With the hope that we finally may have better Internet access and speeds, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC (SLT) is building international connectivity as a key aspect of its overall business strategy. SLT’s global coverage was significantly strengthened via multiple undersea optical fibre cable systems such as SEA-ME-WE 5, SEA-ME-WE 4, SEA-ME-WE 3, Bharat-Lanka and Dhiraagu-SLT. As you may or may not know, Sri Lanka’s geographical location makes it a natural nexus for communications in the Indian Ocean basin and helps ensure that the country plays a key role in the process of unfolding new technologies across the region as reaching the status of digital hub of the region.
With all the knowledge gained by implementing four submarine cable systems in the past, the SEA-ME-WE 5 submarine cable system would be the 5th of the SEA-ME-WE family, a milestone indeed. SEA ME WE 5 has received strong commitment and support from the associated parties which in turn would help to complete the project successfully.
What exactly is SEA-ME-WE 5?
Quite simply, SEA-ME-WE 5 is a submarine cable system that is matchless, PoP (point-of-presense) to PoP, multi-regional data superhighway that brings economies of scale in digital transformation. The SEA-ME-WE 5 cable essentially connects to multiple PoPs and is thus responsible in securing outstanding economical cross connection possibilities with other submarine cables in France, Italy, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
One cannot simple plug cable A into Port B and call it a network. To that extent, SLT constructed the SMW5 landing station in South Asia in Matara to facilitate both east and west cables to land in Matara SMW5 cable station. The result: A staggering 48 Tbps global bandwidth capacity to Sri Lanka with redundancy to connectivity and backup capability. The company was tasked with ensuring that the system is able to deliver seamless connectivity across Western Europe, Middle East and South East Asia while offering operators an alternative access point to other submarine cable systems running via Sri Lanka.
As stated above, this new system delivers 48 Tbps of Global Bandwidth to the country and enhances the reliability of Sri Lanka’s global connectivity to east and west. Needless to say, this is not cheap. SLT is estimated to have invested around Rs. 5.2 billion (~USD 40 million with the total investment for the project costing around USD 700 million) at the initial stage which is also upgradable to serve future demands. This state-of-the-art longest submarine cable spanning 20,000km has a unique low latency, thus unsurpassed by any other cable to date. When fully loaded, the SEA-ME-WE 5 cable system would be able to carry 24,000 Gigabits per second (24 Tbps); the equivalent of transmitting around 4800 high-definition movies every second from Singapore to France. Just stop and think about that. Four thousand eight hundred HD movies sent from Singapore to France every second.
The core system of the SEA-ME-WE 5 is designed to span from Singapore to France & Italy through Sri Lanka via an optimized route whilst also enabling other parties to connect into the core system through their branch connectivity.
Other significant investments include the setting up of SLT’s PoP in Singapore for improved reliability and the on-going expansion of SLT’s 100 Gbps national backbone network. The system terminates at POPs in Singapore, Italy, France and USA in future for cross connecting with other cable systems, interconnecting with other carriers and acquiring services in a competitive environment.
SLT’s Global connectivity roadmap
- 1993 – Sri Lanka connected with SEA-ME-WE I analogue submarine cable.
- 1994 – Sri Lanka connected with SEA-ME-WE II digital fibre optic submarine cable.
- 1999 – Sri Lanka connected with SEA-ME-WE III digital fibre optic submarine cable.
- 2006 – SLT officially inaugurated local operations of landmark SEA-ME-WE 4 submarine cable system.
- 2006 – SLT and BSNL launched Bharat-Lanka Submarine Cable System between India and Sri Lanka.
- 2006 – SLT inaugurates Dhiraagu-SLT submarine cable system between Maldives and Sri Lanka.
- 2014 – SLT partners 15 global telcos to connect continents via SEA-ME-WE 5 cable system.
- 2014 – SEA-ME-WE 4 cable system upgraded with 100G technology.
- 2016 – SEA-ME-WE 5 cable landing station commissioned in Matara, South Sri Lanka.
- 2016 – Sri Lanka to be connected to SEA-ME-WE 5 digital fibre optic submarine cable system with first light-up using 100G technology with 48 Tbps bandwidth capacity.
- 2016 – Sri Lanka’s international backhauling network connecting main three cable stations to Welikada international hub to be completed.
What does this mean for the average Sri Lankan Internet user?
Well, given all the hype created and statistics shown, we have already started collecting 4800 HD movies to send to Singapore or to France. Jokes aside though, the new cable should definitely boost internet speeds and also lower latencies. If you’re an avid online gamer, then you would notice lower pings in almost all of your games and lesser disconnections in games. For the movie and download buff, you should see a significant increase in your download speeds and a drop in buffering times too.
Hopefully all this means that we would finally be one step closer to getting the internet we deserve minus the lags, disconnections and other hiccups.