Why pieces of glass will dramatically increase Australia's internet capacity

Posted on August 27, 2018

Why Pieces Glass

Glass comes in many forms—glassware, mirrors, windows. But did you know it also comes in cables? And one cable in particular is going to dramatically increase data capacity flowing in and out of Australia.

What is the ASC?

The Australia Singapore Cable (ASC) is a 4600km submarine cable system linking Perth to Singapore via Indonesia. The four-pair fibre network delivers connectivity, bandwidth and reliability to consumers and businesses.   

Why is the cable so important?

Submarine cables in general carry the bulk of the country’s voice and data traffic and are a vital link between Australia and the rest of the world. In fact, underwater cables deliver the majority of the digital world an important lifeline, carrying almost all of the world’s internet and phone traffic.

The cables contribute significantly to the Australian economy and as the world becomes increasingly data driven, the need for greater connectivity is intensifying.

According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), analysts are forecasting that bandwidth demand will continue to double each year for the foreseeable future. This is consistent with growth seen in the previous few years. Much of this growth can be attributed to the rise of data centres and cloud service providers, making the need for international infrastructure and faster networks all the more important.

Most importantly, however, is that the ASC will deliver a capacity of 40 terabits a second which is 10 times faster than the existing cable, reducing delays in connectivity between Australia and Asia. Not only is the existing cable much slower, but it’s at (or certainly near) capacity and is often subject to outages, leading to frustrated consumers.

Australia’s data split

In early 2016, a report by data market experts TeleGeography, estimated that demand for bandwidth between Australia and Asia would exceed 50 terabits per second by 2029. The report also estimated that by 2019, 30% of Australia’s international bandwidth will be connected to Asia.

Late last year, Vocus predicted that about half of Australia’s internet traffic will route via Perth to Asia. The current situation is that 80-90% of traffic goes from the east coast, predominantly Sydney, through to the US and beyond. With Asia right at our doorstep, the west coast seems to make sense. In addition, economic growth is increasing to our west, with cloud services and content increasingly coming out of Singapore.

The future of bandwidth demand

Earlier this year, the Australian Government released a working paper, Demand for fixed-line broadband in Australia, which examines the demand for broadband in Australia over the next decade. It analyses how households use data, the factors that drive demand and the rate in which it’s needed. It also looked at how this may change over the next ten years.

Importantly, Australians are enthusiastically adopting new technologies, almost on a daily basis. This, in turn, means that households and businesses have an increasingly high demand for fast, reliable bandwidth.

One only has to look at the uptake of streaming services in the home to see how important a fast internet connection is. The uptake of services such as Netflix and Spotify has dramatically increased and it’s expected that the bandwidth will be able to accommodate this.

According to the paper, the volume of data demanded by households each month was 95GB in 2016. It’s tipped to increase to 420GB by 2029. This is largely attributed to developments in technology, and how households are spending their time and receiving their information. New technologies, such as online video usage, the Internet of Things and virtual reality are all driving data usage requirements.

The other problem is that households are demanding the increasing amount of data at the same time – peak time. This is the same for businesses, which all expect fast bandwidth during business hours.

Essentially, data has become a part of everyday life. It’s critical to who we are, how we live, how we learn and how we work. This is only set to increase. In the past decade alone, we’ve seen tremendous growth in all things digital. Society has moved from analog to digital, 3D printing has been developed and adopted, real-time data is available on almost everything in life, from power grids to water systems, hospitals and public transport. And who knows what the next decade or two will bring.

Related products & articles