The Hawaiki submarine cable is landing in Northland… So What!

Posted on April 14, 2016

The recent announcement by Hawaiki that they have a ‘contract in force’ to lay a data cable from Oregon, USA to Sydney, Australia via Hawaii and Mangawhai marks a significant milestone in connecting Northland to the rest of New Zealand and the world. Due for completion in 2018 it will mean Northland has much greater connectivity to global markets.

“So what” I hear already – more games and movies available over the internet? Globally internet and data usage is exploding. Just think about what you now use your mobile phone for, cloud computing and the amount of data exchanged on the internet. So, cheaper, faster broadband? Perhaps. Certainly one would have to question the future of those pesky data caps and low speed offerings.

The Hawaiki cable will add another 30 terabits per second (TBps) of data transmission capacity, using 100 wavelengths that can each carry 100 gigabits (Gbps) per second. If upgraded in the future to 400 Gbps, the Hawaiki Cable could carry as much as 120 TBps of traffic. That is a lot. Compared to the Southern Cross Cable which currently has 5.8 TBps, and is expected to max out at 14 Tbps by operators, it provides vastly increased capacity for New Zealand. It also provides greater resilience with more cables in case of accidents.

There will be significant flow-on benefits in having increased competitiveness and diversity in our connection to the rest of the world. For example this greatly increases the attractiveness of New Zealand for data centres, ICT, digital, science and knowledge-based businesses.

What could this mean for Northland? Well aside from access to more movies and social media for the kids, it also means different types of businesses could be attracted to Northland and Northland businesses can be better connected to suppliers and new markets globally. It provides a real opportunity for Northland to diversify its economy, but this is dependent on Northland having the infrastructure in place to take advantage of the cable. This makes the government’s plans for UFB and RBI 2 critical to Northland.

It is inspiring to think of Northland entrepreneurs being able to market their ideas, products and services to the world – we are an innovative lot! Just imagine if an entrepreneur could receive a large digital animation job from the UK on Friday morning (NZ Time) work on it while the client is asleep then send it at the end of our working day so that it is there for the customer when they arrive at work on (their) Friday morning. That type of business, provided they have access, could be anywhere. But it’s not just about new techy type businesses. For example, farmers being able to track moisture and nutrient levels, soil fertility and grass growth, and being able to make informed decisions about land use can help them to increase productivity but at the same time sustainability. The possibilities are endless, but as a region we must make the best of this opportunity.