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Northwest Australia to get digital boost

A $1.5bn datacentre and connectivity project that links Perth and Darwin to the rest of the Asia-Pacific region is set to boost digital investments in northwest Australia

A new datacentre and connectivity project that links Perth and Darwin to the rest of the Asia-Pacific region is set to bolster digital investments in Western Australia and Northern Territory.

Led by Fibre Expressway, the $1.5bn Project Koete will include three tier-four datacentres paired to a 10,000-kilometre, carrier-neutral, high-speed low-latency subsea cable which will be 5G-enabled with 16 fibre pairs. 

It will offer less than half of the latency in connection to Asia compared with a Sydney-to-Singapore connection, according to Peter Bannister, group managing director of Fibre Expressway.

Bannister also sees huge environmental benefits from the project, as the rollout links to a number of renewable energy projects across the region.

“We’re partnering with wind, solar and, in the longer term, ocean and clean hydrogen providers to satisfy the need for 100% renewable energy access over time,” he said.

“We’re targeting 30 plus years’ scalability assuredness, enabling customers to plan for decades, not just years. By working with our global partner network, we’re confident Project Koete will be delivered under world-leading governance and rule-of-law standards.”

Project Koete is expected to attract multi-national businesses to northwest Australia, particularly those in natural resources, finance and cloud computing industries.

It will also facilitate onshore connectivity for remote indigenous communities and mining industries and provide mobile operators a solution to challenge the monopolistic services that exist north of Perth.

The project is being primarily funded by about $650m in senior debt and $850m in equity, both of which are in progress and open for new investors.

“This will be the most significant technological investment Western Australia and the Northern Territory have ever seen,” said Gary Kennedy, Fibre Expressway’s onboarding CEO.

“As the economy increasingly digitises, this investment signals to Australia, Asia-Pacific and the rest of the world that this region is ready to become a digital hub,” he said.

“The ecosystem will support the region’s most significant developments, including the enhanced digitisation of oil fields supporting next-generation digital infrastructure including IoT [internet-of-things], artificial intelligence, and even support the monitoring of underwater seismic activity to help predict tsunamis, maritime activity and its impact on global warming, and water temperature and level.”

For global cloud giants and financial services firms, Kennedy said Project Koete will provide capacity for them to diversify beyond traditional datacentre hubs such as Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore. “It will also provide valuable infrastructure on which telcos can build new services,” he added.

Project Koete is the latest in a flurry of investments in Australia’s digital infrastructure. In November 2020, Equinix announced that it was opening its third datacentre in Perth to meet the growing demand for digital infrastructure and low-latency networking capabilities in Western Australia.

Slated to open in the fourth quarter of 2021, the $54m facility – Equinix’s 18th datacentre in Australia – will also speed up the movement of data between Singapore and Australia by 50% on the back of expected growth in digital trade between the two countries.

A subsea cable is also being built to connect Australia to Oman via Perth to meet the growing demand from global cloud, network and over-the-top (OTT) service providers, as well as the government and mining sectors.

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