Sydney, Australia – 15 August 2017 – Southern Cross Cables Ltd and EGS have successfully mapped 15,000 km of seabed spanning Clovelly to Los Angeles to optimise the fastest and safest route to lay its US$350 million Southern Cross NEXT undersea cable. The cable, once laid, will deliver the highest capacity and lowest latency internet connection for Australians, New Zealanders and several Pacific Island nations accessing US-based web services and apps.
The survey leg of the project, which began in February, finished ahead of schedule. A Request for Quotation process is now well underway for cable suppliers, with vendor selection expected by the end of this year.
The survey found a slightly faster route than first anticipated, shaving further latency off what was already set to be the lowest latency connection between Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Addtionally, the survey uncovered a previously-unidentified shipwreck, 37 kilometres off the coast of Sydney – the details have been sent to the Office of Heritage and the Environment.
“People tend to think their Facebook and Snapchat content is delivered from overseas by satellite and that’s incorrect,” said Southern Cross Cable Network President and Chief Executive Officer, Anthony Briscoe. “For the overwhelming majority of internet delivery, our connections are made to various websites and apps from abroad by a series of ‘pipes’ that rest on seabeds across the globe, and those submarine cables are no thicker than a garden hose. People don’t realise that delivering a submarine cable is among the most critical infrastructure projects on the planet.”
“The route we have chosen will deliver the fastest connection between the shores of Australia, New Zealand and US – and we’re also connecting up several Pacific Island nations as well.”
The journey surveyed more than 15,000 kilometres of seabed from a site off the coast of Clovelly, New South Wales, to just off the coast of Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles, with stops at New Zealand and several Pacific Islands. The aim of the survey was to map the sea floor in order to validate the best route to lay the cable. – this includes avoiding seamounts, trenches and shipwrecks or anything that may pose a threat to the cable in the future.
Thanks to the survey, the route was optimised via the Wallis and Futuna waters rather than through the Tongan waters, as originally planned. The new route brings the project closer to the ‘Great Circle Distance’ path (being the shortest theoretical path) and helps ensure the company can offer lower latency than originally designed.
“The Pacific Ocean is huge, sure, but when you’re putting together a critical infrastructure project such as the Southern Cross NEXT project and connecting three countries and a number of Pacific Islands along the way, the ocean suddenly becomes pretty small,” said Chief Technology Officer for Southern Cross Cables, Dean Veverka. “On a survey such as this, you’re effectively hopping from country to country, dealing with different jurisdictions and laws and customs. It’s the finer details of projects such as these that the general population aren’t aware of; it’s not as simple as simply setting sail.”
The company has received firm expressions of intent from eight customers, including Fiji, Samoa, Tokelau and Kiribati.
The cable is expected to provide an additional 60 terabits per second of capacity for customers; the equivalent of roughly 1,875 HD movies per second (based on 1 terabit = 125GBytes, and a HD movie being 4GBytes), adding to the existing 20 terabits of capacity of the current Southern Cross systems.
The Southern Cross NEXT cable is planned to be operational by late-2019.
Southern Cross Cables Limited provides fast, direct, and secure international bandwidth from Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii to the heart of the internet in the USA. It currently comprises two undersea cables, with the Southern Cross NEXT project providing a third high-capacity link. It engaged EGS, a global specialist multi-disciplinary marine survey company, to undertake the route survey for the new link.
Submarine internet cables have been peer-reviewed to be environmentally neutral, with no negative impact on marine life across the seabed. Further, the survey took place after the whale migration season so that sonar instruments on board did not interfere with the communication between whales during their migration from Antarctica to Australia’s east coast and Fiji.
Key findings from the survey
- The survey mapped more than 15,000 kilometres of seabed, or more than a third of the globe’s circumference.
- The survey found a faster route than anticipated by traversing the Wallis and Fortuna waters rather than Tongan waters – this route will lead to reduced latency for customers.
- The survey, which maps the sea floor using sonar equipment, found a previously-unidentified shipwreck, 37 kilometres off the coast of Sydney. This shipwreck’s location has been sent to the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage.
- EGS has now surveyed more than 410,000km of undersea cable routes in 40 years which, if laid end-to-end, would circle the globe more than 10 times. Put another way, the cables end-on-end would comfortably reach the moon, which is roughly 384,000 kilometres from Earth.