Telekom Malaysia together with several major regionally-based international telecommunications carriers signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Thursday (June 1) to build an international undersea cable system linking Southeast Asia with the United States.

The cable will be called the Asia-America Gateway and will route from Malaysia to the US via Hong Kong, the Philippines, Guam and Hawaii, with branches into Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Vietnam.

Telekom MalaysiaÆs fellow MoU signatories include AiTi of Brunei Darussalam, CAT Telecom (Thailand), PLDT (Philippines), REACH (Hong Kong), StarHub (Singapore) and VNPT (Vietnam). The group is still negotiating with potential US partners to handle the landing connection, and is also considering heading into other countries such as India and Australia at a later date.

The proposed cable system will span 20,000 kilometres and will use the latest dense wavelength division multiplexing technologies with a minimum design capacity of 1.28 terabits. For non-techies: its broadband and 3G capacity means it can handle data, voice over internet protocol and video.

Telekom Malaysia hopes to finalise the consortium agreement by the end of the year and start construction next year.

ôWe see growth for broadband in these countries, thereÆs big potential,ö says Telekom MalaysiaÆs Chief Operating Officer Baharum Salleh. ôWhile the price of bandwidth will continue to go down, for sure, the usage will go up with VOIP and other developments catching onà now even tier two carriers are requiring VOIP and data.ö

ôWe expect more than 20% growth from the Malaysia market per year,ö says Salleh. ôBy the end of 2008 we wonÆt have enough capacity to connect to the US without going through another cable carrier.ö

He says it is too early to announce how much the project will cost but the financing will come from the consortium and he does not expect Telekom Malaysia will use a bond to raise money.