A claim by India’s largest mobile operator, Bharti Airtel, to have activated an international fibre-optic cable link with Myanmar has been questioned by a regional ICT think-tank.
India’s Economic Times reported on December 8 that Bharti Airtel had invested an undisclosed sum in the 6,500-kilometre terrestrial fibre-optic cable link with Myanmar.
The cable will be connected to Airtel’s landing stations at Chennai, on India’s east coast, and at Mumbai, on the west coast, the report said, but no mention was made of its route between India and Myanmar.
It quoted Mr Ajay Chitkara, Airtel’s director and chief executive officer (global voice and data business), as saying that Myanmar presented “a massive business growth and revenue opportunity” for the company because of robust growth in internet and revenue services.
Chitkara said the “terrestrial cable link” was a strategic fibre asset for Airtel in SAARC, a grouping of eight South Asian countries.
The Myanmar link is Airtel’s third international cable hook-up in the SAARC region, having already deployed similar links with Bangladesh and Nepal, the Economic Times said.
LIRNEasia, a regional ICT think-tank based in Colombo, Sri Lanka, has raised questions about the route of the terrestrial cable link with Myanmar.
It chided Economic Times for not asking about the route of the cable, adding that right of way was the most critical segment of any international telecoms link regardless of whether it was maritime or terrestrial.
LIRNEasia said the World Bank had launched a US$107 million project in 2014 to link India’s Mizoram State with Bangladesh and Myanmar by road.
“Once completed in 2020, it will be a reliable right of way to plug Myanmar with the SAARC countries,” LIRNEasia said.
“Until then, any claim of cross-border connectivity remains a cheap marketing hype,” it said.