Google Subsea Cable Bypass Malaysia, Again! | LGMS News

News September 1, 2021

Google and Facebook announced plans for a 12,000-kilometre undersea cable named Apricot, which is set to connect Singapore, Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Indonesia. We consider why Malaysia isn’t included in the Apricot Cable plan, and what we could miss out on.

Let’s listen to the insight from LGMS CEO, Mr.Fong Choong Fook in the BFM interview session. 

Q1: Could you give us an overview of the Apricot subsea cable and its role in providing connectivity

Apricot, a new subsea cable that will boost connectivity in the Asia Pacific region. It is a 12,000km long submarine cable that will connect Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore. Expected to launch in 2024, the cable will provide an initial design capacity of more than 190 Tbps to meet rising data demands in the region, as well as to support existing cable systems including Echo and Bifrost. In another word, New cables will help to meet the growing demand for bandwidth in the region.

In fact, instead of just looking at cables, we should also know that the construction of cable systems, will also facilitate the build of world-class data centers and exchanges in the country.

Q2: This isn’t the first time we’ve been excluded from an opportunity like this. Why do you think this is the case for Malaysia again?

Facebook’s Echo and Bitfrost cables will connect Singapore, Indonesia, and North America. The Political Climate in Malaysia, which covers the stability of our government, our national policies, and our government’s attitude towards foreign trades and investment

Q3: Could you walk us through briefly why the Malaysian government lifted the cabotage exemption last year? 

With the cabotage, subsea cable repair works took up to 27 days which is significantly longer than other countries in the region.

MASA Malaysia Shipowners’ Association has the right to block the use of foreign vessels if a local shipping company has an available vessel to take on the job.

As a comparison, undersea cable repairs are said to take

  • 20 days in the Philippines,
  • 19 days in Singapore and
  • 12 days in Vietnam.

Cabotage exemption for cable repairs was introduced by the previous Pakatan Harapan administration in 2019 with the intention to speed up undersea cable repairs by half. This would allow foreign vessels to carry out the job without the need to apply for a domestic shipping license (DSL) which requires consultation with (MASA).

The formal Transport Minister had revoked the cabotage exemption for foreign ships to conduct undersea cable repairs. I am not the best person to answer Why the Malaysian government revokes the exemptions, what I can share though, from my personal view, the move is actually doing more than good to our country. We are moving backward.

Q4: Has the Malaysian government indicated an openness in recent times to review its cabotage exemption policy?

Many countries define ‘cabotage’ as the transport of cargo or passengers between two domestic coastal points”

In my view, It is absolutely fine that a country is having its cabotage laws, only that it should be considered, or even exempted for maintenance and repairs of subsea cables. By retracting the cabotage exemption, I think we are not moving forward, and certainly, we need to review our position on ‘cabotage’ and what Malaysia can do to exhibit our openness in welcoming technology advancement in our country.

Q5: Will this greatly affect how attractive we are to global investors, in comparison to other countries in the region?


Q6: How much would Malaysia miss out on, with this new Apricot cable bypassing us?

It is not just the Opportunity to tap on high-speed submarine cable systems that we have missed out on, but this will also create a domino effect on our country’s digital economy development.

We need stable internet infrastructure that’s robust and reliable. Without high speed & high resiliencies of Internet connectivity, we will fail to attract international businesses and investments to build digital hubs within Malaysia. 

When these foreign investments are not coming into Malaysia, they are going somewhere else.

Q7: Earlier this year, MyDigital announced that expanding global connectivity is one of its key trusts. How does missing these opportunities get in the way of MyDigital’s goal?

I think we did not just miss out on the submarine cable, we have missed out on a chain of opportunities associated with the cables. As I mentioned earlier, when we don’t have high-speed connections and exchanges, it will be much harder for us to attract global tech giants to establish their hubs in our country.

We lose out on potential foreign investments, jobs opportunity, technologies and skills transfer into Malaysia, etc.

Q8: Is there a possibility of Malaysia negotiating to be included in this plan at a later point?

I am not sure, but what I know for sure is, negotiations are to achieve mutual benefits, we have to review our policies and do a reality check, if we want to fulfill our digitalization dream, we have to ask ourselves: are we attractive enough to attract the global tech giants to come to work with us.

About LGMS
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