Cable To Connect NZ To S. America & Antarctica Closer

The Chilean government has selected Hawaiki as its partner for a subsea cable that will connect Chile, Australia and New Zealand.By Tom Pullar-Strecker, Stuff.co.nz
December 20,2021

The Chilean government has selected a company chaired by the chief executive of New Zealand founded company Hawaiki as its partner for a proposed subsea internet cable that would be designed to connect Chile, Australia and New Zealand.

The proposed Humboldt cable, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, could also potentially enable the first ultrafast broadband connection to Antarctica, which currently relies on satellite communications.

H2 chairman and Hawaiki chief executive Remi Galasso said the project was “a fantastic opportunity for New Zealand which is perfectly located to become the gateway to South America”.

Chilean telecommunications and transport minister Gloria Hutt said in a statement issued overnight on Friday, New Zealand time, that the cable was one of Chile’s most ambitious projects in recent decades.

Chilean government infrastructure fund Fondo de Infraestructura said the 14,810 kilometre cable would run between Valparaiso in Chile and Sydney, where it would connect with other cable systems to Asia.

It would include several branches to allow for the possible connection of other countries and territories, such as Juan Fernandez – also known as Robinson Crusoe Island – and Isla de Pascua (Easter Island), as well as New Zealand, it said.

Fondo de Infraestructura said that Desarrollo Pais, a company majority-owned by the Chilean government, and Singaporean-based H2 would jointly promote the Humboldt Cable and make the investment based on the market response.

H2 had contracted Hawaiki to finalise the system design, launch the contracting process, and contact potential key customers, it said.

French-born Galasso founded Hawaiki, which broke the Southern Cross Cable’s near monopoly on subsea communications to and from New Zealand in 2018.

Hawaiki, which is in the process of being acquired by Singaporean shipping company BW Group, separately announced plans last month to lay one of the world’s longest and highest-capacity subsea internet cables to connect the South Island to the United States, Australia and Asia.

That 22,000km Hawaiki Nui cable would link Invercargill, Dunedin and Christchurch with Los Angeles, Singapore and Jakarta, with connections also running to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Darwin, Batam in Indonesia and Hawaii.

One of its goals is to connect a huge data centre that Datagrid – another company jointly founded by Galasso – intends to build near Invercargill, so it could be used to store data generated by internet services in Australia.

Galasso could not confirm whether the Humboldt cable was likely to run to Auckland, near where Hawaiki’s existing trans-Pacific cable comes ashore, or to Invercargill to connect directly with Hawaiki Nui.

He has in the past pointed out advantages of the southern route, noting it would be the most direct between Chile and Australia, and one that would shorten a link to Antarctica.

Galasso said the Humboldt Cable was “the missing part of what we call the ‘great southern route’, going all along from Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Chile”.

If the cable between Chile and Australia was routed via Invercargill, it would be technically possible to connect Antarctic bases, given that a cable branch to New Zealand’s Scott Base would only be about 1700km long, he said.

“The international scientific community in Antarctica is suffering from very poor connectivity because of their extreme distance to satellite geosynchronous orbit,” he said.

“They can't properly access satellites in orbit around the equator which is a major issue for their scientific researches that require large volumes of data. An optical fibre connection would be a game changer for those bases.”

Antarctica New Zealand spokeswoman Megan Nicholl has previously said it would be “amazing to have fibre into Antarctica because of what it could mean for our science”.

The Chilean Government initially contemplated building an internet cable between South America and Asia with Chinese support, before amending that plan last year, reportedly in the wake of lobbing by former US Secretary of State Mike Pompei against that plan.

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