Smoother video-streaming

VIDEO-streaming from YouTube and access to other sites in the United States will be smoother – and less prone to disruption – for StarHub users when a new undersea cable system starts operations next month.

The US$500 million (S$696 million) Asia-America Gateway (AAG) will increase the Singapore telco’s overseas Internet bandwidth by 30 per cent and is designed to provide a capacity of up to 1.92 Terabits per second of bandwidth.

Built over three years by StarHub and a consortium of 18 other telcos, including America’s AT&T and Malaysia’s Telekom Malaysia, the cable system stretches 20,000km from the eastern part of Singapore to the Philippines, then directly across the Pacific Ocean to the US.

StarHub chief executive Terry Clontz said the cable system avoids the ‘volatile and hazardous Pacific Ring’ – which existing Internet submarine cables connecting Singapore to the world run through – which is prone to earthquakes and other natural disasters that could damage the cables.

Damage to submarine cables in that region in 2006, when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck off Taiwan, cut off Internet connectivity between Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. Online economic activity in the region ground to a nearhalt.

Traffic was re-routed through other cables, but it took almost two months to restore full capacity.

While StarHub has invested in other submarine cables, it will route most of its current network capacity to the AAG, said a spokesman.

As the AAG offers a more direct route to the US, through fewer routers – which are devices that forward data packets – access to US-based Internet websites, the main online destination, will be quicker.

Mr Clontz said that it was hard to measure the improvement precisely as factors like the number of users trying to access the websites also matter.

Industry analyst Adeel Najam said that the AAG’s increased bandwidth would not necessarily translate into a vast improvement in broadband speeds, adding: ‘The bottleneck in Internet traffic for users here mostly occurs within Singapore itself…not in cables linking Singapore to overseas.’

Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Manpower Lee Yi Shyan, at the official launch of the AAG at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia yesterday, stressed that Singapore’s connectivity must continually improve as IT and media technology evolve rapidly.

Another submarine Internet cable to the US, being built by SingTel, PacNet, Google and other telcos, is expected to be ready in the first quarter of next year.

Something to look forward to next year, when streaming speeds increase. Since most popular sites are based in the US, this submarine cable should increase internet speeds for most people when they surf websites. Too bad it’s for Starhub only – when are we gonna get upgrades too, M1 and Singtel?

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