Recently, the Tech giants, Facebook and Google have announced their participation in the Apricot project to strengthen the connectivity in the Asia Pacific region. The project involves installing 12,000km long submarine cables that will connect Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore.
Unfortunately, Malaysia is not on the list and we’ve just missed the biggest opportunity to achieve our target to have the most subsea cable in South-east Asia by 2025 under MyDigital.
According to the Tech giants, the new cables give them unique routes through southern Asia and will provide businesses in Asia with a lower latency, more bandwidth, and increased resilience in their connectivity between Southeast Asia, North Asia and the United States.
Meanwhile, it is expected to be ready in 2024 and the cable will provide a capacity of more than 190 terabits per second to meet the rising data demands in the region, as well as to support existing cable systems, such as the Echo and Bifrost cable systems. In addition, it will help meet the growing demand for 4G, 5G, and broadband access in the region.
In a study conducted by Analysys Mason, they found that the impact of Google’s APAC network infrastructure between 2010 and 2019, had led to an extra US$340 billion (≈ RM1.4 trillion) in aggregated GDP and over 1.1 million additional jobs in the APAC region.
Nonetheless, Malaysia was left out of the Apricot project due to the ongoing cabotage issue, where it started after the former Transport Minister Dr Wee Ka Siong revoked the exemption for foreign-registered vessels performing undersea cable repairs in Malaysian waters.
This is one of the crucial factor that Tech giants such as Facebook and Google considered when they choose who should they partner with.
These tech giants had previously written to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin at least twice to push for the reinstatement of the cabotage exemption for submarine cable repairs but there were no response from the Malaysian government.
Having said that, the former Transport Minister, Anthony Loke pointed out that submarine repairs in Malaysia took approximately 27 days which is significantly longer than our neighbouring countries in Asean. This is mainly due to the DSL process which requires consultation with Masa (Malaysia Shipowners’ Association) before foreign vessels with the required DP2 capability can carry out the job.
The exemption was introduced by the Pakatan Harapan government back in April 2019 after a request being raised by Telekom Malaysia and TimeDotCom, with the support of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, Gobind Singh.
The issue was being dragged until April this year, where 6 ministries, including the Miti, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, Ministry of Transport, EPU, Medac and Mosti were being ordered to conduct a study of the cabotage policy on digital investments and the local shipping industry and to come back with recommendations in 2 weeks.
However, there were no response even though several months have passed.
After being silent on the issue for more than 4 months, the Tech giants had finally announced that they will leave Malaysia out of the picture and proceed with their plans.
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