Australasian trade publication CommsDay has reported that Chinese-backed consortium Axin Ltd is set to deploy a submarine cable worth USD100 million between Auckland, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia. When deployed, the cable will compete with the existing Southern Cross Cable, as well as the planned Pacific Fibre cable to route trans-Tasman internet traffic. The project is a joint venture (JV) between Axin – an affiliate of Shanghai Communications Services, itself a 51%-owned subsidiary of China Telecom – and Huawei Marine. The cable project is expected to be completed in early 2013, ahead of Pacific Fibre, which is not expected to launch until 2014.
Axin chairman Robin Lee told CommsDay that negotiations regarding the new cable commenced last summer, but the firm opted to keep a deliberately low profile until it was ready to make a significant announcement. Lee commented: ‘We have played very low-key, but now we are ready. We didn’t want to [say] anything before we’d made our last move – the project actually started last year. But we think that now is the time to give the public a little background and information. This project fits in very well with our involvement with [Taitokerau Networks] on long-distance fibre to Northland, and other fibre design projects. We really want to see New Zealand broadband flourish’. Funding for the submarine cable has already been approved by the Export-Import Bank of China, and the physical work on the submarine link is set to commence before the end of 2011. As mentioned by Lee, last month Axin confirmed that it was part-funding and overseeing the construction of the Maori-centric segment of New Zealand’s Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) initiative.
In related news, the NZ Herald has reported that Kordia – which has been planning its own trans-Tasman cable since 2008 – is also set to be involved with the Axin project in some capacity. Kordia’s cable, dubbed ‘Optikor’, has struggled to get off the ground in recent years, and this month CEO Geoff Hunt admitted that the venture was ‘on pause’. However, Axin’s Robin Lee has now admitted that Axin and Kordia are currently in the midst of formulating plans to work together. Lee admitted: ‘Kordia would be operating the cable. At the moment we really haven’t really set the structure and situation. We still have a lot of things to negotiate’.