Hawaii on route of cable that will link U.S., Asia
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia » Seventeen major telecommunications companies signed a pact yesterday to build a $500 million undersea fiber optic cable between Southeast Asia, Hawaii and the U.S. mainland they claim will be relatively safe from earthquakes and tsunamis.
The link will offer "a timely increase in both the capacity and diversity of Internet links between Asia and the U.S., bearing in mind the disruptions caused by the recent Taiwan earthquake," Abdul Wahid Omar, chief executive of Telekom Malaysia, said at the signing ceremony.
Internet users will get faster and more reliable service once the high-bandwidth cable starts operating in December 2008, he said.
Telekom Malaysia, which is leading the consortium of companies, said construction of the 12,500-mile link would begin immediately. It said it would be the first submarine cable system linking Southeast Asia directly to the United States.
The fiber optic cable, dubbed the Asia-America Gateway, will connect the U.S. West Coast with Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Guam and Hawaii, as well as offer "seamless interconnection" for those locations with Europe, Africa and Australia, Telekom said in a statement.
A magnitude 7.1 quake snapped undersea cables near Taiwan on Dec. 26, disrupting phone and Internet communications across Asia as companies scrambled to reroute traffic through satellites and undamaged cables. Services were gradually restored in the days after the quake.
The new cable will "provide an alternative and a more secure link for traffic from the region to the U.S.A.," Telekom said. "This low-risk route was designed to avoid the volatile and hazardous Pacific Ring, thus mitigating the effects from natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis."
Malaysian Communications Minister Lim Keng Yaik said the cable will strengthen communications and business ties between Asia and the United States by ramping up international broadband capacity at competitive costs.
Parties involved in the project include AT&T Inc., the British Telecom Global Network Services, Eastern Communications Philippines Inc., India's Bharti AirTel, Thailand's CAT Telekom, Indonesia's Indosat and PT Telkom, Telecom New Zealand International, Singapore's StarHub and Australia's Telstra.