Crown Prince launches AAG submarine cable
By Azlan Othman

His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, yesterday launched Brunei's segment of the new Asia-America Gateway (AAG) submarine cable, signifying the readiness to carry commercial traffic from Brunei Darussalam.

The Minister of Communications, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Hj Awg Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong said the submarine cable system is an effort towards enhancing and strengthening the telecommunications infrastructure and to protect the country's interest in communications with the outside world.

The submarine cable system is to provide 1.92 Terabits per second data bandwidth that could meet the demand of Internet services, especially video and other multimedia, which are increasing nowadays.

The AAG submarine cable system would ensure that all commercial activities in the country continue to run, besides being able to increase communications and bandwidth to develop the local ICT industry, become Brunei's attraction and increase investors' confidence.

The investment in the development and infrastructure expansion for strategic international communications is in line with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam's mission to provide a safe, efficient and easy communications system to enhance the country's capability and quality of life and economy of the people.

His Royal Highness also witnessed the signing of an agreement whereby the government of His Majesty assigns and transfers the whole of its rights, obligations, interests and title in the AAG submarine cable project to Brunei International Gateway Sdn Bhd (BIG Sdn Bhd). HRH also launched the BIG website.

Representing His Majesty's government was Pehin Dato Hj Awg Abu Bakar, while BIG Sdn Bhd was represented by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications cum the Chairman Awg Hj Alaihuddin bin Pehin Orang Kaya Digadong Seri Lela Dato Seri Utama Hj Awg Mohd Taha.

Also present were Awg Hj Mahmud bin Hj Daud, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the ministry and Pg Hj Mohd Salleh, General Manager of BIG Sdn Bhd, who witnessed the signing.

Pehin Dato Hj Awg Abu Bakar added the 20,000-kilometre cable is the first high bandwidth optic fibre submarine cable that links Southeast Asia to the United States directly through the Pacific Ocean.

The cable system links 10 locations in eight countries - Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, Hong Kong and the Philippines - to the US via Guam, Hawaii and California (San Luis Obispo).

Brunei Darussalam is one of the countries from the branch landing party for AAG with total investment of US$40 million, whereby US$30 million comes from His Majesty's government through Brooketon Sdn Bhd, and TelBru and DST Group have invested US$5 million each.

At present, Brunei is connected to the outside world through the South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 3 (SEA-ME-WE 3) submarine cable.

The country's involvement in the AAG project demonstrates the government's commitment to protect the safety and interest of the nation in global communications by providing international alternative communications through submarine cables besides SEA-ME-WE 3, which is the sole communication cable at present.

Elaborating on the signing of the transfer of rights document, the minister said BIG Sdn Bhd would spearhead the project for Brunei and will be responsible in managing the cable service, offer and sell the capacity to the local and international telecommunications operators.

The establishment of BIG Sdn Bhd is also another important achievement in the info-com industry to support the public-private partnership concept. BIG Sdn Bhd has been built from a joint venture agreement among the shareholders of BIG Sdn Bhd, which was signed on July 13, 2009 and registered on August 17, 2009.

The minister said the challenge facing Brunei is not only to meet the public demand and hope and the ever-evolving industry, but also to put Brunei in a strategic spot to grab new opportunities in this digital era that covers development and communications infrastructure upgrade.

It is the hope of BIG Sdn Bhd to focus its activity not only on bandwidth trading but also investment in communications infrastructure, which is strategic in nature such as fibre thread to homes and satellite communications to uphold efforts in ensuring continuous, safe and efficient communication. - Borneo Bulletin (15th April 2010)