Interview: Dileepa Wijesundera
How will the new undersea cable system provide more connectivity in Sri Lanka?
DILEEPA WIJESUNDERA: SLT investments continue to further strengthen the country’s global connectivity, which was a key strategy devised to support the national objective of making Sri Lanka the digital centre of the region. The company has focused on the capacities that will be required for future data demand.
Currently, SLT is in the process of implementing a global connectivity project, the South-East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 5 (SEA-ME-WE 5), an international undersea cable system, that has a total design capacity of 48 Tbps and is powered with 100G technologies. This 20,000-km cable runs across the globe from Singapore to France via Sri Lanka by connecting with high-speed undersea cables.
Recently, SLT became a part of the 20-member international consortium that owns the SEA-ME-WE 5 system and is currently in the process of implementing a project to provide the country’s data demand for the next 25 years. Construction of the cable commenced in September 2014 and now that it has just finished, the SEA-ME-WE 5 will deliver a massive increase in communications capacity, which is available to support growth in Sri Lanka and other member countries.
Furthermore, the SEA-ME-WE 5 cable station established in Matara is a double landing facility which facilitates full landing connectivity, core system landing and main landing, instead the previous connections through branch cables to the island. This will enhance the reliability of Sri Lanka’s connectivity to the world. The design of the system will reduce latency at higher rates to any other cable systems currently in use.
Sri Lanka’s southern region will host South Asia’s first submarine cable depot in the region, which may improve the speed of recovery from interruptions caused by cable breaks. The landing stations for the SEA-ME-WE 4 and 3 are located at Colombo and Mount Lavinia, respectively, via branch connectivity.
To what extent does Sri Lanka’s geographic proximity to large markets support its aspirations to become a regional ICT centre?
WIJESUNDERA: With the historically successful experience of implementing four submarine cable systems in the past, the SEA-ME-WE 5 submarine cable system is going to be the fifth milestone of the SEA-ME-WE family. The SEA ME WE 5 has received strong commitment and support from the associated parties, who have helped to complete the project successfully.
The SEA-ME-WE 5 submarine cable system is a point-of-presence, multi-regional data superhighway that brings economies of scale in digital transformation. The SEA-ME-WE 5 connects to multiple points along the system and will also secure significant economical cross-connection possibilities with other submarine cables in France, Italy, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
SLT is in the process of building, operating and managing South Asia’s first modern submarine cable depot in the Port of Galle. Through this cable maintenance station, all cables running through the region that belong to us and to other operators will be serviced, maintained and repaired.
SLT is also actively engaged in enabling the enhancement of the country’s potential by increasing the availability, affordability, readiness and relevance of ICT with a wide range of broadband offers. Developing Sri Lanka as a knowledge centre in Asia is a fundamental development strategy of the government and broadband plays a critical role.
In Sri Lanka broadband is recognised as the technology of a network-neutral high-speed data communication service and a broader bandwidth capacity of no less than 1 Mbps downlink will enable the operation of a wide array of applications and services online. Currently, there are eight companies competing in the market, fixed and mobile, and due to high levels of competition, broadband prices are at a record low.
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