First direct China-Taiwan telecoms cable goes live: Officials

TAIPEI (AFP) - The first telecommunications cable directly linking Taiwan and China has begun operating, officials said on Monday.

It is expected to meet surging demand arising from closer economic ties between the two former rivals.

"The cable received the approval of National Communications Commission on November 1," Mr Chen Jung-kuei, an official of Taiwan's leading telecoms operator Chunghwa Telecom, told AFP, referring to the island's telecom regulator.

The Chinese authorities have also given the go-ahead for the fibre-optic undersea cable, he said.

"With the opening of the cable, the quality of communications service across the (Taiwan) Strait will be enhanced," Mr Chen added.

Currently, telecommunications between Taiwan and the mainland are routed indirectly through countries such as Japan.

The 220km cable links the coastal town of Tamshui in the north of the island and Fuzhou city in south-east China.

Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan's leading telecom operator, and three other local telecom operators jointly hold a 50 per cent stake in the TW$1 billion (S$42.2 million) project, while two Chinese companies share the remainder.

Telecoms demand between Taiwan and China has risen sharply recently, driven mostly by a corporate demand for greater data capacity.

Another Chunghwa official said audio is expected to account for no more than two percent of the cable's bandwidth.

Demand is expected to surge further in the years ahead as Chinese operators press for fourth-generation mobile communications.

A greater emphasis on "cloud computing" - whereby shared resources, software, and information are hosted online - will also drive demand for higher capacity.

The undersea cable project comes amid fast-warming ties between Taiwan and China under Beijing-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou, who took office in May 2008 on promises to boost cross-strait economic ties.

Mr Ma was re-elected in January 2012.