Pacific cable project looks to islands for revenue

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Pacific cable project looks to islands for revenue
Rémi Galasso, chief executive of Hawaiki Cable Ltd. Credit: vendor.

Will it find funding?

Another cable system across the Pacific believes it has what it takes to get the project under the sea where Pacific Fibre failed and be ready by service in 2015.

The Hawaiki Cable that seeks to link Australia and New Zealand with the Pacific Islands and the United States has kept a low profile until now, but wants to establish its credentials with stakeholders in the region that are interested in an alternative to the dominant player, the Southern Cross Cable System.

A questions and answer document sent to iTnews by Hawaiki Cable Ltd's chief executive Rémi Galasso, states that the network's business case is helped by a design that results in lower costs but also the ability to collect revenue from new sources such as the Pacific Islands.

"Each of them has a compelling reason to connect to Hawaiki: to replace an end-­of-­life submarine cable, to provide a back-­up to an existing cable, to replace satellite access to develop broadband Internet, to have a direct access to Australia, New Zealand or the US," Galasso said.

As an example, the French dependent territory New Caledonia is the fifth largest nickel producer in the world and has a per capita income of A$34,684 in 2011 which is comparable to Western European countries and New Zealand.

The presence in Pacific Island markets will help with the funding of Hawaiki too, Galasso said. He did not indicate at which stage the financing of the cable is at, saying only "our discussions with investors in New Zealand, Australia and the United States have shown a great appetite for Hawaiki and we are confident that we will find the necessary financial resources." 

A funding plan is to be finalised in the second half of this year, and a supplier contract signed at the that time.

A vendor RFP was sent out in October last year and Galasso said Hawaiki has "spent a few months negotiating with all suppliers." SubCom looks set to be Hawaiki's cable layer.

He would not reveal who the cable's optical equipment supplier is, and told iTnews that this is still being negotiated.

Galasso, chief operating officer Ludovic Hutier and chief technical officer Virginie Frouin all previously worked on the South Pacific Islands Network which failed to materialise due to lack of funding. However, Galasso has been involved in completing the Gondwana-1 cable between Australia and New Caledonia, and the Honotua between Tahiti and Hawaii.

The three are also on the board of directors of Noumea-based company Intelia that provides integration services to telcos in the region.

As for the recently announced Tasman Global Access cable connecting Sydney and Auckland, Galasso said that "given the Tasman-2 cable is near the end of its life, we had been expecting a Tasman-3 cable for some time."

He adds that "the replacement of this old cable by the same players does not solve anything for New Zealand. It does not bring true diversity, competition and should have very little effect on consumer prices."


Proposed map of the Hawaiki Cable

Hawaiki's ambitious island connectivity plan calls for three "express links" running between Sydney and Auckland, Sydney and Oahu, Hawaii and Auckland to Oahu. A final extension between Oahu and the US West Coast that was planned as part of a second stage is now likely to be done as part of the initial cable build, a spokesman for the company told iTnews.

Spurs connected to the main cables with optical add-drop multiplexers will then connect islands such as Norfolk, Nouméa, Vanuatu, Fiji, the Wallis and Futuna, Samoa and American Samoa.

The total length of the cable would be 14,000 kilometres including the spurs, and it has a design capacity of 20 terabits per second using 100 gigabit per second wavelengths. These can be upgraded to 400 gigabit per second wavelengths, Galasso says.

Two fibre pairs with coherent positive dispersion design will be used for the cable

On the 13,190 kilometre Sydney to the US West Coast leg, Hawaiki expects the cable to show roundtrip latency of 129 milliseconds, with the Auckland terminus seeing nine milliseconds lower packet delay at 900 kilometres shorter length.

Across the Tasman, Hawaiki estimates the cable to have 21 milliseconds latency over 2,150 kilometres.

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