A trans-Tasman tunnel, hurrah!

(with apologies to Harry Harrison)

Telecom , Vodafone and Telstra have announced plans to build
a trans-Tasman submarine cable. While it’s only a memo of understanding (MoU)
at this point, the $70m build probably will go ahead as it makes good business

However it does make it more difficult to build a direct
NZ-US cable in the future, under the current conditions.

Today, New Zealand is a net importer of data. Most of our
surfing takes us off-shore. Traditionally this has meant the US but with an
increase in the number of Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) in Australia
hosting more of the content we’re after, that’s changing somewhat. Building a
cable heading across the Tasman that way means we’ll have more capacity and
potentially more competition on a vital trade route.

TUANZ has long argued that we need more capacity on the
international leg for two reasons. Firstly, to provide a competitive market and
secondly so we can end our role as net importer of data and become an exporter
of data. I’d like to see mega data centres set up in New Zealand becoming the
hub of all things content-related. I’d like to see us hosting data rather than
accessing it offshore and that means more pipes to the outside world.

A trans-Tasman pipe means we’re more likely to continue
accessing content that’s already stored in Australia and so strengthen
Australia’s role as the local hub. I can see a future where the Southern Cross
Cable has expired and any replacement is a direct link from Australia to the US
rather than via New Zealand. That would condemn us to a world where data
connections to North America have to go the long way round, increasing latency
issues and ping times and decreasing our desirability as a destination for
hosting content.

So we have mixed views on the idea of a Tasman cable, as you
can see.

Having said that, we’re very keen to understand how the
cable will be wholesaled, how Telecom’s role as shareholder in both competing
cables will work and just where the cable will land in New Zealand. Currently
fibre landing zones dictate the cable will come in to Whenuapai on Auckland’s
west coast, but as that’s part of an active volcanic field, I’d hope the
government would step up and suggest some alternatives, without adding a
massive cost to the project. It’s important we have diversity on our
international leg – currently we can survive breaks on the cable itself but an
event in Auckland would mean no international connectivity for a very long

Telecom, Telstra and Vodafone are holding a press conference
in half an hour – I’ll add anything from that once we’ve heard more.


2 replies
  1. Dagny
    Dagny says:

    Australia is the most censored country in the entire western world and it also maintains the most restrictive internet policies, including working towards a compulsory Internet filtering system for all citizens. Will New Zealanders receive UN-filtered and UN-censored data?

  2. RobJS
    RobJS says:

    What a sad day. As Paul so rightly states this does nothing for the NZ economy and bolsters the income of Australian content providers. It gives us nothing in terms of bandwidth, performance or reliabilty as we don’t yet use all of the SC capacity, won’t benefit for most of our consumption by routing via Australia and yet again, no one has considered the lack of resilience that paralleling the existing two cables that run from Auckland to Sydney gives. it is interesting that Telecom is a partner, given it’s major stake in SCC, and not surprising that Vodafone and Telstra are the others given their new found alliance/merger.

    This has to be a money making scheme for the proponents, they see it as reducing their costs for the local market. What we need as I have stated before, is a cable built out of somewhere well away from the Auckland Volcanic Field to give us more national resilience. Anyone who doubts me will not be aware that a meteorite landed in Russia over the weekend while we were all looking at the passing Asteroid. Unexpected and disastrous events do happen, we as a nation need to put our future before commercial gain.

    In saying this I’m calling for a national strategy for our global internet connectivity. If we can do this, then Paul’s dreams of an internet economy for NZ can be realised and we will not lose out when an unfortunate event does happen in Auckland. It’s sad, the focus is still on money, not on vision or sustainability.

    Nothing new in this announcement, move along…

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