Burma’s Internet to Receive High-Capacity Upgrade

By Naomi Gingold 4 October 2013

RANGOON — Internet users in Burma may be able to more quickly upload and download information later this month, after the state telecommunications agency more than doubles the bandwidth of one of the country’s international fiber connections.

Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transmitted over an Internet connection. Measured over a period of time, usually in bits per second, it represents the capacity of a network to transfer information.

The current low bandwidths of Burma’s international Internet connections are a large reason for the congestion and slowness that local Internet users experience, especially during the afternoon, a peak time for Internet use.

According to the state-run Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), Burma’s cross-border Internet link to China currently has a bandwidth of 2.5 gigabytes per second (Gbps); the country’s subsea link, known as SEAMEWE-3, has a bandwidth of 6.2 Gbps; and a cross-border link to Thailand has a capacity of 8.5 Gbps.

Myo Swe, chief engineer of the IT department at MPT, said the bandwidth of the Thai cross-border Internet link would be increased to 20 Gbps this month, although he could not provide an exact date of when testing would be completed. “It will be before the SEA Games,” he told The Irrawaddy recently, referring to the Southeast Asian Games, a biennial regional sporting event that will take place in Burma in December.

The upgrade on the Thai terrestrial link comes on the heels of a Japanese government-funded project to increase the bandwidth of the network between Burma’s three largest cities—Naypyidaw, Rangoon and Mandalay—to 20 Gbps in time for the SEA Games. Other Japanese-led upgrades expected before the Games include improvements to international routing capabilities, as well as the creation of a temporary 4G mobile network.

Increased bandwidth usually means greater overall network performance, but other factors such as latency—the time it takes for data to travel over a network—and user demand can affect performance as well.

Although the exact date of implementation is unknown, Internet users in the country should be able to tell when the upgrades go through, as the effects will be felt the next time they open their Internet browsers.