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Government officials and company executives look at a model section of the MCT submarine cable in Phnom Penh yesterday.
Government officials and company executives look at a model section of the MCT submarine cable in Phnom Penh yesterday. Heng Chivoan

First submarine cable launched

Telcotech, a subsidiary of local internet provider Ezecom, officially launched Cambodia’s first undersea fibre-optic communications cable yesterday after nearly two years of construction, promising faster, cheaper and more secure internet connectivity.

The 1,300-kilometre-long Malaysia-Cambodia-Thailand (MCT) cable connects the three countries to the existing Asia-America Gateway (AAG), a pan-Pacific submarine cable system that links Southeast Asia to the United States. The cable project was carried out with Telekom Malaysia and Symphony Communication of Thailand, and was built by Chinese submarine network provider Huawei Marine Networks.

Paul Blanche-Horgan, CEO of Ezecom, said during the launch ceremony that Cambodia has relied on terrestrial fibre connections through Thailand and Vietnam since the days of dial-up internet. He said the MCT cable will provide a solution for the growing connectivity needs of the Kingdom’s commercial sector, adding that service should begin in April.

“[The cable] gives us a direct route from Cambodia to Malaysia, Thailand and beyond to Singapore, China’s Hong Kong and the rest of the world,” he said.

“With the investment, Ezecom hopes to contribute to Cambodia’s booming economy by bringing a faster, more secure and more affordable internet connection to the Kingdom.”

Built with a total shared investment of $100 million, the high-bandwidth MCT cable uses 100 Gbps technology that supports a maximum capacity of at least 30 terabits per second (Tbps). Cambodia’s landing station is at Otres Beach in Sihanoukville, while Thailand’s is at Rayong and Malaysia’s is in Kuantan.

Speaking at the launch, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said the newly installed submarine cable was a milestone achievement for the country’s information, communications and technology sector.

“The connection to the first submarine fibre-optic network system in Cambodia’s history will provide faster internet speeds, a more trusted source of internet, lower prices and most importantly, more security,” he said.

Steven Path, president of the Cambodian ICT Federation, said the MCT cable would help reduce the country’s reliance on terrestrial connections through Vietnam. However, he noted there was a common misconception that the cable would automatically increase internet speeds.

“Everyone is now assuming that our internet is going to be a lot faster and higher quality,” he said. “That is not necessarily the case.”

Path explained that local internet providers will need to improve their infrastructure in order to benefit from the cable.

“The submarine cable is like the engine of a Ferrari; if you put the engine of a Ferrari in a Toyota Camry, you are not going to get that same high quality, but if you put the Ferrari engine inside the body of a Ferrari car, then it will be optimal,” he said.

“The infrastructure has to all be there . . . all the ISPs also have to upgrade to premium cables and premium infrastructure to work with the submarine cable.”

He added that the 30 Tbps capacity offered by the new cable far exceeded the current demand, which he estimated at around 200 gigabits for all of Cambodia.

Marith Khin, country manager of NTT Communications Corp, a Japan-based firm that is working to bring a second undersea cable to the Kingdom, said the MCT connection will help increase the internet traffic in the country. And that should draw investment.

“When there is an improvement in internet traffic, it will be a factor to attract foreign investors, especially those who use technology as the main source for the development of their company,” he said.

Khin declined to give a date for the completion of NTT’s cable project. The company is working with partners from Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines to link Cambodia to the Asia Submarine-Cable Express (ASE), a 7,800-kilometre-long fibre-optic undersea cable network with a 15 Tbps design capacity.

A third cable is under development by the Cambodia Fibre Optic Cable Network (CFOCN) to connect the Kingdom to the Asia-Africa-Europe-1 (AAE-1) cable, which links Southeast Asia with Europe and has over 40 Tbps capacity.

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