* 8,000 km cable to link SE Asia to Middle East
* Cable system seen carrying traffic by end-2014
* Reliance will get international bandwidth for 4G
MUMBAI, April 30 (Reuters) - A group of telecommunications
carriers including Vodafone Group Plc and India's
Reliance Industries Ltd have joined forces to build an
undersea cable system across the Indian Ocean to connect
Southeast Asia with the Middle East.
The 8,000-kilometre Bay of Bengal Gateway cable will link
Malaysia and Singapore to the Middle East and will have
connections to India and Sri Lanka, Reliance said on Tuesday.
The cable system is expected to carry commercial traffic by
the end of 2014, it said. Other members of the consortium are
Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Omantel, Etisalat
and Dialog Axiata.
The new cable system is significant for energy-focused
Reliance, controlled by India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, as
it readies the launch of fourth-generation (4G) telecom services
in the world's second-biggest telecommunications market and is
looking for international bandwidth.
The move also illustrates how Indian carriers are investing
to build wireless data networks in a market where more than 80
percent of the carriers' revenue is still from voice calls. Data
services are growing much faster in India where just a tenth of
1.2 billion people use the Internet.
Carriers in India spent a combined $20 billion to buy 3G and
4G airwaves in a 2010 auction.
Reliance, the only company in India to have nationwide
permits for 4G services that enable high-speed wireless
Internet, is widely expected to launch the services later this
year and is sewing up deals with rival carriers.
Last week it signed a deal to lease undersea cable capacity
from Bharti Airtel on the Chennai to Singapore
Earlier this month, Reliance Industries said it will lease
inter-city optic fibre capacity from Reliance Communications
, owned by Mukesh's younger brother Anil.