Experts on plans for Pacific Fibre undersea cable connection

A group of New Zealand entrepreneurs has launched a $900 million bid to build a new, high-capacity undersea cable linking Australia, New Zealand and the US.

pac fibreThe cable, if completed as planned, would offer our fastest link to the rest of the world and could also herald the end of internet data caps in New Zealand by substantially reducing the cost of international bandwidth available to the country.

The SMC has gathered commentary from industry and science experts on the significance of the proposed new cable, and how it might affect New Zealand’s science and ICT sectors. Additional comments will be added to the SMC website.

Brett O’Riley, CEO of NZICT, comments:

“As New Zealand only has one high-capacity link into the country today, I know major global data centre operators have not considered NZ as a suitable location, despite the fact that we have lower power prices, and greener power, than most of the other countries bidding. But we haven’t had redundant capacity and the low cost structures people are looking for.

“We can see that international prices out of New Zealand are more expensive than our trading partners, and we’ve been advocating for a decrease in those prices and we see competition as being the best lever for that.

“From a science perspective, potential projects like the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be generating ‘astronomical’ data sets – it’s estimated the SKA will generate more data in a day than the whole world does in a year, currently.

“So we see this new cable and other planned initiatives as being absolutely essential if New Zealand and Australia are to make a compelling case to host the SKA, and clearly there will be many other spin-offs and opp for the science community from this.

“It will also have an extremely positive impact on the ICT sector, given the improved latency which will enable New Zealand companies to offer software as a service remotely to major economies, and will enable New Zealand to continue its growth as a development shop for other digital economies.”

Dr Vladimir Mencl, e-research services and systems consultant at the University of Canterbury comments:

“The existing KAREN network has solved the problem of connections between research organisations. But because of tight data caps, universities use a cost recovery model for internet access in their commercial operations, often with costs charged back to the home department of the university. As a result off the KAREN network, I will often spend a lot of time looking for alternative ways to download a file more efficiently.

“The KAREN network has been over-built intentionally so there is a lot of capacity for video-conferencing and it offers low-latency services. So I don’t think a new cable would offer much there, there isn’t a great strain on the network. We have international collaborations using the BlueFern supercomputer at Canterbury with other countries including Australia and Canada as well as local research organisatons.

“But KAREN doesn’t really have the model right yet. It doesn’t run purely on a cost-recovery basis, it is still centrally funded by the Government. If cheaper international bandwidth means it is cheaper to run KAREN that’s money that could be saved and diverted to other research projects.”