19 Jan 2018

Construction on third undersea cable begins

6:01 pm on 19 January 2018

New Zealand is six months away from a third undersea internet cable as construction to put it in place begins next week.

The Hawaiki cable.

The Hawaiki cable. Photo: RNZ / Jesse Chiang

The new Hawaiki internet fibre cable will connect New Zealand and the Pacific Islands to the United States and Australia.

Broadcasting, Communications, and Digital Media Minister Clare Curran said it was an exciting development for the country.

The 15,000 kilometre fibre-optic cable would give New Zealanders faster and better internet, she said.

"This is about future proofing New Zealand's economy, it's cementing our place in the region as a country that has resilient international connectivity where there is competition," said Ms Curran.

The cable would also increase the country's ability to stay connected even when disaster strikes, Ms Curran said.

But she expected broadband prices for consumers to stay relatively the same, at least in the short term.

New Zealand's section of the cable will be linked through Mangawhai Heads.

Dan Kenealy, the captain of the Responder, the ship in charge of laying down the cable, said there were different levels of protection around the fibre cable, depending on how close it gets to the shore.

The biggest risks to laying it down were the weather and fishing traffic in the area.

"If we have a really bad forecast and you had to stop the project, you can stop... [and] just sit there and ride it out, which we did for a couple of days, and just get back on with it," Mr Kenealy said.

The entire project costs $500 million, with an initial government contribution of $15 million as part of a tenancy contract between the Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network (REANNZ) and Hawaiki.

The Hawaiki cable is expected to be the fastest communications link between Australasia and the United States and provide more than 43 terabits of new capacity, almost seven times the current capacity of the Southern Cross cable system.

The cable is scheduled to go live by June this year.

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