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Improved connectivity between islands in the central pacific is on the cards thanks to a new subsea cable project led by Google.
January 18, 2024
The central Pacific Connect initiative will deploy two new cables – called Bulikula and Halaihai – in a partnership established between Google, Fijian telco Amalgamated Telecom Holdings, consultancy APTelecom, and Telstra International.
Bulikula will connect Guam with Fiji, while Halaihai will provide a link from Guam to French Polynesia. The result will be a cable ring that not only offers new inter-island links, but also comes with pre-positioned branching points that can connect to other pacific islands.
The new system builds on another Google-led cable project – the South Pacific Connect initiative. Announced in October, this one will connect Fiji and French Polynesia to Australia and the US by way of the Honomoana and Tabua cables. It will also connect the two island nations with an interlink cable.
Taken together, these two cable systems will not only add capacity and reduce latency on transpacific routes, they will also improve reliability and provide redundancy in a region that is susceptible to natural disasters, Google said.
"The announcement of the central Pacific Connect initiative gives every indication for a well-connected region aligned to the Pacific Leaders vision for 2050. The Bulikula and Halaihai subsea cables will underpin the Pacific peoples' digital interconnectedness and lead the way for economic transformation through digital connectivity," said Manoa Kamikamica, Fiji's deputy prime minister and minister for communications.
"Our economic futures are all dependent on digital technology, and we welcome the Halaihai and the Bulikula subsea cables to uplift our people together," added Guam governor Lou Leon Guerrero.
Guam in particular has a long history as a stopover point for transpacific telecoms cables, and it is a tradition that Google is helping to uphold. The US territory is connected to several other globe-trotting cable systems that have been – or are currently being – deployed by Google and its partners, including Apricot and Echo.
Spurred on by the Infrastructure Act and the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) programme, Guam last August launched its five year, Internet for All action plan. As well as making further improvements to international connectivity and resilience, it is also building a state-of-the-art data centre.
"The government of Guam has long prioritised bridging the digital divide," noted Google, "with key programmes like its five-year action plan to expand Internet access to more Guam residents and commitment to strengthening the island's telecommunications infrastructure."
Meanwhile, the economic benefits from Google's network infrastructure investments were summed up in a 2022 report from Analysys Mason.
In Asia Pacific (APAC) alone, Google's network investments are estimated to have led to the creation of 1.3 million additional jobs and contributed to the addition of $640 billion of GDP between 2010 and 2021.
Ongoing investments are expected to create an additional 3.5 million jobs by 2026 and contribute to a further $627 billion of GDP between 2022 and 2026.
With figures like this floating about, it is easy to see why the governments of Guam and Fiji are so enthusiastic about Google's new cable systems.
Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.
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