The life expectancy of the US$1.3 billion (NZ$1.7b) Southern Cross Cable connecting New Zealand, Australia and the United States has been extended by five years to 2025. The Telecom half-owned joint venture that owns the 28,500km-long cable network said it was in good shape and its working life would probably be extended again, though it would continue to consider building a replacement. Customers, which include all major telecommunications companies and internet providers, had wanted assurances they would still be able to use the cable when their contracts ended in 2020, the company said. Sales director Ross Pfeffer said each leg of the cable would be able to carry 4.8 terabits of data after an upgrade in two or three years, seven times the total volume of communications traffic to and from Australia and New Zealand. The cable's capacity could be more than doubled again later, meaning it would "unquestionably" be able to handle any growth in demand that resulted from Australia's A$43b (NZ$56b) project to lay fibre to 93 per cent of homes and businesses and the New Zealand government's $1.35b ultrafast broadband initiative, he said. Pacific Fibre, a startup backed by high-profile businessmen Sam Morgan, Stephen Tindall and Rod Drury, and state-owned enterprise Kordia are pursuing plans to lay competing cables.