Google’s new subsea cables to boost Pacific connectivity

Mar 15, 2024 | Blog, Cook Islands, News, Pacific, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu

In a move to bolster digital connectivity in the central Pacific, Google has partnered with Amalgamated Telecom Holdings (ATH), APTelecom, and Telstra to construct two new subsea cables linking Guam, Fiji, and French Polynesia.

Google trans-Pacific cables French Polynesia-Fiji-Guam-Australia. Photo: Brian Quigley

Named Bulikula and Halaihai, these cables will establish vital connections between Guam and Fiji, as well as Guam and French Polynesia. Brian Quigley, vice president for global network infrastructure at Global Cloud, emphasized the importance of these cables, stating, “Once operational, Bulikula and Halaihai will join Guam’s existing subsea cable portfolio – which includes Apricot, Echo, and Taiwan-Philippines-U.S. – accelerating the island’s position as a growing gateway for international connectivity.”

The construction of these cables aligns with the South Pacific Connect Initiative unveiled in October, which aims to create a robust ring linking Guam, French Polynesia, and Fiji. This initiative includes pre-positioned branching units to facilitate connectivity for other Oceania countries and territories, enhancing reliability and resilience in the region.

Originally envisioned as two transpacific subsea cables, the initiative now includes the Bulikula and Halaihai cables alongside Honomoana and Tabua, connecting Fiji, French Polynesia, the US, and Australia. Quigley highlighted Guam’s commitment to bridging the digital divide, citing initiatives to expand internet access and strengthen telecommunications infrastructure.

Government officials from Guam and Fiji welcomed the announcement, expressing optimism about the impact of these cables on digital connectivity and economic transformation. Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero emphasised the importance of digital technology for economic prosperity, while Fiji’s Deputy Prime Minister Manoa Kamikamica hailed the cables as catalysts for Pacific peoples’ digital interconnectedness.

Telstra revealed plans to own and operate a fiber pair on the Bulikula cable, underscoring its commitment to expanding digital infrastructure in the region. Telstra International CEO Roary Stasko outlined future steps, including partnerships with other carriers and governments to extend branches to Pacific islands, improving access to digital services.

Google’s investments in the Asia-Pacific region are projected to create millions of jobs and generate significant GDP growth. In French Polynesia, President Moetai Brotherson confirmed plans for multiple undersea cables, highlighting Google’s role in financing landing stations and data centers as part of the South Pacific Connect initiative.

With construction set to begin soon and completion expected by 2026, the South Pacific Connect initiative promises enhanced digital connectivity and resilience across the region, with potential implications for IT education and artificial intelligence development. Brian Quigley’s recent blog post provided insights into the expansive network of cables linking Pacific islands, the US, and Australia, signalling a new era of connectivity and economic opportunity in the Pacific.