The French government may provide funds for an expansive trans-Pacific submarine cable that could eventually provide competition for Southern Cross Cable, Australia Japan Cable and proposed new cables from Telstra and Pipe Networks/VSNL.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to visit Tahiti before the end of the year to sign an agreement for an Alcatel Lucent-supplied Tahiti-Hawaii cable. And the president of the French Polynesia government – which administers Tahiti, Bora Bora and adjacent atolls – Gaston Tong Sang – said in a press release issued late last week that the next step would be to connect the new cable to New Caledonia, where another link is being deployed to Australia. This would create a three-leg multi-hundred gigabit hop from Sydney to Hawaii in direct competition against Southern Cross – which lands in Fiji – and the proposed new Telstra cable.
Tong Sang traveled to Paris last week where he met with Alcatel Lucent submarine networks president Jean Godeluck to discuss the proposed Tahiti-Hawaii cable.
Godeluck believes the new cable could be operational by mid-2009 at a cost of some US$106.8 million.
Tong Sang added that “we must wish for a rapid connection between Tahiti and Nouméa” adding that that funds from the French state’s Global Economic Development subsidy known as the DGDE “should be largely used for the development of this project”. He said additional funding will come from the French Polynesia Office des Postes et Télécommunications, which operates the postal system, the mobile telephone network and the Internet network in Tahiti.
He added that “Europe is very interested in the completion of this project because not only does it involve French overseas communities but also more isolated countries in the Pacific.”
Although French government and military bandwidth demands alone probably provide a sufficient business justification for the new cables, a new thoroughfare between Australia and the would probably add substantial traffic and make them considerably more economic.
Undersea cable connectivity has become a hot topic among Pacific island leaders of late. Pacific leaders met in New Caledonia earlier this year at a forum on the topic held by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and Alcatel Lucent in Noumea, New Caledonia.
The New Caledonia meeting discussed the potential of a regional submarine cable network that would link the participating South Pacific islands that would allow connection to some or all of the existing fiber networks in the Pacific. American Samoa, Samoa, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands also participated in the talks along with the French territories.
Any move to create a new trans-Pacific cable will have an impact on two new planned installations – the Telstra Sydney-Hawaii cable and the VSNL/Pipe Sydney-Guam cable.
In July, CommsDay reported that using the Sydney-New Caledonia link as a way to reduce costs was not seen as an option by Pipe. New Caledonia operator Office des Postes et Télécommunications has set itself a late 2007 launch target for the so-called Gonwana-1. The single pair cable will have a design capacity of 640Gbps, although sources say only 20Gbps will be lit initially.
Telstra is believed to have considered investing with OPT before it committed to its own Australia-Hawaii project earlier this year. It issued a confidential RFP to industry for the cable one year ago.THIS ARTICLE APPEARS IN SUBSCRIBER COPIES OF COMMSDAY. SUBSCRIBE HERE