In October this year I put out the call to build new internet links that connect New Zealand to the world because we really only have the one - the Southern Cross Cable - which, while fairly robust, means the country could get cut off from digital communications if something happened to it.
And, look: it might just be happening with the Moana Cable, a 9,700 kilometre subsea circuit linking New Zealand to Hawaii, and en-route, to the Pacific Islands.
It's a two segment cable, with the longest, 8,000 kilometre leg having two fibre pairs, connecting New Zealand, Samoa and American Samoa, and Hawaii.
A second, 1,700km segment will link the Cook Island to Samoa, with one fibre pair, and Bluesky Pacific Group which is a subsidiary of Spanish multinational Amper SA, plans to expand the Moana Cable to reach Niue, Tokelau, Tonga, and French Polynesia as well.
Moana is scheduled to be completed by 2018 and promises a total capacity between NZ and Hawaii of 20 terabits per second. In comparison, Southern Cross which has been upgraded several times has a maximum capacity of 12 terabits per second - both very big numbers, required to meet growing demand for data transmission capacity.
Will the Moana Cable happen?
The Hawaiki Cable was meant to commence building roundabout now, but the last thing they said in June this year was that they're still finalising funding with no construction date announced.
In comparison, the Moana Cable seems to have quite a few reasons to be built.
First, the above map shows the route of the Moana Cable for the first two segments, and you can probably spot what's wrong with it: there's no leg to Australia.
Australian demand for bandwidth is of course even larger than in New Zealand, especially now that several cloud operators like Microsoft and Amazon Web Services have set up shop across the Tasman, with data centres that need good network connections.
Telstra is the biggest user of capacity on Southern Cross, but unlike Spark, it is not a part owner of the cable. The Aussie incumbent currently has two cables in the Pacific, the Endeavour that goes from Sydney to the US, and the Australia Japan Cable (AJC).
Internet industry gnomes tell me that Telstra is very keen to have an alternative to Southern Cross if only to have a fallback path in case something happens to Endeavour, instead of US-bound traffic going the longer and slower route via the AJC cable.
The missing link for Telstra is the Tasman Global Access (TGA) cable that Vodafone and Spark tell me is "currently in the construction phase and the cable itself on track to be laid between Raglan and Sydney from early 2016."
"The Bluesky cable wouldn't physically connect with the TGA cable - but would connect internet traffic," a Vodafone spokesperson told me.
The Moana Cable is also designed to replace or supplement the existing America Samoa Hawaii Cable (ASH) and Samoa-American Samoa (SAS) cables which are also operated by Amper/BSG.
Bluesky also signed a turnkey contract with Alcatel-Lucent to build the cable, and has agreed in principle to to collaborate and interconnect with RAM Telecom's South-East Asia - United States (SEA-US) US$250 million cable which is due to be ready next year.
West Coast-based RAM Telecom isn't a familiar name but it is lead by Russ Matulich who was at cable layer TE SubCom before, and the former boss of Spark-Telecom's Aussie subsidiary AAPT, David Yuile is a director of the company.
Yuile also happens to run the Australian network and data centre operator NextGen which has extensive infrastructure across the Tasman.
None of the above guarantee that the Moana Cable will happen of course, but if it does, it'll be a good thing for the NZ digital economy and provide a more resilient internet for businesses and consumers alike.
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