Place your bets for the Hawaiki handicap

Writing at the Dominion-Post, Tom Pillar-Stretcher rates Hawaiki’s chance of getting its planned submarine cable away at “better than 50:50”. The NBR’s Chris Keall puts the odds lower. He says: “The blunt reality is that Hawaiki is unlikely to succeed“. (No longer online).

That’s quite a spread.

Keall says Hawaiki has a good game on paper. There’s a steady flow of press releases and announcements. This gives the impression the project is moving ahead.

But as Keall points out, there’s little substance. Mainly non-binding agreements with potential customers.  Even yesterday’s news about an US landing site is vague. Hawaiki has agreements with partners in place, but it hasn’t yet got the green light from the US government to land a cable. that’s a much harder step.

Incidentally no-one has explained why Hawaiki’s earlier plan to build its cable as far as Hawaii and then pick up on existing submarine links changed.

While the Southern Cross Cable Network has plenty of unused capacity, there’s a case for building at least one extra submarine cable out of New Zealand if only for resiliency. The chances of both Southern Cross links breaking at the same time are small, but it would be economically devastating.

Another argument is that there are benefits from a cable not owned, or part-owned, by telcos. Although that falls more in the ‘nice to have’ than the ‘must have’ category.

On the other hand, it’s not clear why a trans-Pacific link is essential. New Zealand’s communications centre of gravity is moving to our West. More and more key data is cached or hosted by Australian data centres. When New Zealand companies buy overseas cloud services they are more likely to work with Australian or Asian hosts than US-based services.

There’s talk of better ping times from a direct connection. Are a few milliseconds wait so important that it makes sense to spend upwards of $300 million?

Meanwhile three telcos plan to build a new trans-Tasman cable. This could prove more important for most local users.

Where does this leave Hawaiki and what are the chances of the trans-Pacific cable being built? The answer isn’t down to New Zealand, a best we’d only use a fraction of the traffic on the network. It isn’t about what we want or need here, it’s about whether Australian customers need another trans-Pacific cable. After all, the business model depends of their business.

One thought on “Place your bets for the Hawaiki handicap

  1. I would like to point out that ‘a few millseconds’ though that is what it will be measured in is more like 500+ms quicker, and for some things like SSH, real-time collaboration, VPNs, this makes huuuge difference.
    Imagine typing on your keyboard and letters can only be typed 3 per second… that’s what it’s like right now.

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