Singapore to invest billions in new submarine cable facilities

Why it matters: Singapore is funding a new “digital blueprint” to greatly improve its internet and technology infrastructures. The independent city-state wants to reaffirm its vocation as an open economy that is highly connected to the Asian region and the world, and it will put more cable on the seabed for that.

Announced by Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo, the new Digital Connectivity Blueprint is an ambitions project that will reshape the country’s digital connectivity infrastructure within the next decade. By 2033, Teo said, Singapore will have doubled the number of submarine cable landing facilities to increase connectivity between the country, Asia and the rest of the world.

Singapore already works as a “connectivity hub” for Southeast Asia to the world thanks to its 25 submarine cables and three landing sites hosted by the country. The new facilities will require a $7.4 billion investment, mostly coming from the private sector. Another huge investment plan (between $7.4 billion and $8.9 billion) will focus on developing green, environmentally-sustainable data centers.

The new submarine cable landing sites and green datacenters won’t be useful for just improving the currently available digital infrastructure, Teo said. Singapore isn’t going to build “more of the same,” the minister said, working instead on new capacity for novel digital applications that won’t be feasible with the currently available internet bandwidth.

Data intensive processing, heavy AI-use and other “next-gen” technologies will require a completely new “hard infrastructure” designed to properly withstand the increased load, Singapore authorities said. Thanks to its geopolitical location, the country will continue to be one of the world’s most important landing stations for submarine cables.

The new submarine landing facilities – and the overall digital blueprint initiative – are expected to attract even more investments in internet cables, analysts said. Furthermore, having transparent policies related to cable landing stations, easy licenses and clear privacy protection guidelines will need to come into play for the entire funding plan to succeed.

Additional measures included in Singapore’s digital blueprint are calling for an upgrade to the domestic hard infrastructure to support 10-gigabit internet speeds within the next five years, a tenfold bandwidth increase of the country’s Nationwide Broadband Network (NBN) for ultra-fast fiber connections, and new spectrum allocations for faster Wi-Fi and 5G networks.