Basslink-affected TPG must leverage Telstra cable: Tas government

The government has urged TPG to use Telstra's cable assets to continue servicing its Tasmanian customers following the Basslink outage.

The Tasmanian government has spoken out against TPG's inability to service its customers in Tasmania, saying it will have to purchase extra capacity across Telstra's fibre-optic cable due to the Basslink subsea cable outage.

The Basslink Interconnector, the world's second-longest subsea cable providing energy and wholesale high-speed telecommunications services across fibre-optic assets to Tasmania, has been down since December.

Tasmanian Minister for Information Technology and Innovation Michael Ferguson said the state government was "very disappointed" that TPG's group of internet service providers (ISPs) had still not made provisions for the outage, "urging them to buy more capacity on the remaining Telstra cables".

"Our understanding is that customers of TPG, which includes iiNet, Internode, and Netspace brands, have been affected, while customers of other non-Telstra ISPs are provided for," Ferguson said in a statement.

"Today, I have spoken to TPG senior management to put forward the concerns of Tasmanian customers. I have been assured that TPG are aware of the issues and will continue to expand their use of the ample Telstra capability.

"As I stated some time ago, Telstra advised there was sufficient capacity to cater for all Tasmanian retail and wholesale customers on the two fibre bundles it owns and operates across Bass Strait."

Ferguson added that he had also "reminded" Telstra Wholesale "of the importance of constructively receiving requests for more capacity from TPG".

Telstra commented on Monday morning that it is the duty of telcos to provide continued services for their customers despite outages, with Telstra offering capacity to allow this.

"Our network between Tasmania and the mainland has capacity available for our retail and wholesale customers while Basslink's undersea cable is being repaired," a Telstra spokesperson told ZDNet.

"It is the responsibility of individual internet service providers to make appropriate arrangements for events like this so their customers continue to receive the services they expect.

"Following the Basslink cut, we have been working with impacted ISPs to provide additional capacity."

Telstra added that it cannot disclose the details of confidential commercial arrangements with its wholesaler customers.

ZDNet understands that TPG has negotiated for extra bandwidth over Telstra's fibre-optic cable from Thursday.

Basslink last week provided an update on the outage, saying it should be repaired by late May.

Basslink said it found the fault around 98km from the Tasmanian coast after collating over 500 hours' worth of images and data from 20 remote-operated vehicle dives.

"We empathise with the community over the time that it has taken," Basslink CEO Malcolm Eccles said.

It is now able to proceed in repairs, the first stage of which involves cutting the cables. Further cable cutting may be required to narrow down the exact location of the fault due to its "complex nature" and "lack of visible damage", Basslink explained.

Ferguson said over the weekend that the Tasmanian government had taken its own services off the Basslink cable in early March in preparation for the cable cutting.

"Government traffic was shifted off the Basslink cable earlier this month to avoid any possibility that important government services would be interrupted when the cut was made," Ferguson said.

After cutting the cables, the ends will be brought onto the repairs ship, tested, and capped to prevent water leakage.

Once the cables are cut and capped, the ship will return to Geelong, Victoria, to pick up further equipment, spare cables, and specialised repair workers to take back to the fault location. New cables will be inserted where the cuts were made.

In addition to affecting TPG's Tasmanian telecommunications services, the Basslink outage also slowed down repairs to TPG's own submarine cable between Sydney and Guam, which experienced an outage in early February.

TPG's maintenance contract provides for relatively fast shipments based out of New Caledonia for hardware to repair any cable faults that arise; however, the maintenance ship was at the time already repairing the Basslink cable system fault.

"TPG Telecom has a maintenance agreement which provides the group access to the CS Ile De Re based in Noumea, New Caledonia. This ship is stocked with spare cables and other hardware for repairs to the cable system. We have been informed that the same ship is being used to repair the Basslink cable system," a TPG spokesperson told ZDNet last month.

"As a result of the Basslink repairs, extra delays can be expected and therefore TPG is currently considering other options for a faster repair using an alternative vessel. At this stage, TPG is not able to quote exact restoration times.

"Once TPG has a firm handle on the restoration times we will update our customers accordingly."

"As a result of the Basslink repairs, extra delays can be expected and therefore TPG is currently considering other options for a faster repair using an alternative vessel."

On February 17, TPG updated the issue on its website, saying it had sourced an alternative cable repair ship that had departed Taiwan for Cairns, Queensland, where it would be loaded with repair equipment.

TPG removed the outage alert for the Guam cable from its website last week.

Basslink did not respond to a request for comment.


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