Lighting Up the Pacific
By John Hibbard and Paul McCann
July 22, 2019
Even the Smaller Countries Will Have a Submarine Cable
There are 22 small island countries and territories in the Pacific Region (the so-called PICs), a region which covers an area of some 80,000,000 square kilometers, and comprises of three major groups of islands Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia.
2. Design of Submarine Cable Systems for Pacific Islands
The PICs require efficient, resilient connectivity to the global digital highway in order to participate in e-commerce and provide the services to their nation which are obtainable elsewhere in the world. Satellite and microwave connections are both bandwidth limited and vulnerable to adverse weather conditions – especially cyclones.
Accordingly, PIC access to high capacity, secure cable links are required to connect to the Global Internet – because this is the platform for all digital services. Although it is not quite as dominant as it historically has been, mainland USA remains the major hub of the Global Internet, and hence connections directly or indirectly to the US mainland are vital for the provision of communication services. Australia for example provides a hub of the Global Internet, but even this “regional hub” is subtended off more significant hubs in USA. Europe is the same.
Because of the distance to the USA west coast for PICs, coupled with low traffic volumes, the most cost-effective way for PICs to connect to the Global Internet via cable is via a regional hub. Apart from Sydney and Auckland, Fiji, Guam and Hawaii have all evolved as “regional hubs”. Thus, today many of the PIC submarine cable connections are to one of these hubs, because they result in shorter cable lengths and hence lower capital and operational costs. Accordingly, as the capacity demands of PICs are very modest, and the costs for building and maintaining long distance cable systems is high, it is difficult for PICs to justify building expansive, dedicated capacity directly to the USA. As such, regional hubs offer a cost-effective option for PICs, and whilst there can be a minor increase in latency (the delay in the signal transmission due to added length) due to some circuitous routing, this is well offset by the efficiency of using the regional hub and the cost effectiveness of such a connectivity arrangement.