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Singapore to double its submarine cable landing sites by 2033

Anywhere China's navy struggles to reach seems like a nice place for a global internet connectivity hub

Plans are underway in Singapore to double the number of submarine cable landing facilities within the next ten years, according to the city-state's digital connectivity blueprint, released on Monday.

Singapore is already a connectivity hub linking Southeast Asia to the world, thanks to the 26 subsea cables and three landing sites it already hosts.

Among the cables connecting Singapore is the 39,000km long SeaMeWe-3. It's the world's longest, and lands at a spot called Tuas in the country's west. The other two landing sites are in the east side of the island, less than 50km away.

The addition of more cable infrastructure will likely further enhance Singapore's status as a neutral player that uses business friendly policies to punch above its weight, despite possessing few natural resources.

China is also spending cash – $500 million of it – to expand its own undersea cable infrastructure.

China is considered to be well aware of the strategic significance of submarine cables, and has offered to help Pacific nations build better connections to the world. Such offers have seen other nations step in with better offers.

Pacific nations are important because many cables linking the US to Asia stop in spots like Guam and rely on those landings for energy. But the final hops from Pacific islands to Asia cross waters in which China has flexed its naval muscles, meaning submarine cables are theoretically at risk.

And perhaps not theoretically. In February of this year, a cable connecting Taiwanese islands was reportedly cut by a Chinese fishing boat, and another by an unknown freighter – both scenarios causing outages.

Even if the extra cable capacity that connects through Singapore introduces a little extra latency by heading west towards Europe and then across the Atlantic, such routes could conceivably be very valubale.

Singapore's cable expansion endeavor will require $7.4 billion of investments, to come from the private sector.

The nation's digital blueprint also calls for development of green datacenters, which will require $7.4 billion to $8.9 billion of investment.

Further on the agenda is to upgrade domestic hard infrastructure to support 10-gigabit speeds within the next five years, with an eye on achieving smooth handovers across modes of delivery. This includes a tenfold bandwidth increase of Singapore’s Nationwide Broadband Network (NBN) and allocated spectrum for both unlocking faster Wi-Fi networks and 5G Standalone Networks.

"We are not going for 'more of the same, just faster,'" said minister for communications and information, Josephine Teo. "Instead, we are building capacity for new applications that the current bandwidth will not be good enough for, such as those with data-intensive operations or heavy use of AI."

"To realize the full potential of transmitted digital technologies, we will need to enhance our hard connectivity infrastructure, and this will require substantial investment by all countries," said acting prime minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday at the country's ATxSG conference.

Wong also declared "hard infrastructure alone will not be enough" and a boost is needed in the connectivity of soft infrastructure. ®

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