Hawaiki has revealed plans for a new submarine cable linking Asia, Australia and the South Island to the US.
Hawaiki plans Asia, US, South Island cable
Auckland-based submarine cable operator Hawaiki says a new 22,000km cable linking South-East Asia, Australia and the US will include connections to New Zealand’s South Island.
Construction is due to start next year and the new cable should be in business by 2025. Hawaiki Nui will have a 240Tbps capacity.
The main hubs will be in Singapore, Sydney and Los Angeles. It will have landings in Jakarta and Batam in Indonesia. In New Zealand there will be direct links to Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill.
Further landings are planned for Melbourne, Brisbane and Darwin. Remi Galasso who founded the cable business and is now executive chairman says “Hawaiki Nui has been designed to deliver direct connectivity through new subsea paths and provide optimal diversity.”
One beneficiary of this is Galasso’s new venture, Datagrid, a planned hyperscale data centre being built near Invercargill in the South Island.
Vodafone Data Centre Connect debuts
A week after rebranding, Vodafone Infrastructure Partners is offering high-speed fibre links to data centre operators. Wholesale customers can buy 100G, 200G and 400G wavelength services for direct connection between data centres.
Vodafone says the service is offered in collaboration with Ciena and is based on Colourless-Directionless-Contentionless (CDC) and flexible grid optical multiplexers. “The network platforms provide the highest degree of agility and flexibility with the ability to send any service anywhere in the network, dynamically.”
Kacific extends reach with consumer terminals
Regional satellite operator Kacific says it will use ST Engineering iDirect’s Mx-DMA Multi-Resolution Coding technology for terminals to support the Kacific1 Ka-band satellite serving the Pacific and Southeast Asia.
Kacific says this will help it reach underserved customers. Mx-DMA MRC is a patented multi-access waveform. It combines the scalability of MF-TDMA with the efficiency of single channel per carrier (SCPC) into a single return technology.
This allows Kacific to scale services while simplifying operations by optimising the network bandwidth in real-time. Mx-DMA MRC uses self-organising frequency plans for network planning. That way there is no need for upfront traffic characterisation or pre-configuration.
Kacific operates more than 8,000 terminals, including the new MDM2010 modems in Mx-DMA MRC mode, spread across 56 beams.
Ultrafast Fibre now Tuatahi First Fibre
Hamilton-based Ultrafast Fibre Limited is rebranding as Tuatahi First Fibre. The name is a curious tautology; the Te Reo word tuatahi means first in English.
2degrees survey documents the obvious
The latest Shaping Business Study from 2degrees confirms what most of us have known for months: that technology, digital skills and access are needed for businesses to continue operating in a post-Covid world.
According to the survey 35 percent of New Zealand businesses identify flexibility to work from home as important to getting back on track. A quarter say digital skills and access are important. It would be interesting to know more about the companies who don’t think these things are important.
Vodafone finishes Amazon Connect cloud project
It took a year, but now Vodafone has finished implementing the Amazon Connect cloud contact centre. It brings together all the telco’s contact centres and customer channels under a single umbrella. More than 1500 staff and partners use the contact centre to deal with around a million customer requests each month.
Southern Cross says its recent seabed survey found a faster route for the Southern Cross Next cable project connecting Auckland and Sydney to Los Angeles.
The route means laying cable in waters off the Wallis and Fortuna Islands. This should pay off by cutting latency; that’s the time taken for data to travel across the Pacific. Southern Cross Cable Network CEO Anthony Briscoe says it will be the fastest connection between New Zealand, Australia and the US.
How does that claim stack up?
Light travels at around 300,000 kilometres per second in a vacuum. It slows to around 200,000 kmps in a fibre cable. That’s roughly 5 milliseconds to travel 1000km. The existing Southern Cross cable is 8000km from Auckland to Hawaii and another 4135 km from Hawaii to California. That’s about a 60ms one-way journey.
The abandoned Pacific-Fibre cable was to take a more direct route, around 10,500km from Auckland to the US. If we assume Southern Cross is planning a similar distance, then it would be around 1500km shorter or roughly 7ms closer.
Hawaiki Cable will run around 14,000km of fibre from Australia to the USA. The route between Australia and New Zealand is a fraction longer than Southern Cross’s trans-Tasman route. The line from Northland connects to the Australia-US cable near Norfolk Island, which, according to Google is almost 12,000km from the USA.
Southern Cross Next cable shaves milliseconds off trip
So it looks as if Brisco’s claim is right, the Next cable will be the fastest data route from New Zealand to the US.
Does this matter? It won’t affect most people, but it will be enough to make a difference for some specialist users and applications that deal in vast amounts of data.
Southern Cross says the Next cable will cost around US$350 million to build. It should be open for business by the end of 2019. The plan is for a 60Tbps link, which is three times the 20Tbps on the existing Southern Cross cable.
Like its rival, Hawaiki, the new cable will drop off at Pacific island nations en route. Fiji, Samoa, Tokelau and Kiribati are the most likely candidates. The company says it has eight potential customers.
Spark owns 50 percent of the cable network, Singtel owns 40 percent and the remaining 10 percent belongs to Verizon.
Hawaiki says it has completed the route survey for its 14,000km submarine cable connecting New Zealand and Australia to the US mainland via Pacific island nations and Hawaii. The job was done with Hawaiki partner TE SubCom.
Completing the survey puts Hawaiki on track to begin operating from the middle of 2018.
The company says submarine cable manufacturing is now well underway with more than 4,500 km of fibre ready to roll. It also has 25 completed repeaters and work has started on the branching units which will connect the network to American Samoa, New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga.
TE SubCom vice-president Debra Brask confirmed the project schedule. She says: “Our partnership with Hawaiki’s operations team is very productive and system manufacturing is well on track. In addition, permits are secured in Australia and are well underway in other locations. We continue to be on schedule for a mid-2018 completion.”
When complete Hawaiki will give New Zealand a fourth international submarine cable connection. The Southern Cross Cable Network has a figure of eight design and has links to the east and to the west of New Zealand.
Meanwhile Southern Cross is talking up its Next cable which it describes as “a high capacity express route, providing datacentre connectivity between Sydney, Auckland, and Los Angeles”. It is due to complete in 2019 and will add a meshed network design so customers can spread their traffic across what will be all three Southern Cross cable routes.
A submarine cable is just talk until the ships start moving. Hawaiki expects the trans-Pacific cable will be delivered by mid–2018.
Hawaiki Submarine Cable says its marine route survey has started. The company is working with partner TE SubCom to investigate the route for a new trans-Pacific cable connecting Australia and New Zealand to the United States.
Engineers need a survey to collect geophysical and geotechnical data so the cable sits safely on the seabed.
The US$300 million Hawaiki project is financed in part by two New Zealanders: Malcolm Dick and Sir Eion Edgar. Dick was co-founder of CallPlus, which he sold last year to the Australian M2 group for NZ$250 million. The company has since become part of Vocus.
Hawaiki will be the second cable network connecting New Zealand to the US. At the moment the Southern Cross Cable Network is the only trans-pacific option out of the country, although thanks to its figure-of-eight design, it has two entry points here.
New submarine links
As well as giving Australia and New Zealand a new link to the US, Hawaiki can include brands connecting South Pacific Islands to the main line. A deal is already in place to connect American Samoa, the company expects other Pacific nations to follow.
Remi Galasso, Hawaiki CEO, says the marine survey is a significant stage in deploying the new submarine cable.
He says: “Each stage of this ground-breaking project is important, but after very carefully planning our trans-Pacific route and conducting an extensive survey of each landing site, we are extremely pleased to launch the marine route survey, which will give us data necessary to safely and properly deploy the system in the coming months”.
Briscoe also outlined the financial mountain he thinks Hawaiki must climb to make a profit.
Hawaiki CEO Remi Galasso wasn’t on hand to argue the opposing case. Instead Tuanz called on former Pacific Fibre CEO Mark Rushworth, now with Paymark. The short version of Rushworth’s argument was “competition is good”.
And it is. So is resilience. Briscoe admits there may be a case for another network to give New Zealand a back-up for Southern Cross.
In New Zealand, we tend to view resilience as a local problem. Having only one provider with two cables makes us feel insecure. In an age where the internet is the economy, a lot relies on one company and two cables.
It’s as if our economic well-being hangs on a couple of threads.
Single point of failure
Outsiders see the problem in reverse. The see one submarine cable as a single point of failure. Maybe one and a half points of failure if they take the Southern Cross two-cable design into account.
Either way, they see it a reason not to invest here.
It’s why, despite cheap, renewable energy, multinationals haven’t built New Zealand server farms.
The Tasman Global Access cable tips the balance. Add Hawaiki and, maybe, the proposed Bluesky cable. Now New Zealand looks a better prospect.
One, two… many cables
Almost overnight we will go from one company with two cables to three or four companies and four or five cables.
New Zealand is an attractive destination for applications where latency isn’t crucial. It’s ideal for large-scale secondary back-up. But also, maybe, for big data projects where there isn’t a great deal of data on the move.
We’re western. We’re stable. We’re part of the big trade agreements. Our laws are understandable and manageable, especially to lawyers in English-speaking countries.
We’re known as good people to do business with. Salaries are on the low side. We have skilled people, but even if we don’t have enough, skilled people are keen to come and live here.
Green energy calling
There is abundant, low-cost renewable energy. If, as expected, Tiwai Point closes, datacentre owners may find good deals. Bringing the big names to New Zealand would be a coup for a politician.
One issue needing thought is that submarine cables enter New Zealand in the north of the country. The spare hydro capacity lies in the south.
It’s easier and cheaper to move bits through fibre than electrical power through wires. You lose more electrons en route than bits.
It may make sense to put a new datacentre in Southland or Otago. Nobody cares how long it takes for electrons to move from Tiwai Point to Whangarei. Moving photons over the same distance adds another 25 milliseconds or so of latency in each direction.
More pipes, more traffic
We’ll leave those questions to the professionals. The key is if one or more big cloud operations open a datacentre in New Zealand, the traffic will boost profits for all the cable operators.
It would also change the economics of submarine cable links. At the moment the traffic levels are asymmetric. Far more comes down to NZ from overseas than travels the other way. ISPs and other cable customers have to buy symmetric capacity.
A New Zealand server farm run by a global operator would even the flow of traffic.
Of course a giant New Zealand server farm doesn’t need to be owned by an overseas multinational. This could be a good time for local entrepreneurs to move, by the time the new cables open for business it could be too late.
International cloud providers reluctance to invest in New Zealand because of the ‘single point of failure’ speaks volumes. That alone is a case for more than one submarine cable operators. ↩
Hawaiki appears to have succeeded where Pacific Fibre and Spin did not.
Remi Galasso, Hawaiki CEO, has worked on the project for years and was previously involved in the Spin cable. It can’t have been easy getting this project over the line.
It’s very much a New Zealand project. Galasso lives here. He has teamed with Malcolm Dick, best known for being the power behind CallPlus and Slingshot. Sir Eion Edgar is a Hawaiki co-developer.
Hawaiki: Cable to the islands too
Like Spin’s abandoned project, Hawaiki plans to run cable spurs to New Caledonia, Norfolk Island, Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa among other island destinations. There’s also provision to reach the Cook Islands.
The April 1 press release has no specifics about island links. Instead it says there are : “options to expand to several South Pacific islands”.
Earlier Galasso said the cable would run to Hawaii and then pick up other cables to mainland USA. The April 1 press release says it will go to the US West Coast and provide an alternative route from Hawaii to Oregon.
Hawaiki contract signed, construction phase coming
The press release says a contract between Hawaiki Submarine Cable LP and TE SubCom has come into force and “the construction phase has commenced”.
We need to be careful about that last clause. While a contract “coming into force” is officially the moment when a cable project goes live — in theory, it is unstoppable — nothing is real or final until the ships lay cable. Indeed some submarine cables have been laid and not lit.
Hawaiki says the system will be complete by mid–2018.
Cable completion dates can slip
When Vodafone, what was then Telecom NZ and Telstra announced the go-ahead for the Tasman Global Access cable in December 2014, the press release said:
“The project will begin early in 2015. Alcatel-Lucent has been selected as the cable laying contractor after a competitive tender process, and the TGA Cable is expected to be built and providing data traffic by mid–2016.”
According to sources close to the project, the ship that was booked to lay the cable across the Tasman is now busy repairing the damaged Basslink cable between Tasmania and Victoria. TGA now hopes work will start in October of this year.
Cable laying is quicker than you might expect, so TGA could be live early in 2017 — just six months or so after the promised date.
If it runs to schedule, or even a little behind, the new trans-Pacific cable will be operational by the time New Zealand finishes its urban, fibre-to-the-premises UFB roll-out in 2019.
You won’t notice a thing… but that’s not the point
Few everyday users will notice if another submarine cable connects New Zealand to the rest of the world. It won’t make your broadband faster. It won’t mean bigger data caps. Prices for internet plans won’t change.
For most of us it will be business as usual.
The chances of an accident cutting us from the rest of the world will reduce. But for ordinary users that’s just another way of saying business-as-usual.
After all, we haven’t been cut off in the 15 years or so the Southern Cross Cable Network has been our digital gateway to the rest of the world.
There’s no pressing need for extra capacity. The Southern Cross Network has plenty of headroom and when the TGA cable starts operation it will add further capacity across the Tasman to where the big regional cloud and entertainment data centres are located.
SCCN CEO Anthony Briscoe on why Hawaiki isn’t needed
At a Tuanz After Five meeting in Auckland earlier this week Southern Cross CEO Anthony Briscoe used the same arguments his company has always used against a new trans-Pacific cable.
His argument is persuasive, there are no pressing technical, economic or political reasons to install a second line across to the USA. He admits there may be an argument for the additional resilience a new cable would bring, but otherwise dismisses Hawaiki’s proposed cable as not making one jot of different to the everyday internet user in New Zealand.
As Mandy Rice-Davies once put it: “He would say that, wouldn’t he?”. Southern Cross stands to lose some business, or potential business, if Hawaiki comes on-line.
Vocus: A customer’s point of view
Vocus is one of Southern Cross’s largest non-telco customers. Chief technical officer Luke Mackinnon appeared on the Tuanz panel to give a user’s perspective of the international submarine cable market out of New Zealand.
Mackinnon says Vocus grew big on the back of wholesaling capacity on the Southern Cross Cable Network and is still experiencing 150 percent year-on-year growth in that market. Although a lot of that growth is out of Sydney, not New Zealand.
He says that the network: “Has been architected to provide resilience. It’s not like the other cables operating out of Australia.”
This is a timely reminder of just how reliable SCCN has been over the years. There was a small disturbance when a ship disturbed a cable, but the network’s figure-of-eight configuration meant traffic could be rerouted.
Compare this with other networks out of Australia. Most have suffered major outages in recent months. Basslink, which is connected to a power cable, has been down for three months. Sea-Me-We 3 out of Western Australia is frequently broken.
Yet he says Vocus is looking for performance and is unlikely to stray from Southern Cross in the short term.
However, a few years ago Vocus CEO James Spenceley said his company was a “price taker” when it comes to international bandwidth. Since then Vocus has grown in size and importance, the arrival of an alternative route to the US is likely to give Spenceley more bargaining power.
Rushworth: It’s about competition
Tuanz asked former Pacific Fibre CEO Mark Rushworth to offer an alternative view. After agreeing, or rather not disagreeing, with many of Briscoes’ arguments against a new cable, he took little time zooming in on the key point.
“Do we need more capacity? Probably not. Would a new cable change prices? No. But, we’ve learnt in New Zealand that it’s never good when one company owns a market. Imagine life with just one airline or one bank”, he says.
Rushworth says New Zealand needs a second trans-Pacific cable because of what competition brings to a market.
Pacific submarine cable myths
Anthony Briscoe answered the critics, dismissing their arguments as myths:
Capacity. If users think they have slow internet because of insufficient international data capacity: “They should talk to their internet service provider. There’s no shortage of capacity. The ISPs may not be buying enough.”
Prices won’t change. The international component of a typical home user broadband plan is NZ$4. With plans costing from $75 for 80GB, halving the price of the international component won’t make a difference.
Redundancy. “They may have a point, but SCCN has never been out of service. If there was a redundancy problem the Tasman Global Access will go live soon.
Choice. “Consumers don’t buy international capacity, ISPs and telcos do. New Zealand ISPs get it for the same price, sometimes lower, than Australians”
Congestion at peak times has little to do with international links. Most content is cached locally, almost all the rest is cached in Australia”.
*SCCN only cuts costs when competitors emerge*: “We’re not that smart. We have a simple pricing model and we sell a long way ahead”.
Unpicking Hawaiki’s economics
At the Tuanz session, Briscoe ran over back-of-an-envelope calculations for the new cable network. The numbers here have not been checked back with Hawaiki, so they need to be treated with caution, but they’re too interesting to ignore.
Briscoe says the Hawaiki network will cost around NZ$500 million to build. This is the number Hawaiki has used in its publicity material.
“The depreciation on that investment would be $25 million. To break even on these numbers the network would need sales of NZ$50 to $60 million a year. At the moment the total traffic sold in New Zealand is $202 million a year”, he says.
While demand is climbing — remember Vocus talks of 150 percent year-on-year growth — revenue will not be increasing at anything like that amount. So a new player entering the market is likely to have a dramatic impact on Southern Cross Cable Network revenue.