Alcatel joins Myanmar undersea internet cable project

YANGON — The Singapore-based telelecommunications infrastructure firm Campana has just signed a turnkey contract with Alcatel-Lucent, a world leader in undersea cable systems deployment, to bring the first private undersea internet cable into Myanmar.

The new cable — dubbed Myanmar-Malaysia-Thailand-International Connection, or MYTHIC — will provide an additional 300 Gigabits per second capacity to the connectivity starved country.

To put that into perspective, Campana’s business development chief Julian Rawle said that at the end of 2015, “The whole of Myanmar had about 100 gigabits per second of international capacity. So we’re going to come in with three times what the entire country has as an opening play.”

The cable system will take an estimated fifteen months to build and is slated to begin operations by April 2017. This will make it the country’s second ever undersea fiber optic cable.

Currently the only publicly leasable international fiber optic connections out of Burma are governed by the state-owned operator Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT). The MPT monopoly means that the cost for bandwidth in Myanmar is seven to ten times higher than in Singapore and is said to be double that of neighbouring Thailand.

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By contrast, the MYTHIC cable will be carrier-neutral, thus will not be owned by an individual operator and will not privilege any local telecommunication companies. The cable will ot only increase capacity for the country, but bring much-needed stability, and should in time significantly lower the high cost of the Internet for local consumers.

However, analysts caution that how the local telecommunications companies and internet service providers choose to leverage lower prices will play a big role in how much and how quickly savings will filter down to consumers. Furthermore, in order for local users to benefit from increased international capacity, the local domestic fiber infrastructure will also need to be equipped to handle increased traffic. Whether it can in its present condition remains to be seen.

Francesca Cazzaniga, marketing communications director for Alcatel-Lucent said that her company would be intimately involved with the project from its inception to its completion.

“We will be in charge of the project from A to Z, meaning that we will design the cable, manufacture the cable, we will lay the cable, and commission the system,” she told Frontier.

Alcatel-Lucent will also conduct preliminary ocean survey work and maintain the cable system after it is built.

As fiber optic cables tend to be more vulnerable on land than in the water, Campana and Alcatel-Lucent will land the cable in Thanlyin, the closest practicable point to Yangon. It will initially span to Satun in Thailand — a hub for international connectivity. Campan plans to later extend the cable into another regional connectivity hub in Malaysia.

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