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Indonesia's new mega-telco to build 18,000km submarine cable to the US

Coming out party for Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison

Indonesian telco Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison and independent cable builder and operator Inligo Networks have signed a memorandum of understanding to construct an 18,000km submarine cable linking Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Japan, and the US.

The Networks Asia Connect Cable System (ACC-1) will offer 240Tbit/sec of capacity, using 40 fibres each carrying 40 frequencies. Its planned route will touch five Indonesian cities including the tech manufacturing centre in Batam, Singapore, the northern Australian city of Darwin, the fledgling nation of Timor Leste, Tokyo, and eventually terminate in Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, with a stopover on the US-controlled island of Guam.

Inligo Networks will build the cable.

The announcement is something of a coming out party for Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison – an entity formed last year after protracted negotiations between Indonesia's Ooredoo and CK Hutchison.

Hutchison is the Hong-Kong based industrial conglomerate that backed the rise of the "3" mobile brand, including in Indonesia.

In 2020, Hutchison and Ooredoo announced plans to combine their businesses, but it took over a year – and several extensions of negotiations – before the deal was signed off on January 4, 2022.

Just five weeks later, the combined company has shown the benefits of its combined might: the ability to commit many millions to this submarine cable, and a plan to use it for both consumer and business connectivity products. Presumably, those services will help the company grow market share as it chases dominant market leader PT Telkom.

Indonesia's government is all-in on all things digital, and just last week communications minister Johnny Plate expressed a desire for the nation to become a regional hub for submarine cables.

Plate got his wish. So did Australia, as wiring Darwin to the world is a goal of governments at all levels down under. Inligo is building a terrestrial network that links the rest of Australia to Darwin, and claims that once ACC-1 and the trans-Australia link both light up, the connection will deliver the sunburnt country's lowest-latency connection to South-East Asia.

Construction of the cable is expected to commence this year, with full operations in 2024.

One possible wrinkle: in late 2021, Ooredoo picked Huawei as provider of some radio and core network products. And of course, Beijing is exerting increasing influence over Hong Kong. The US prefers Huawei not have any role in submarine cables that reach its soil, and has expressed concern about Hong Kong's independence. All of which means this new cable's technical specs will be scrutinized very closely. ®

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