A new company plans to build a transpacific submarine cable. By now I have the hang of how this works:
First, there’s a big announcement complete with a list of features showing the planned cable differs from the Southern Cross Cable Network. There is also an argument explaining why the new cable is essential. Beautiful diagrams help media explain all this.
Second, the would-be cable builder reveals high-profile backers or partners. No matter how big the names or how compelling the business case, they are never willing to invest all the money needed to get the project moving.
Third, potential customers emerge. If nothing else, coming forward gives them an opportunity to negotiate with Southern Cross or their wholesaler.
Next, we get follow-up press releases about passed milestones. They contain tantalising hints that the project is close to take-off, but nothing specific about the date ships will sail.
This submarine-cable-announcement-cycle is a key part of the business of every new international communications link project. It can go on for years.
A new trans-Pacific cable isn’t real until the ships start rolling it out across the ocean.
Along the way Southern Cross responds with its own messages. Often a rival project’s announcement is met with news of another big capacity increase on the existing network. Just to keep us confused there are also reminders that Southern Cross still has plenty of spare capacity and that growing demand for data is still not enough on its own to justify building a new cable.
At times Southern Cross throws a wild card announcement into the mix. If nothing else this keeps everyone on their toes.
All of which explains the recent flurry of activity.
In December Bluesky Pacific Group announced plans for Moana; a 9700 km submarine cable connecting New Zealand to Hawaii, with drops at a number of Pacific Islands along the route. The company said it has already contracted Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks to build the network.
Southern Cross Cable Network couldn’t let that pass without its own announcement so it revealed a footprint extension making its services available from four additional locations in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. It also added 900 Gbs of capacity bringing its network total to 5.8 Tbs.
This, by the way, is a small increase for Southern Cross, usually its network upgrades mean a far bigger jump in relative capacity.
Within days Bluesky had its own new statement. It says Moana cable will now connect NZ, Samoa, Cook Islands and Hawaii. It will now also Moana add a connection from the US to Asia.
Southern Cross is jointly owned by Spark New Zealand, Optus and Verizon.
Last week the two main shareholders, Spark and Optus, went public on discussions about planning long-term, Pacific submarine cable capacity. The message is clear: “We’ve got you covered for trans-Pacific submarine cables”.