industry. Other activities such as fishing trawlers and anchorage by big vessels can also pose potential damages.
Any submarine-cable repair work offshore could possibly take one to two months to complete. Our objective is to shorten any potential downtime where possible, especially facing the growing demands for connectivity, such as the internet. The new ASE will deliver high speed, high capacity connectivity service with additional redundancy to the region.
How have earthquakes and typhoons previously caused damages to NTT Com's undersea cables? How were NTT Com's service delivery impacted?
Nakanishi: One of the examples was the earthquake in Taiwan in 2006. Many operators reported some disruptions to Internet access and slowdown of internet traffic.
Telecommunication services in Hong Kong were severely affected. Among the other operators, NTT Communications was the quickest to restore the service and maintain the uninterrupted service by rerouting. This was made possible because of the redundancy design in our network system for Tier 1 Global IP Network and Arcstar private network.
When was ASE constructed? When will it finish?
"The development of ASE was set to complete in around two years is an unprecedented challenge for us"
-- Junta Nakanishi, director of network engineering, global network business, NTT Com
Nakanishi: The ASE construction was started in Jan 2011. The connection between Japan, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia will start operation in August 2012. The whole construction including the Hong Kong route is targeted to complete in Q1 2013. It is the shortest ever construction time in the history on the development of a submarine-cable system of this scale.
What have been the biggest challenges in the construction of ASE? How did NTT Com resolve them?
Nakanishi: The development of ASE was set to complete in around two years is an unprecedented challenge for us to meet the growing demand, as the construction period of a similar sort of undersea cable would conventionally take over 24 months.
As ASE runs across many business hubs across Asia, substantial efforts have to put into coordinating and meeting various statutory procedures across regions, to make sure the project complies with local jurisdiction requirements.
The occurrence of natural disasters including the Japan earthquake in March 2011 and the Thai floods in July 2011 have disrupted the manufacturing of the cable system, posing challenges to the very tight construction schedule.
Despite all these challenges including the unforeseen ones, the construction period of the ASE is one of the shortest in history for the development of submarine-cable system of such scale.
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