The Hawaiki Cable will be built.

on what is possibly the worst day of the year to for news, the company said there is now sufficient money in the kitty, from founder Remi Galasso, investors Sir Eoin Edgar and Malcolm Dick of CallPlus fame, to start laying the cable which will connect Australia to New Zealand, and further on to the United States via Hawaii.



Galasso et al have plenty of reason to break out a bottle or two of champagne to celebrate, because it was touch-and-go for Hawaiki as late as February this year, when talks with potential United States backers fell through.

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Just over a month later everything seem to be stitched up and Hawaiki appears to be good to go.

All going well, the three-fibre pair cable will add another 30 terabit per second of data transmission capacity, using 100 wavelengths that can each carry 100 gigabits per second, by June 2018.

If upgraded to 400 Gbps, Hawaiki could carry as much as 120 Tbps of traffic.

In comparison, the Southern Cross Cable which became operational in 2000, and has been upgraded many times since then, currently has 5.8 Tbps of lit or spoken-for capacity; it's operators expect the Southern Cross Cable to max out at 14 Tbps.

Will Hawaiki make much of a difference for New Zealand internet users when it's built?

In terms of improved resilience, it should: the Southern Cross Cable is well designed and can survive being cut as it is laid in a figure-eight configuration.

It isn't invulnerable however, and provided network operators make the necessary arrangements, it'll be good to have Hawaiki (and Tasman Global Access to Australia) as backups. Furthermore, the Southern Cross has an estimated end of life by 2030.

At a national level, our academic Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand - REANNZ - must be breathing a sigh of relief that Hawaiki is going ahead.

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Price-wise Hawaiki probably won't matter so much for end-users. Internet providers tell me that international data charges are already low, and continue to drop.

That could be a worry for Hawaiki's investors, as the cable doesn't have the first-mover advantage Southern Cross did, which meant the latter could charge high rates to start with in order to recoup the building costs fast.

National backbone network charges are still an issue in New Zealand however. Unless intercity connections follow suit and become cheaper, the 100 or so kilometres to Mangawhai Heads where the cable will land could cost providers more than international capacity bought on Hawaiki.

One the other hand, a positive side-effect of Hawaiki if it goes ahead is that there will be more circuits going to Mangawhai Heads from Auckland - and I hope, up north to Whangarei and beyond. Northland isn't exactly over-served with such links, so anything that adds affordable bandwidth up there would be most welcome by providers and customers alike.

Having potentially three overseas cables, all with high capacities and low pricing could also entice multinational online companies like Google to set up data centres in the country (and one hopes, start to pay more tax locally).

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At a national level, our academic

- REANNZ - must be breathing a sigh of relief that Hawaiki is going ahead.

Science and research is becoming increasingly data driven, and the traffic it generates is growing even faster than streaming video over the public internet.

REANNZ chief executive Nicole Ferguson explained that researchers currently have around 40 Gbps at their disposal, donated by the Southern Cross and shared with its Australian counterpart AARNet.

More will be needed though, and Ferguson said REANNZ will take 20 Gbps on Hawaiki in 2018, a figure she expects to rise substantially over the 25 years the contract with the new cable lasts.

Having potentially three overseas cables, all with high capacities and low pricing could also entice multinational online companies like Google to set up data centres in the country (and one hopes, start to pay more tax locally).

Waikato would be the natural choice to go to for them, especially if the data centres could be powered and cooled by 100 per cent renewable energy. So no, not Huntly and start thinking about that high-speed Hamilton-Auckland railway link now, perhaps?

Debate on this article is now closed.