undersea communications internet cable

Pacific undersea internet cable backed by US, Australia, and Japan

Image credit: Dreamstime

A new undersea cable designed to boost internet speeds for three island nations in the Pacific has received funding from Australia, Japan, and the US, as they seek to counter Chinese influence in the area.

The Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, and Nauru will all benefit from the proposed cable which will provide faster and more secure communications to approximately 100,000 people across the three countries. In a joint statement, the three countries funding the project also said they believed the cable would help to support increased economic growth and drive development opportunities in the three tiny Pacific islands.

“Improved connectivity and access to digital technologies can provide significant economic and social benefits and are key enablers of sustainable development,” they added. “They also help increase the availability of digital government services, particularly in education and health, and provide businesses and households with improved access to services, information and trade, and employment opportunities.”

The new cable will connect the countries with the existing HANTRU-1 cable at Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, providing internet connectivity through a submarine cable for the first time.

It was not disclosed how much the new cable would cost but such projects typically come at relatively high expense and can cost up to £125 per metre.

Google laid a super-fast submarine internet cable linking the US and Japan in 2016 and cost around $300m with a peak capacity of 60 Tbps.

The US and its Indo-Pacific allies have previously expressed concerns that cables laid by China could compromise regional security, although Beijing has always denied any intent to use them for spying attempts. In 2018, Australia’s security agency banned an undersea cable made by Chinese tech company Huawei from connecting to the Australian broadband network over such fears.

The undersea cable, which connected the Solomons and Papua New Guinea to Sydney via a 4,500-kilometre submarine fibre-optic cable, was originally to be laid by a US-British firm. But the Solomons government abruptly switched to a subsidiary of Chinese telecom giant Huawei in 2016.

A report from 2017 found that the undersea cables that form the backbone of the UK’s internet infrastructure are at high risk from attack.

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