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Telstra, Google, APTelecom to connect Pacific subsea cable system

Telstra partners with APTelecom and Google to deliver central Pacific Connect initiative to increase digital connectivity, delivering two new intra-Pacific cables

Just days after a rival service provider announced the availability of commercial 400GbE services on a 13,540km Hawaiki cable connecting Australia, New Zealand, American Samoa, Hawaii and the US west coast, Pacific connectivity is making more waves with news of a partnership.

Telstra International is partnering with Google and Amalgamated Telecom Holdings (APTelecom) to deliver a new central Pacific Connect initiative designed to uplift significantly connectivity for businesses in the region.

The two cables – Bulikula and Halaihai, which make up the central Pacific Connect initiative – will connect Guam and Fiji,  and Guam and French Polynesia, respectively.

Bulikula is the Fijian word for “golden cowrie”, a rare shell found in the Pacific Ocean often worn by local chieftains as a badge of rank. Halaihai, which will link Guam and French Polynesia, is named after a type of vine that grows on beaches. The word is often used in the Chamorro expression, “tilifón halaihai”, which refers to information spread from person to person.

Building on the South Pacific Connect initiative announced in October 2023, the central Pacific Connect initiative will create a ring between Guam, French Polynesia and Fiji. This ring will include pre-positioned branching units that will allow other countries and territories of Oceania to take taps into what is described as the reliability and resilience resulting from the initiative.

Once operational, Bulikula and Halaihai will join Guam’s existing subsea cable portfolio – which includes ApricotEcho, and Taiwan-Philippines-US – accelerating what is said to be the island’s position as a gateway for international connectivity.

The Government of Guam has a strategy of bridging the digital divide, including a programme to expand internet access to more Guam residents and commitment to strengthening the island’s telecommunications infrastructure.

“Beyond bridging the digital divide in our local community, this is Guam’s contribution – enabling new digital infrastructure such as subsea cables – to create and support connectivity between the northern and southern Pacific islands,” said Guam governor Lou Leon Guerrero. “Our economic futures are all dependent on digital technology, and we welcome the Halaihai and the Bulikula subsea cables to uplift our people together.”

Telstra International will be one of the key telcos serving central Pacific Connect and will own and operate a fibre pair on the core trunk on the Bulikula cable connecting Guam and Fiji. The next step will be partnering with other carriers and governments to assist in building and operating branches to the Pacific islands. These branches will power access to vital digital services across the region and are intended to improve network performance, redundancy and reliability.

In addition, Telstra is partnering with Google on the Tabua cable, which, combined with the central Pacific Connect initiative, is said to be able to improve “dramatically” the diversity of paths between Guam to Australia via Fiji and other Pacific islands, and between the US mainland and Australia.

“Telstra has decades of experience providing international connectivity in the Pacific, and with our network scale and local expertise, we are looking forward to partnering with Google and APTelecom to build reliable, high-performance connectivity for island countries,” said Roary Stasko, CEO of Telstra International. “We’re committed to improving infrastructure across the region which will support the future growth of local economies.”

Brian Quigley, vice-president of global network infrastructure at Google Cloud, added: “Studies show that the economic development and productivity gains subsea cables can bring to the places where they land. With increased access to digital services, more people can take advantage of skill development and career opportunities, while businesses and public sector organisations can better serve their customers and constituents.

“We are excited about the long-term benefits that our latest Pacific initiatives will bring to our users and Google Cloud customers in Guam, across the Pacific, and around the world. We’re excited to share more as we continue our work with partners to reduce the digital divide across the Pacific.”

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