By David Ramli, The Sydney Morning Herald

The five thin submarine cables that link Australia's phone and internet connection to the outside world will be joined by a sixth, thanks to an impending deal of up to $US140 million ($198 million) between Vocus Communications and NextGen Networks.

Submarine cables are the arteries of the digital world that run along the sea floor and carry 97 per cent of the world's phone and internet traffic. Without them Australians would never be able to make international calls, use services like Facebook or look up overseas websites.

The 4600-kilometre Australia-Singapore Cable (ASC) from Perth to Singapore was announced when NextGen was owned by Leighton Holdings and should have been built in 2013. However, it languished due to a lack of funds even after Canada's Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan bought 70 per cent of NextGen in 2013.

But Fairfax Media can reveal the cable is now much more likely to be built thanks to a 50-50 joint-venture partnership with Vocus. Sources said an initial deal with Vocus, which is set to become a $3 billion telecommunications giant if its merger with M2 Group is successful, could be signed as early as this week. Construction is likely to start from 2016 onwards.

NextGen and Vocus declined to comment.

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