16/01/2008 - 22:00

Subsea cable floats

16/01/2008 - 22:00

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After a couple of failed attempts earlier this decade, Western Australia is edging closer towards connection to its first new international subsea cable in almost 10 years.

Subsea cable floats

After a couple of failed attempts earlier this decade, Western Australia is edging closer towards connection to its first new international subsea cable in almost 10 years.

Plans by West Perth-based Ochre Services to construct a $200 million hybrid undersea cable linking Perth with South-East Asia are gathering pace, with the company close to finalising capacity purchase agreements with telcos and oil and gas customers operating in WA.

The submarine cable will run from Perth to Jakarta and Singapore, with initial branches into Geraldton and Dampier to meet projected regional and global demand for capacity.

Speaking from the 2008 Pacific Telecommunications Council conference in Hawaii, where Queensland company PIPE Networks announced the go-ahead of its undersea cable from Sydney to Guam, Ochre managing director Brett O’Riley said the company had spent the past 12 months refining the business case and re-designing the network.

Ochre has also been working closely with the Indonesian government to help it develop a second alternative gateway to communicate with the rest of the world.

Mr O’Riley believes the growth in oil and gas development in WA has led to increased demand for capacity and connectivity.

“There’s been very significant international interest in communications to Australia and WA as well.

It’s recognised by a lot of international companies we’re talking to that WA is going through major economic growth,” he said.

“We’re seeing that many of the people looking to develop oil and gas fields and resources companies that technology is a key part of their plans more so than ever before.” Mr O’Riley said key projects in the state’s Mid West, including iron ore developments and the Radio Astronomy Park in the Murchison shire, presented exciting opportunities for Ochre.

With the final design options set, and the appointment of major suppliers and engineering contractors just months away, the cable is expected to be in service by end of 2009.

“We estimate that we will have a solution which will be future proofed in terms of being ready to address the growth coming out of WA and Australia over the next 15 to 20 years,” Mr O’Riley said.

Earlier this week, PIPE Networks confirmed that it had signed sufficient contracts with keystone customers, including iiNet Ltd, to approve the construction of its 6,900-kilometre, $200 million undersea cable linking Sydney with Guam.

iiNet has entered into a 15-year international capacity agreement with PIPE Networks, which managing director Michael Malone said would provide iiNet with long-term supply certainty and cost savings.

Other foundation customers include Internode, Primus, VSNL, and Telikom PNG.

Construction of the $200 million undersea cable is expected to be complete by mid to late 2009.

The project signals the first new cable delivered to Australia in eight years, and will deliver much needed bandwidth capacity to Australian internet users.

Mr O’Riley said the PIPE project further demonstrated the demand for capacity from Australian companies.

Previous attempts to develop a subsea cable linking Perth with Asia include the ill-fated NAVA cable, which was abandoned in 2002 due to lack of funding and demand.

The A2A subsea cable between Perth and Asia, promoted by Optus parent company SingTel, also failed to materialise.

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