Demand for high-bandwidth telecommunications services in China is poised to jump in 2008 when the first next-generation undersea optical cable system directly linking the United States and the mainland starts operations, according to industry experts. An international consortium - with China Telecom, China Netcom, China Unicom, Korea Telecom, Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom and United States-based communications provider Verizon Business - is investing about US$500 million to build the high-bandwidth fibre-optic cable system, named Trans-Pacific Express. The infrastructure, which will start development next quarter and be completed by the third quarter of 2008, initially will provide capacity of up to 1.28 terabits per second but will be designed for up to 5.12 terabits per second to support future internet growth and advanced applications such as video-conferencing and e-commerce. A terabit is equivalent to 1,000 gigabits. 'We expect bandwidth demand in China to grow by an average of 70 per cent annually for the next 10 years. This new cable system is designed to address the growing demand,' said Ihab Tarazi, vice-president of global networking planning at Verizon Business, a unit of Verizon Communications. Ted Dean, managing director at market research firm BDA China in Beijing, said the new capacity to be put online would mostly serve the requirements of businesses and a growing internet user base that is the world's second-largest, after the US. As of June this year, China had 123 million internet users, including 49 million broadband subscribers. The Trans-Pacific Express cable system, which will extend more than 18,000 kilometres, will support the equivalent of 62 million simultaneous phone calls - more than 60 times the overall capacity of the existing cable directly linking the US and China. 'Although China's telecommunications market remains regulated, a lot of connectivity is needed in and out of the mainland by businesses,' said Claus Mortensen, research manager at analyst firm International Data Corp Asia-Pacific.