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Underwater cables to improve internet in New Caledonia

Thursday 28 April 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in New Caledonia, Regional

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Underwater cables to improve internet in New Caledonia
Photo: RNZ

New Caledonian telecommunications company OPT-NC has almost finished connecting key underwater internet cables. These will give New Caledonia and its eastern islands faster internet.

The Gondwana-Picot-2 cables, will run from New Caledonia to Fiji and measure 1,515 kilometres in length. These cables will connect New Caledonia, the eastern outer islands, and the three main districts surrounding Noumea.

The cables are dropped at different points from a giant reel inside a transport boat.

"The new project now incorporates Gondwana 2 and Picot 2, it is a project that has been planned four years ago," according to the CEO of OPT-NC Philip Gervolino.

"The deployment of landing cables started on the 16th of March in Noumea, by creating a landing site in Noumea.The landing of the cable will end on the 6th of May with a landing of the cable in Suva Fiji.

It's a cable that includes eight physical landings. Some being mutually domestic and international," he said.

We have completed are landing points in Oumo, Mont-Dore, Nouvelle, which are on the mainland, and the islands of Yate, Mare, Ile Des PINS, Lifou on the islands.

"The last landing is in Suva. Gondwana-2 will go from Nouville, a district in Noumea to Suva in Fiji."

Gondwana-Picot-2 is a USD$42 million project and will be functional around the end of June or Mid-August.

Gervolino also said Picot 2 is a part of the cable that we use to secure a domestic connection while Gondwana 2 will secure an international connection.

The Gondwana-Picot-2 cables, will run from New Caledonia to Fiji and measure 1,515 kilometres in length
The Gondwana-Picot-2 cables, will run from New Caledonia to Fiji and measure 1,515 kilometres in length Photo: Â©ONEYE PRODUCTION - 2022

Picot 2 will completely surround the island of Mare and secure a loop of connection with our other cable Picot-1 at the north of these eastern islands," he said.

"It will pass Lifou island and then make its way back to Noumea.

The domestic cable has also a job to secure the commune of the Mont-Dore south of the territory which is an area which meets huge technological issues due to cyclone conditions.

So indeed we are securing the agglomeration of Noumea which accommodates 300 thousand people in the 3 communes surrounding Noumea," Gervolino said.

In light of the devastating volcanic eruption in Tonga, which rendered the Kingdom's underwater cable inoperable, Gervolino commented on the importance of maintaining connectivity.

The new project now incorporates Gondwana 2 and Picot 2, it is a project that has been planned four years ago
The new project now incorporates Gondwana 2 and Picot 2, it is a project that has been planned four years ago Photo: OTP NC

"Earthquakes are not really a risk, the continental plate between New Caledonia and Australia has less seismic activity happening however, we are still not the most sheltered.

"Today we can not allow New Caledonia to be deprived of commercial activities whether it is education, banking which is all done through the internet these days.

"We can not let ourselves like in Tonga for 1 to 2 months without internet. Or with a fibre that is extremely reduced even with a satellite connection from the top."

"Not only the cable Gondwana-2 will secure us but it will open other roads to open the optically link the three French territories," Gervolino said.

He also said the cable is also a way for the telecom company to render assistance around the Pacific in times of disaster.

"In the agglomeration of telecommunication operators in the South Pacific, we have contracts to maintain our current cables. "

The association SPMMA, allows each operator to have access to its cable reserve to intervene the fastest for easy maintenance.

In regards to Tonga, we were the only operators of the zone to have the same type of cable as the Tongans," Philip Gervolino said.

- AFP