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Hawaiki's hazy Pacific cable plan gets hazier

A new cable player with some familiar faces.

Chris Keall and Paul McBeth
Thu, 06 Sep 2012

UPDATE Sept 7: Many in the telecommunications industry welcomed a new Pacific cable plan that went public yesterday.

"We are very keen to see the project get off the ground. International connectivity is vital to our economic future," Telecommunications Users Association head Paul Brislen told NBR.

But for Hawaiki Cable boosters, their was little concrete news.

And the picture only got fuzzier after Hawaiki sales director Ludovic Hutier got in touch with NBR last night.

"Building such a system is an exciting and ambitious challenge for our team members and partners," Mr Hutier said

"At this stage of the project, our focus is to finalise the funding plan and obtain all necessary approvals to go ahead."

He understood people wanted more detail, but said, "We believe it is too early to communicate in details on the project."


Hawaiki goes public on fresh bid to build Pacific cable

Sept 6: Hawaiki Cable has publicly emerged as the latest player promising to build a trans-Pacific fibre optic cable after its plans were aired at last month's Polynesian Leaders' Group meeting.

The company wants to build a two fibre pairs submarine cable system spanning the Pacific with an 8 terabit per second capacity, according to its website. The cable will link Auckland, Sydney and Hawaii, with connections on Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Wallis, Samoa and American Samoa.

The new entrant enters the market after Pacific Fibre shut up shop when it failed to attract the $400 million it needed to fund the project, leaving Southern Cross Cable the only international cable network operating in New Zealand.

The project is headed by Remi Galasso, a former Alcatel Lucent executive who founded Noumea-based telecommunications infrastructure company Intelia in 2005. Intelia designs and implements wire and wireless networks and backhaul, and can design and build IT systems.

Not so new
Most recently, Mr Galasso has been associated with SPIN  (the South Pacific Islands Network), which also proposed to link New Caledonia to Auckland, Sydney and Hawaii.

Spin made a public push during 2009, and numbered the French government among its investors. But the cable was never laid, and SPIN quietly faded from the scene.

Hawaiki features a number of SPIN  veterans in its ranks.

"It's the same team from SPIN  but a different name," Pacific Fibre cofounder Mark Rushworth told NBR earlier today.  "The CEO has been trying to connect the Islands for the last seven years."

Hawiaki has told media it has signed one major (un-named) customer, that it has been talking major players in New Zealand such as TelstraClear and Vodafone.

Mr Rushworth said New Zealand still needs another cable to break the 50% Telecom-owned Southern Cross monopology.

But earlier, Pacific Fibre co-founder Rod Drury said no private cable would be built out of New Zealand following Pacific Fibre's funding failure.

The start-up got good support, with Vodafone, iiNet (the largest independent Australian ISP) and an un-named US telco signing anchor customer contracts.

"But those guys will be loath to put their hands up again," he told NBR.

2014 goal
Hawaiki's NZ area manager Kevin Millar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr Millar is a former chief operating officer of TelstraClear. His current day job is general manager of services at Downer Engineering - where reception but through NBR's call which went to his voice mail.

Last month, the Cook Islands News reported Hawaiki was looking to complete the project by the end of 2014 at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, contingent on getting all countries on board by the end of this year. The company is also proposing links to the Cook Islands and Tahiti, the paper reported.

"We are very keen to see the project get off the ground. International connectivity is vital to our economic future," Telecommunications Users Association head Paul Brislen told NBR.

But right now, with scant detail, Mr Galasso's track record, and potential anchor customers burnt by Pacific Fibre's failue, it's not immediately clear how that will happen.

Chris Keall and Paul McBeth
Thu, 06 Sep 2012
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Hawaiki's hazy Pacific cable plan gets hazier