Construction of the Manatua submarine cable that will connect the Cook Islands with those of Polynesia is now half complete, the Cook Islands Government has announced.
The 3600km cable with 32 repeaters is being manufactured by Subcom. Laying is scheduled to commence later this year and the cable is due to enter service in May 2020.
It will bring the Cook Islands their first cable connection to the global Internet: present connections are via satellite.
The 10Tbps cable is being built by Subcom for a consortium comprising Cook Island Government owned Avaroa Cable and will provide capacity between Samoa, Niue, Raratonga, Aitutaki, Tahiti and Bora. It will provide a point-to-point connection between Apia and Tahiti and have branching units to Niue, Aitutaki, Rarotonga and Bora Bora.
The cable is being funded with a $NZ15m grant from the New Zealand Government, $US15m loan funding from the Asian Development Bank and from the Cook Islands Government.
Avaroa Cable also says construction of the two cable landing stations, one each on Rarotonga and Aitutaki is now well advanced. Western Australia based manufacturer of modular data centres, the Data Exchange Network (DXN) announced in July that it had been awarded a NZ$1.2m contract to supply the two landing stations.
New Zealand telecommunications consultant, Jonathan Brewer, writing on the APNIC blog, said the cable would solve problems for all the connected locations.
“French Polynesia has wanted to improve the resilience of their single cable since it was commissioned in 2010. Samoa has a goal of becoming the Information Technology hub for the South Pacific by 2020. And the Cook Islands has been thinking of moving away from satellite since 2013.”
However, Brewer suggested that commercial considerations might mean the cable would not provide the optimal connectivity.
“In an ideal world, the Manatua cable would connect the Pacific Islands to each other, and Internet capacity would be available for purchase inexpensively in hubs like Samoa and Fiji. Traffic from the Cook Islands would take any available path, and the lowest latency connection to all endpoints would always be used…
“Commercial realities mean it’s unlikely the Cook Islands will be able to get economic connectivity from its neighbours, and a single-path solution will be taken to meet the economy’s needs, perhaps backed up using existing satellite arrangements. In that case, the obvious winner from an end-user perspective will be a short hop from Apia to Pago Pago, and service on the Hawaiki Cable.”