Pacific islands sign on for NEXT subsea cable

Southern Cross Cables has announced signing on Fintel in Fiji, Teletok in Tokelau, and BwebwerikiNET in Kiribati to its 60Tbps NEXT subsea cable system between Australia, New Zealand, and the US.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Pacific islands of Fiji, Tokelau, and Kiribati have all signed contracts to be connected to the 60Tbps NEXT subsea cable stretching between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

Southern Cross Cables has announced a "major capacity commitment" from Fijian telecommunications provider Fintel, along with agreements signed by Tokelau telco Teletok and Kiribati government-owned enterprise BwebwerikiNET.

According to Southern Cross Cables, the $350 million NEXT submarine cable system will provide the lowest latency and fastest connectivity from Fiji, Tokelau, and Kiribati to Australia and the US.

"The flexibility that Southern Cross Cables have offered us ensures our customers will receive the lowest possible round trip latency from Fiji to Australia and the US, supported by similar low-latency restoration paths, and therefore ensure we have the highest level of online response times," Fintel CEO George Samisoni said.

Teletok CEO Tealofi Enosa also pointed towards the NEXT cable's enablement of telemedicine and remote learning government initiatives.

The Southern Cross NEXT cable system is slated to go live in late 2019 after commencing construction at the end of last year following the completion of a seafloor survey that discovered a more efficient route.

The Southern Cross NEXT cable's new route, which traverses Wallis and Fortuna waters rather than the previously planned Tongan waters, will "deliver the fastest connection between the shores of Australia, New Zealand, and US", Southern Cross Cable Network CEO Anthony Briscoe said in August.

"For the overwhelming majority of internet delivery, our connections are made to various websites and apps from abroad by a series of 'pipes' that rest on seabeds across the globe ... people don't realise that delivering a submarine cable is among the most critical infrastructure projects on the planet," Briscoe said at the time.

During the survey, which commenced with the aid of marine surveyor EGS in February last year, more than 15,000km of seabed from Hermosa Beach, California to Clovelly, New South Wales was mapped so as to determine the fastest and safest route for the cable by avoiding obstacles including trenches, seamounts, and shipwrecks.

"The survey found a slightly faster route than first anticipated, shaving further latency off what was already set to be the lowest-latency connection between Australia, New Zealand and the United States," the companies said.

This third cable is expected to provide an additional 60Tbps capacity to the existing 20Tbps on the two present Southern Cross cables.

Telecommunications carriers and consortiums have been racing to build out subsea cable capacity across the Asia-Pacific region, driven by the rapid increase in data usage globally.

Telstra earlier this week announced investing in two new Pacific submarine cable systems connecting Hong Kong with the West Coast of the United States: The Hong Kong Americas (HKA) and the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN).

Last week, the $350 million Hawaiki Transpacific Submarine Cable System reached the halfway point of its rollout across the Pacific Ocean. The 15,000km Hawaiki cable will connect Australia and New Zealand to Hawaii and the US, with cable landings in Sydney, Australia, Oahu, Hawaii, and Pacific City, Oregon already completed.

The New Zealand and American Samoa cable landings will be completed next, with the Hawaiki system also containing branching units for Fiji, Tonga, and New Caledonia.

Also last week, Vocus announced entering a AU$2.8 million agreement with Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to scope out the design, construction, and procurement of a subsea cable between Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands.

Other cables being built in the region include the Jupiter subsea cable; the Trident subsea cable; Vocus' Australia Singapore Cable (ASC) and North West Cable System (NWCS); the Asia-Pacific Gateway (APG); the FASTER cable; and Superloop's Hong Kong cable.

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