For your eyes only: NZ attempts to assuage doubts over Chinese cable partners

7 Oct 2011

The New Zealand government has taken steps to address security fears relating to its planned trans-Tasman submarine cable, which is being rolled out by a Chinese consortium spearheaded by Axin Ltd. The USD100 million project is a joint venture between Axin – an affiliate of Shanghai Communications Services, itself a 51%-owned subsidiary of China Telecom – and Huawei Marine. The submarine link, which will compete with the existing Southern Cross Cable, is expected to be completed by early 2013, ahead of the long-planned Pacific Fibre venture, which is not expected to launch until 2014. A spokeswoman for communications minister Steven Joyce said that the government welcomed international investment in cable projects and the potential benefits that they could bring to New Zealand, commenting: ‘The government monitors and responds to any supplier security issues it identifies in the telecommunications sector, as well as in a number of other areas. If there were any security issues associated with any project they would be investigated’. Meanwhile, Grant Fletcher, the head of New Zealand’s National Cyber Security Centre, admitted: ‘We are concerned to make sure that New Zealand interests are protected. We provide advice and assistance to help the government, and others if need be, to protect their information. Our primary concern is to ensure that the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information is maintained’.

In November 2010 the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission reported that in April that year, 18 minutes worth of internet traffic was redirected to Chinese servers. The re-routing began at small-scale Chinese ISP IDC China Telecommunication, before being picked up by state-owned China Telecom. The re-routing of data apparently occurred when China Telecom supplied incorrect routing information, although it was never satisfactorily established whether the mistake was intentional. Among traffic re-routed via China during the glitch included information destined for the websites of the US Senate, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, NASA and the Commerce Department.

New Zealand