Role of Submarine Cables for Growth of Internet in India

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India is the 2nd largest country in the world in terms of Internet users. India currently has 450 million Internet users of which 32% of the population is mobile internet users. With the pace of digitization in India, Internet users are growing rapidly through one of the smartest campaign Digital India led by PM Narendra Modi. But how many people are aware of the scenario on how the Internet works?

This article will clearly state the role of submarine cable in Internet & other factors responsible for the growth & demand of Internet in India.

Few people are aware of the fact that the global undersea cable networks are the major foundation of intercontinental internet traffic. The first submarine communication cables were laid in the 1850s carried telegraphy traffic, followed by telephone traffic, then data communications traffic over the years. Modern cables use optical fiber technology to carry digital data, which includes telephone, Internet, and private data traffic. Over 95 percent of internet traffic is routed via submarine Fibre-Optic cables. Data and voice transfer via these cables are not only cheaper but also much quicker than via satellite.

What happens if the submarine cables are damaged?

Here is the simple example stating the effects of damage to Submarine Cable:

On 30 January 2008, news agencies reported Internet services were widely disrupted in the Middle East and in the Indian subcontinent following damage to the SEA-ME-WE 4 and FLAG Telecom cables in the Mediterranean Sea. The damage to the two systems occurred separately several kilometers apart near Alexandria.

Effects: Disruptions of 70 percent in Egypt and 60 percent in India were reported, along with problems in Afghanistan-AWCC, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Maldives, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which affected at least 60 million users in India, explaining how crucial the submarine cable networks are.

How many Submarine Cables are connected to India?

There are now 10 submarine cable landing stations in India, with four in Mumbai, three in Chennai, and each in Cochin, Tuticorin and latest one Digha which will be active soon.

Cable Landing Stations in India:

Cities Mumbai Chennai Cochin Trivandrum Tuticorin Puducherry
Asia Africa Europe-1 (AAE-1) Yes
Bay of Bengal Gateway (BBG) Yes Yes
Europe India Gateway (EIG) Yes
FLAG Europe-Asia (FEA) Yes
Gulf Bridge International Cable System (GBICS)/Middle East Africa (MENA) Cable System Yes
SEACOM/Tata TGN-Eurasia Yes
SeaMeWe-3 Yes Yes
SeaMeWe-4 Yes Yes
Tata TGN-Tata Indicom Yes
i2i Cable Network (i2icn) Yes
Bharat Lanka Yes
IOX Cable System Yes


Future of the Internet in India and important factors:

The growth of Broadband users:

- Broadband users are growing continuously due to Drops in data tariffs, smart-phone prices, and growth in 4G networks. There will be 572,934 households (2.0% of all Internet households) generating more than 500 gigabytes per month in 2020.

The broadband subscriber base in India has been growing at a significant rate over the last 5-7 years as it is visible in the table below.

Role of Submarine Cables for Growth of Internet in India - Mumbai IX

Role of Submarine Cables for Growth of Internet in India - Mumbai IX




Source: IDC Asia/Pacific Semiannual Telecom Services Tracker, 1H2013

The growth of Data Centers in India:

India was the second fastest growing data center market last year in APAC region, as per the recent Gartner report. Data centers ensure reliability and security. Data needs to be backed up for geographic redundancy. ISP’s in India mostly look for data centers to collocate their servers & distribute services.

In the interconnection across countries, data center plays a critical role because bandwidth is required even though content can be cached locally. Ensuring more Indian Enterprises adopting to the cloud, resulting in more data traffic between the data centers and end users.

-Media & Entertainment, IT & Telecom, BFSI, Manufacturing, Online Businesses are few factors driving growth in data centers.

-Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google are setting up business in India by collocating to multiple data centers to be closer to their customers.

-Microsoft was the first large cloud operator to launch its data centers in India, followed by Amazon and Google.

Some Facts & Figures for 5G, OTT & IoT

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Digital India’ envisions building 100 smart cities across the country. - The Internet of things (IoT) will power smart cities, along with increased public/ private partnerships.

-With so many tech start-ups enabling local language content, digital literacy across India is becoming both possible and significant

-Internet consumption to increase, with multimedia being accessed on mobile devices.

-The Indian government is eyeing 5G technology to boost the initiative.

- “ 5G, leading to better connectivity, would be a strong part when comes to Digital India, ” said Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology in an interview.

- Tata Communications has implemented the LoRa network in Jamshedpur and they're trying to do some tests.

-LoRa technology offers a mix of long range, low power consumption, and secure data transmission. Using this technology, public and private networks can provide coverage that is greater in range compared to that of existing cellular networks.

To Summarize: Submarine cables were originally built and designed for voice and not data. Now the scenario has changed, submarine cables are the backbone of global telecommunications and Internet.

India is located in a strategically and geographically significant position, where every cable system that connects Europe and South East Asia inevitably needs to transit. However, note that India’s critical role is not supported by an efficient and expedient permitting system for cable repairs in India. Repair and restoration of the undersea cables in India are time-consuming as Indian jurisdiction requires permits from seven Indian governmental authorities.

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