19 Apr 2018

Cable to PNG and Solomons described as transformative

1:07 pm on 19 April 2018

An Australian-funded undersea cable project in Papua New Guinea will transform local communications, according to PNG's government.

ERDF (Electricity Network Distribution France) and Louis Dreyfus company install an electric submarine cable and optical fiber between Quiberon and Belle-Ile-en-mer, western France, in 2015.

Photo: AFP

Australia is building the infrastructure for the high-speed telecommunications cable from Australia to PNG which will also link up with Solomon Islands.

The over 4000-kilometre fibre optic cable will replace both Melanesian countries' reliance on old, unstable and expensive technologies.

PNG's Minister for for Communications, Information Technology and Energy, Sam Basil said it will be 200 times faster than the existing cables and reduce the cost of internet.

According to Mr Basil, the improved internet access created by the new Coral Sea cable will enhance business engagement, as well as education and health services.

PNG's government earlier indicated that the cable would be operational before the country hosts the APEC leaders summit in November.

Mr Basil said he was urging all government agencies to provide support and assistance to this project to ensure reliability, affordability and speed in IT communications in the country.

The minister's statement followed a meeting in Port Moresby with officials from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well in representatives of the Australian project developer - Vocus.

According to Mr Basil, there were still issues of scoping and costing which depended on where the cable would land onshore in Australia (Sydney, Townsville or Sunshine Coast) and cable ownerships and financing.

But he indicated that now the PNG and Australian governments had signed a Memorandum of Understanding, it was time to advance the project.

Meanwhile, Australia's prime minister said the planned telecommunications cable would also greatly reduce the cost of using the internet in Solomon Islands.

The comment from Malcolm Turnbull came as he met with his Solomon Islands counterpart, Rick Houenipwela in London the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

They discussed Australia's support for the new telecommunications cable project, as well as energy and mining investments.

Mr Turnbull said the cable was going to deliver enormous benefits to both countries, but particularly Solomon Islands where he claimed it would significantly reduce the cost of telecommunications.

The cable project linking Australia to PNG and Solomon Islands originally covered only the Solomons and was planned to be constructed by Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.

But that deal was opposed by the Australian government which was concerned about Huawei's role in the project and the prospect of Chinese access into Australia's telecommunications network.

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