Hawaiki Cable is go

April 1st, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Hawaiki Cable says it has secured the funding to lay a new internet cable between New Zealand, the United States and Australia.

The cable is believed to have a price tag of about $500 million and may mean faster and cheaper access to overseas websites and online services for broadband users.

The company said in a statement that a contract under which United States firm TE SubCom will build the cable came into force on Thursday and construction would now begin.

This is great news. It should lead to greater competition and more resilience (note Southern Cross is effectively two cables so we are already protected from a single cable failure).

There’s been talk and efforts for almost a decade to get a second cable to the US. Great to see it finally happen. Well done to Hawaiki.

Progress on a new cable

February 13th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand and Pacific Island governments have agreed to work to ensure a new submarine cable is laid across the Pacific, after meeting in Auckland.

The intervention makes it more likely that one of the two existing plans to lay a new cable to and from New Zealand will succeed, according to a Cook Islands minister.

Internet access in the Pacific is expensive and limited. For example, the Cook Islands relies entirely on expensive satellite communications to carry phone calls and internet traffic, Cook Islands finance minister Mark Brown said.

A “standard” broadband plan in the Cook Islands costing $49 a month comes with a meagre 6 gigabyte data cap – and with 100 millisecond lag, business is stifled and video-gaming has yet to take off.

Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) met with delegations from the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and French Polynesia on Thursday to discuss improving internet connectivity in the region.

The ministry has since issued a communique saying officials would present leaders with “solutions for a submarine cable and satellite infrastructure” to improve communications for the islands by August.

New Zealand would “facilitate the planning and development phases of the project”, it said.

Auckland-based Hawaiki hopes to build a $500 million cable linking Australia and New Zealand to the United States via several Pacific Islands, but has had a series of disappointments securing the last remaining $150m it requires.

Another firm, Spain’s Bluesky, aims to build a cable from New Zealand as far as Hawaii, also connecting other islands en route – including American Samoa where it has a subsidiary business.

Brown said representatives from private companies Hawaiki Cable and Bluesky attended the Auckland meeting and it seemed they had the most viable options to improve internet access in the region.

This is good for such a cable will not just link up some Pacific countries, but provide a second cable between NZ and the US.

We may have a new cable to Hawaii

December 4th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An announcement by Alcatel-Lucent that it will lay a new subsea communications cable between New Zealand and Hawaii needs to be taken with a “grain of salt”, until more details are known, the Telecommunications Users Association says.

Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks said it had signed a contract with Bluesky Pacific Group, a subsidiary of Spanish telecommunications firm Amper, to lay a 9700 kilometre cable connecting New Zealand, Hawaii, the Cook Islands, Samoa and American Samoa, by 2018.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Craig Young said the venture appeared to have come out of the blue. 

“We have always wanted another cable up to the United States, but no-one else has managed to make the business case stack up,” he said. 

Alcatel-Lucent was not immediately able to confirm details of the contract, such as what had been agreed, the cost or any conditions.

Young said people should not get too excited the cable would definitely be built, until there was more information. 

If this is really happening, it is great news.

But it is out of the blue. Normally a company announces an intention, and then spends a few years trying to gain enough customers and finance to make it viable.

However Alcatel-Lucent is huge and can finance it themselves, so maybe they have decided to proceed without guaranteed customers.

Alcatel-Lucent’s statement did not indicate whether Bluesky yet had confirmed customers for the cable or regulatory approval for any landing stations.

Financing trans-continental communications cables is usually a multi-year process that involves stacking up advanced sales to customers on a condition a cable is built, and obtaining loans and equity investment.

If the cable is a firm commitment, and not dependent on signing up customers, then it’s real and that is great news.

A Raglan to Sydney cable

December 19th, 2014 at 6:54 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Spark, Vodafone and Telstra today confirmed a less ambitious plan to lay a separate subsea communications cable between Raglan and Sydney at a cost of US$70 million, which the companies said would make New Zealand’s international connections more varied and secure.

The three companies said they would start construction of the 2300 kilometre Tasman Global Access cable early next year and expected to complete it by the middle of 2016.

French multinational Alcatel-Lucent has been awarded the contract to lay the cable, which will comprise two pairs of optical-fibre with a total capacity of 20 terabits per second.

That’s a lot. By comparison Southern Cross has capacity of around 12 Tb/s (of which around 3.6 are lit).

20 Tb/s would allow one million users to be pulling 20 Mb/s each.

Good to see some increased competition in the cable area.

A second cable getting closer

May 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Southern Cross Cable’s near monopoly over international internet traffic appears to be dangling by a thread.

After years of failed ventures and dashed hopes, Hawaiki Cable chief executive Remi Galasso said his company was just a few weeks away from confirming it would build a competing US$300 million (NZ$350m) cable linking New Zealand and Australia to the United States.

The former Alcatel-Lucent executive said Hawaiki had secured a major New Zealand company to be its equity partner and an Australasian bank willing to provide debt financing.

All that remained was for Hawaiki to convert some “letters of intent” it already had from customers into firm contracts and “complete the bank process to unlock the funds”.

“This is not a piece of cake. We are dealing with large organisations, but I am confident the finishing line is a few weeks away,” Galasso said.

Hawaiki would then put into effect the contract it had with United States supplier TE SubCom to lay the the 13,127 kilometre-long cable, which should be ready by March 2016, he said. The cable would have a capacity of 6.4 terabits, sufficient to carry a million HD movie streams simultaneously.

This will be great, if they get over the line. For both competitive and security of supply reasons a second cable is desirable.

It won’t be a silver bullet. The cost of international bandwidth is much reduced from years ago, and is around 5c a GB last time I checked. However competition is the best way to get prices even lower.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen said that would be tremendous. Opinions varied on whether a new cable would reduce broadband charges for consumers or raise their data caps, he said.

“The way Southern Cross talks, the international component of any internet-provider (ISP) charge is minuscule, and the way the ISPs talk it is the one thing that stops them offering really large data caps. Time will tell who is right and who is blowing smoke.”

But a new cable was needed in case there was ever a major outage on the Southern Cross Cable, he said. The risk of anything affecting Southern Cross’ twin landing points in Auckland was low but the impact would be huge, he said. “It is very important we have a second company operating.” Southern Cross Cable is half-owned by Telecom. SingTel owns 40 per cent and US carrier Verizon 10 per cent.

It is worth noting that the Southern Cross Cable is a figure of eight so an outage in one segment won’t result in a loss of international connectivity for NZ. They would need to have two simultaneous outages for this to occur.

But again, more cables means less vulnerability.

Galasso did not believe success would adversely impact a separate proposal by Telecom to lay a new cable, the Trans Global Access (TGA) cable, between New Zealand and Australia in conjunction with Vodafone and Telstra. That investment, estimated at about $100m, has been awaiting head-office approval from Telecom’s joint venture partners.

Instead, he said the two cables would be complimentary, as customers could use one as a back-up. “My view is two new cables will be built, Hawaiki and the TGA cable,” he said.

I agree. As more regional data centres get located in Australia, cables to Australia will become more valuable also.

A Govt contribution towards an international cable

September 20th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Amy Adams has announced:

Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams is calling for expressions of interest from companies who are considering building a new international telecommunications cable between New Zealand, Australia and the United States. 

“To ensure we have sufficient international capacity in the medium to long term, the Government is making a $15 million contribution available, and would commit to an anchor tenancy on a new cable for research and education purposes,” Ms Adams says.

This is the same commitment the Government made towards Pacific Fibre, and it is very good to see the Government make the same commitment to other companies who are seeking to build a second cable for us.

The commitment that REANZ would be an anchor tenant is probably more important than the contribution, even thought both are useful.

Some people want the Government to be directly involved in constructing a second cable, but my string preference is for the private sector to do it and I know that Hawaiki at least have a proposal out there. Their proposals includes having the cable connect a dozen or so Pacific Islands, which would be a great boost for them.

InternetNZ has commented:

InternetNZ (Internet New Zealand Inc) is delighted the Government is contributing $15 million and calling for expressions of interest for companies to build an international telecommunications cable between New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

InternetNZ Chief Executive Jordan Carter said this was an excellent move by the Government to help New Zealand’s telecommunications industry.

“Like the Ultra Fast Broadband and Rural Broadband Initiatives, we think this is a fantastic step towards ensuring New Zealand maintains our robust connectivity to the world.

We have sufficient capacity at the moment, and for the near future. But getting greater competition with international connectivity will be good for prices, and having supply meet demand.

A new trans-tasman cable

February 19th, 2013 at 10:05 am by David Farrar

Telecom have announced:

Telecom, Vodafone and Telstra announced today they have signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) to co-invest in the construction of a new submarine cable between Auckland and Sydney.
The new cable, tentatively titled the Tasman Global Access (TGA) Cable, will significantly improve New Zealand’s international telecommunications connectivity as well as strengthen links into fast-growing Asian markets.

The total cost of the TGA cable is expected to be less than US$60 million. The cable will incorporate three fibre pairs with a current design capacity of 30 terabits per second – approximately 300 times the current internet data demand out of New Zealand.

30 terabits a second isn’t bad!

The TGA cable will achieve significant international connectivity benefits for New Zealand at a fraction of the build cost of another, much longer trans-Pacific cable, the consortium partners said.

It would be nice to have another trans-Pacific cable also, but this announcement is good news as it means more competition and more capacity. What is pleasing is that it is not just Telecom (who have the biggest stake of Southern Cross) but also Telstra and Vodafone.

Telecom chief executive Simon Moutter and Vodafone New Zealand CEO Russell Stanners jointly commented: “The business case for a new cable between New Zealand and Australia is compelling, providing greater capacity and global redundancy capability. It also reflects the growing importance of trans-Tasman internet traffic: for example, around 40% of both Telecom and Vodafone’s international internet traffic is now Australia to New Zealand, versus just 10% in 2000.

“We are seeing increased data content being provided from Australia-based servers by global companies and being accessed by New Zealand internet users. An additional cable connection with Australia will strengthen the business case for international data servers to be located in New Zealand.

I’ve blogged on this in the past. NZ will never be big enough to have global datacentres here, but if we can get the Googles and Apples of the world to do regional datacentres in Sydney, then we will pull more and more of our data from Australia rather than the United States.