SEA-ME-WE 5 cable – the lowest latency link between Europe and SE Asia

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Linette Lee, Chairperson for the Management Committee at SEA-ME-WE 5, gave us the inside story on this

Linette Lee, SEA-ME-WE 5 Consortium

Linette Lee, SEA-ME-WE 5 Consortium

impressive new cable. The SEA-ME-WE 5 Consortium recently completed their long-distance (SMW5) undersea cable which connects Southeast Asia to Western Europe via the Middle East with the lowest latency cable available on that route.

And the 20,000km SEA-ME-WE5 cable has some impressive stats to boast. With a capacity of 24 Terabits per second on 3-fibre pairs, the cable’s advanced 100Gbps technology enables up to 4,800 high-definition movies can be downloaded per second.
Put another way, this data superhighway provides a seven-fold capacity increase along the corridor connecting Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Western Europe.
The SEA-ME-WE 5 cable, links 17 countries in total, these being: Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Yemen, Djibouti, Egypt, Italy before finally landing in Marseille, France.

Asked what the market need was for this new cable project, Linette told us the rationale for the 17 different businesses involved was different in each case. Companies were using the cable for a variety of needs from fulfilling domestic or regional market needs to expanding global coverage, to playing a kind of integrator role, to entering in to new markets.

SEA-ME-WE 5 cable

Cable Route of SEA-ME-WE 5

The cable system is based on 3 fiber pairs on the Singapore – Egypt section and 4 fiber pairs on the Egypt-Italy-France sections. The system is prepared for future upgrades by utilising higher rates of transponders. The spans have also been deliberately designed with shorter lengths which allow for ease of upgrading. SEA-ME-WE 5 is one of the first real long distance cables using the latest R-OADM technology, which makes rerouting wavelengths possible. This offers a level of flexibility to the members which would not have been possible with earlier systems, and makes the SEA-ME-WE5 similar to the terrestrial DWDM systems in many aspects.

Also, since SEA-ME-WE 5 utilizes the latest wet plant (fibers and optical amplifiers) technology, introducing newer developments on the dry plant (SLTE) can be achieved easily. The principal landing sites of the project were as follows: Tuas (Singapore), Matara (Sri Lanka), Yanbu (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), Toulon (France), Zafarana (Egypt), Abu Talat (Egypt), Catania (Italy). Meanwhile the branches landing sites were at Dumai (Indonesia), Medan (Indonesia), Melaka (Malaysia), Kuakata (Bangladesh), Pathein (Myanmar), Karachi (Pakistan), Kalba (UAE), Qalhat (Oman), Djibouti (Djibouti), and Hodeidah (Yemen).

According to Lee, the landing sites were chosen for best connectivity to other cable systems, major POPs and to accommodate capacity demands of the landing countries. In particular, SEA-ME-WE 5 has 4 major POPs integrated with the cable landing stations: Marseille Interxion with Toulon CLS; Palermo PoP with Catania CLS; Global Switch and Equinix with Tuas CLS.

Asked whether any major obstacles were encountered in delivering the project, Linette responded that certain difficulties were faced with attaining permits at certain landings. Likewise, adverse weather conditions during the monsoon period in the Asian region caused some complications during the marine installation phase. That said, the consortium, which worked alongside turnkey suppliers, ASN and NEC, were able to complete and deliver SEA-ME-WE 5 on schedule.


This article is part of a series of 15 interviews with leading cable project owners around the world, which we’ve compiled into the ebook “Submarine Networks Projects 2017”. Download a free copy of it here.

If you’d like to meet these cable owners and operators together with other leaders from the industry, you should join us at Submarine Networks World 2018, which takes place 24 – 26 September in Singapore. Firmly established as the must-attend annual meeting for industry players from all around the world, preparations are already underway for another year of inspiring ideas, extensive networking and lively debates, with a conference programme covering key industry issues ranging from New Demand Drivers to Marine Operations, as well as a brand new Innovation Zone featuring presentations on the latest R&D projects.

Keen to learn more? Get in touch with the team:

To sponsor: Bastiaan Heijden | +65 6322 2726
To speak: Yun Xuan (YX) Koh

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