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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fibre-optic link to open by 2010

Fibre-optic link to open by 2010

090922_09
A technician holds part of a fibre-optic cable. Cambodia’s Telcotech is part of a consortium building a fibre-optic undersea cable linking the US to Southeast Asia that is expected to go live by year’s end.

Despite setbacks on Asia-US undersea cable, Cambodia will be involved through Telcotech.

CAMBODIA’S connection to a high-bandwidth fibre-optic cable linking Southeast Asia to the United States is expected to go live before the end of this year, an engineer with the Cambodian member of the consortium building the network said last week.

The engineer, who asked not to be named, said Telcotech was aiming to “synchronise its launch” with the switching on of the US$550 million, 20,000-kilometre-long Asia-America Gateway (AAG) network, predicting a lag time of less than a month for testing and integration.

Mohamad Izani Karim, a spokesman for Telekom Malaysia, one of 17 members of the consortium building the network, said by email that the AAG was due to be launched in the final quarter of this year.

“AAG is physically complete, [but] we are putting it through a series of tests (both by the suppliers and the purchasers) to ensure that the system is ready to carry commercial traffic,” he said.

The AAG, which will directly connect Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii and the US West Coast, was originally expected to carry commercial Internet and voice traffic by the end of last year.

Cambodia missed its chance to have direct connection to the cable when its original representative, Pacific Communications Ltd, decided against it during the design phase.

Telcotech, which became a consortium member in October 2007 after Pacific Communications’ removal in February of that year, was left to negotiate connectivity through other member countries, the engineer said.

However, as a consortium member, it had the right to access connectivity from any landing point through a “backhaul agreement” with other consortium members at “reasonable cost”.

It will initially access the network through landing stations in Vietnam and Thailand but is considering options to link to the network via other member countries.

The engineer said the cost of bandwidth via backhaul agreements would be more expensive than had Pacific Communications agreed a landing point in Cambodia, but that the terms of membership guaranteed a fair price.

That cost would also potentially be offset by providing bandwidth to the operator carrying the traffic from the landing station to Cambodia, he added.

Because Telcotech will own the capacity, it will also be of a higher quality than current connectivity in Cambodia, which is sourced from operators in Thailand and Vietnam that tend to provide the country only with overflow capacity.

“Cambodia will have dedicated access for the first time,” the engineer said.

Telcotech has completed a fibre-optic backbone to provide its bandwidth to major towns and cities across the country. It runs from Poipet on the Thai border through Phnom Penh to Xa Mat, a Vietnamese town on the border with Cambodia. It is also building a second cross-country network, which will run along a different route from Poipet to another location on the Vietnam border, most likely near Bavet, the engineer said.

A second connection from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville has also been finished, which can be extended underwater to connect to landing points of the AAG in countries other than Vietnam and Thailand.

Telcotech is owned by its chairman, Huot Vanthan, who also has a stake in Maruhan Bank and Sotelco, the operator of mobile phone provider Beeline, predominantly owned by Vimpelcom Group.

Karim refused to reveal the reason for the removal of Pacific Communications from the AAG consortium, saying it was “privileged information which I cannot release”.

Pacific Communications could not be reached for comment last week, but according to local media reports, the company’s business licence was revoked in 2008 over an alleged corruption scandal involving company director Song Nimol, the wife of then-Telecom Cambodia director general Nhek Kosol Vithyea, which saw him removed from his post in April of that year.

In a filing to the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange dated August 28, 2008, the company’s major Vietnamese investor, Cables and Telecommunications Material Corporation, said it withdrew its 49 percent stake in the company – which it held with other Vietnamese investors – following the scandal.

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