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Linking Japan and South-East Asia! - the new “SJC” submarine cable

To support international communications, submarine cables are laid in the seven seas of the world. In the first installment of "MiTA TV", we revealed that these submarine cables are used to exchange huge amounts of data.

Now, a large-scale project is underway to build a new submarine cable for linking South-East Asian countries and Japan. It's called the SJC (South-East Asia Japan Cable). NEC is also a member of this SJC project.

In November 2012, the work called "cable landing" was carried out at Minamiboso City, Chiba Prefecture, to land the submarine cable at a cable landing station. Today, we will report on the cable manufacturing plant and how the submarine cable is loaded on a ship! First, to get a good grasp of the SJC project, we'll talk with Mr. Miwa, the SJC project manager of NEC.

Picture: Interviewee Mr. Daiki Miwa

Daiki Miwa is a young leader who has worked for the Submarine Network Division of NEC since 2002. As an submarine cable expert, he serves as NEC's project manager on the SJC project aimed at linking Japan and South-East Asian countries.

  • MitaNice to meet you, Mr. Miwa. I've heard that you are the project manager of the "SJC" project. Could you tell us about "SJC"?
  • MiwaIt's a new submarine cable that will link Japan and Singapore. On the way to Singapore, the cable will branch out to China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Brunei, and its total length will be about 9,000 kilometers. Once we have the cable in place, it will be possible to exchange information much more smoothly between Japan and South-East Asian countries than before. Speaking of which, if we connect this cable to the UNITY cable, a transpacific submarine cable completed in 2010, we will have an information highway with a total length of about 18,000 kilometers connecting all the regions from South-East Asia and the U.S.
  • MitaI see. You intend to link not only Japan and South-East Asia but also the U.S. and South-East Asia. How much information can we send if we have SJC in place?
  • MiwaThe SJC can send information at rates higher than 16 terabits per second.
  • MitaI can't imagine how much information that is.
  • MiwaOk. This capacity is equivalent to sending more than 400 DVDs' worth of data per second. In other words, the cable can transmit the data of 400 two-hour-long movies just in a second.
  • MitaThat speed sounds like a dream come true for someone like me who is frustrated at the slow response when downloading a file attachment to a PC. But a submarine cable is already used to exchange information with South-East Asian countries, isn't it? Is the existing cable low in performance?
  • MiwaNo. The existing cable is high in performance. But the amount of data we exchange with South-East Asian countries is expected to increase sharply as these economies grow. For example, video sharing services like YouTube have increased in number, and a lot of people now watch videos individually on their mobile terminals. Think about what happens if the number of users of these services increases to hundreds of millions.
  • MitaThere will be an unimaginable amount of data!
  • MiwaThat's why we need a new broader "communications highway."
  • MitaThe new cable is very important, isn't it? In this SJC project, what kind of role is NEC playing?
  • MiwaI understand that you heard from Mr. Koga in the second installment of the program that NEC engages in submarine cable installation.
  • MitaI heard that it was a tough job.
  • MiwaIn the SJC project, NEC plans to lay down about 5,000 kilometers of cable, which is nearly half of the total cable length. NEC will install cables in these red parts of the map. Isn't there anything that catches your attention?
  • MitaWell, it seems that NEC is in charge of every route that connects to land.
  • MiwaThat's right. Where a route connects to land, it's a coastal sea area, which is often shallow. So, in order to ensure safety for ships travelling along the coast as well as for the cable, we need to design the route very carefully in advance. Since there are many existing cables, we also need to take care to prevent the new cable from crossing the existing ones.
  • MitaNEC is in charge of the particularly difficult parts.
  • MiwaYou could say that. Besides, we have to examine the seabed conditions using a marine survey ship, and obtain permission for cable installation from the governments concerned. The hard thing to do when obtaining government permission is making sure that each government gives permission in a timely manner. Once installation starts, we lay the entire submarine cable at once. So we need to obtain permission in time for the work. That gives us a hard time because every government has its own problems.
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