Nextgen to build $120m cable

12/05/2014 - 08:46

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Nextgen Group has signed a deal with oil and gas giants Shell and Inpex under which the communications company will build a fibre optic cable to service operators in the state’s north-west.

Nextgen Group chief executive Peter McGrath

Nextgen Group has signed a deal with oil and gas giants Shell and Inpex under which the communications company will build a fibre optic cable to service operators in the state’s north-west.

Shell and Inpex will be foundation customers of the 2,000-kilometre long subsea cable connecting Port Hedland and Darwin - utilising the infrastructure for the Icthys and Prelude LNG projects.

Nextgen will build the cable, which will cost around $120 million, with equal investment from Shell and Inpex and will connect it to its existing data centres in Perth, including the Perth 2 facility opened earlier this year in Shenton Park.

The company has an existing fibre network between Perth and Geraldton, and will use Telstra wholesale services to connect to Port Hedland.

Work will start this month and is expected to be completed by 2016.

Shell Prelude asset manager Jim Marshall said the technology would greatly improve operations on the floating LNG project.

“The subsea cable will give us a highly reliable and stable high-speed voice and data service, which is essential for effective and efficient operations at our future offshore facilities,” he said.

“It means that workers at Shell and INPEX will have an ultra high-speed communications link so they can stay in touch with their friends and families while working at offshore facilities. Our investment will also establish a valuable piece of infrastructure that has the capacity to support the development of future offshore resources in the Browse Basin.”

While Shell and Inpex will be the first to utilise the cable for improved offshore communications, Nextgen’s infrastructure would also give other resources operators the option of increasingly high-speed communications.

The capacity of the cable will initially be 3.2 terabytes per second (Tbps), but could be upgraded by 900 per cent in the future to provide capacity of 32 Tbps.

Nextgen group chief executive Peter McGrath said the company recognised the potential of the resources industry and the need for improved communications infrastructure.

“Nextgen understands Australia’s resource industry will need increasingly high-speed and robust communication links over time,” Mr McGrath said in a statement.

“Additional capacity will help to future proof any downstream requirements needed by the sector to support their activities including remote operations and monitoring, improved OH&S standards, productivity benefits and better workforce management.”

Mr McGrath told Business News the deal with Shell and Inpex opened up a completely new market for Nextgen Group and negotiations had been under way for a number of months.

Nextgen is also firming up plans to build a subsea cable from that data centre to Singapore through its subsidiary, Australia Singapore Cable. It is currently working on signing up customers for the proposed cable before the board would make a final investment decision.

Mr McGrath said the deal with Shell and Inpex for the North West cable system had no bearing on the likelihood of the Singapore cable going ahead, as each had different potential funding streams.

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