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Huawei pushes Pacific island connectivity through subsea cables, 4G, datacentres

Subsea cables, 4G, datacentres, and the deployment of smart devices will allow the Pacific islands to join the digital economy, according to Huawei.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Huawei is helping islands across the Pacific region to make use of the digital economy by working with local telecommunications providers, governments, and businesses to enable connectivity through subsea cables, 4G networks, datacentres, and the deployment of smart devices.

Huawei used the recent Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association (PITA) Forum 2016 in Tahiti to present its strategy on connecting the region, saying that with more reliable and higher-speed internet connectivity, islands in the remote Pacific area will be able to take part in the digital economy, improve their socio-economic status, help mitigate natural disasters and climate change responses, develop digitalised health and education services, introduce ecommerce, and boost tourism.

According to the Chinese technology giant, a 20 percent increase in IT investment lifts a country's GDP by 1 percent.

For the last 12 years, Huawei has been partnering with local governments and telcos across the region to bring their networks up to date to enable the delivery of high-speed fixed and mobile broadband.

The company and its local partners are now looking at constructing additional submarine cable systems to link the Pacific to the rest of the world, build out 4G LTE mobile networks, employ smart tourism strategies, construct datacentres, and make smartphones and tablets more accessible to those living there.

"Firstly, we need to put smart devices in the hands of all island nation citizens. These devices are the window to the rest of the world, and will bridge the digital divide, enabling access to information as well as supporting business ecommerce type transactions," Barry Lerner, CIO of Huawei Technologies South Pacific ICT Solutions Marketing, told ZDNet in an interview.

"Secondly, networks enable islands to connect and communicate to the global digital economy. Huawei believes the two main technologies are LTE, to provide on-islands connectivity, and submarine cable, to support global connectivity. Both of these technologies will support high-speed communications and provide a foundation for the future.

"Lastly, datacentres are critical to the success of all island nations. Datacentres provide not only IT capacity with which to support applications such as health, education, e-government, but also will become a facility to support ICT training and the development of the local ICT industry."

According to Lerner, Huawei will "definitely" be throwing its weight behind building out extra subsea cable capacity across the Pacific region, using new network technology to ensure the distance between the islands will not prevent high-speed connectivity.

"Today across the Pacific islands, there are a number of gaps in the networks, and Huawei Marine Services will focus on working with operators and governments to enable global connectivity for all island nations," Lerner said.

"Huawei is investing heavily in new submarine technology that will benefit the South Pacific islands, such as the recently announced breakthrough with a 100G ultra-long unrepeated system that has achieved a record transmission distance of up to 627km in a laboratory test in Beijing, as we all know that the major challenge in the South Pacific is distance."

In the APAC region, Huawei Marine Networks -- a joint venture between Huawei and Global Marine Systems -- a year ago announced its plans to build a 1,300km 30Tbps subsea cable system connecting Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. The cable system, made up of six fibre pairs, is due to be completed by the end of this year.

Across the Pacific islands, the 14,000km Hawaiki subsea cable system, being jointly constructed by Hawaiki Submarine Cable and TE SubCom, will connect islands including New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, and Hawaii to Australia, New Zealand, and the west coast of the United States.

Telstra also said recently that it will be building an 8,000km 100Gbps submarine cable system, made up of three fibre pairs, to connect Singapore, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as securing capacity on the new trans-pacific "FASTER" 10,000km subsea cable system connecting Japan with the west coast of the US. The latter cable, consisting of six fibre pairs, makes use of 10Gbps wave technology.

Huawei is additionally now utilising its ROADS -- an acronym for "real-time, on-demand, all-online, DIY, and social" -- concept as a route towards further digitalisation in the Pacific islands region.

"Huawei's ROADS vision will foster an open industry ecosystem that enables agile innovations, advancing the ICT industry as well as all social sectors in the digital age in the South Pacific," the CIO explained.

Huawei rotating CEO Eric Xu first presented the company's ROADS concept as a route towards digitalisation at last month's Huawei Analyst Summit.

"From our point of view, the core of digital transformation or becoming a digital service provider is to define the clear target for that journey. At Huawei, we believe that target should be delivering a ROADS experience to its consumer and enterprise customers," Xu said.

"It requires agility and intelligence across the entire equation, including the network, the operating system, applications. All of those have to move to the cloud, and those are preconditions and technical prerequisites."

Lerner added that the rollout of reliable 4G across the islands will support the narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT), which will in future help more devices that need extra capacity to be connected.

Huawei has been pushing NB-IoT of late, earlier this week completing a trial of NB-IoT technology across central and suburban Melbourne in partnership with Vodafone Australia.

The companies were able to attain greater depth and distance -- to the tune of penetrating through three double-brick walls in depth, and up to 30km in distance -- by using the wireless low-power wide-area network.

Huawei in April said that with NB-IoT standards due to be "frozen" in June, it has been undertaking trials across the globe ahead of its own NB-IoT announcement in the second half of 2016.

Huawei and Vodafone last month opened an open lab in Newbury, UK, dedicated to the research and development (R&D) of NB-IoT technology and applications, with Huawei planning to open six more across the globe.

"We see that in the near future NB-IoT will start to rise in demand due to the need for sensors and monitors to be distributed for safe tourism, disaster management, and support of the next-generation way of life," Lerner said.

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