A new undersea cable could make internet cheaper and more reliable for New Zealanders.

The Moana Cable project was announced today by Alcatel and Bluesky, a telecommunications company from Samoa. The 9700km cable will connect New Zealand and islands in the Pacific to Hawaii.

The cost of the project is projected at less than $300 million and will be completed by 2018.

Bluesky has operated an undersea cable in conjunction with the American Samoa Government that connects Samoa and American Samoa to Hawaii since 2009 and says this experience is what separates them from other projects that have failed to come to fruition.

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NZHerald Graphic
NZHerald Graphic

Bluesky would the main company using the data travelling the new cable and the company said it had spent the last year engaged with investors, customers and regulatory authorities. The details of those discussions would not be revealed for commercial privacy reasons.

The company was confident they would have telecommunications companies on board to lease data from the cable.

The Moana Cable will be the first long-haul submarine cable in the Pacific islands region relying on the latest 200 Gbit/s transmission technology, with ultimate capacity between Hawaii and New Zealand of 20 Terabits-per-second.

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Internet NZ work programme director Andrew Cushen said he hadn't heard any whisperings in the industry about the cable.

"This has caught us a little bit by surprise, as I think it has for most people."

The breakdown of the cable that is laid under the ocean. Photo / File
The breakdown of the cable that is laid under the ocean. Photo / File

Cushen said he was hopeful the project would be successful.

"Undersea cables are a vital part of how the internet works for us... it's what connects our island to the rest of the world. To have another one there would be some competition with ISP (internet service providers) which may mean some lower prices."

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He said the current undersea cable connecting New Zealand to the United States, the Southern Cross Cable, was competent, but another connection would be make systems more reliable.

Data use in New Zealand was "exploding", Cushen said, and the timing may be right for the Moana Cable.

"It comes down to how well they can solicit commitment from parts of the industry."

Two other cable projects are underway in New Zealand at the moment.

Other cable projects underway

The Tasman Global Access Cable is a 2,300km submarine cable between New Zealand and Australia. Spark, Vodafone and Telstra have invested over $100 million in the project. A spokesman for Spark said today the cable would be complete by the middle of next year.

A separate project to connect Hawaii to New Zealand was announced in 2013. The Hawaiki Cable proposed to connect New Zealand and Australia to the United States by 2017.

Chief operating officer of the project Ludovic Hutier said he wouldn't comment on the Moana Cable today.

"Let me just say that the more connectivity to New Zealand the better.

"Obviously, it is a challenging exercise to build a successful business case and put together the funding for such a project."

The Hawaiki Cable project, backed by Sinclair Investments, was progressing according to plan, Hutier said.

Moana Cable will begin marine surveys and finalise a landing station next year and finalise government approvals by March 2017.