Keall makes the point that Hawaiki has a good game on paper. There’s a steady flow of press releases and announcements. This gives the impression the project is moving quickly ahead.
But as Keall points out, there’s little substantial. Mainly non-binding agreements with potential customers. Even yesterday’s news about an US landing site is nebulous. Hawaiki has agreements with partners in place, but it hasn’t yet got the green light from the US government to actually land a cable. that’s a much harder step.
Incidentally no-one has explained why Hawaiki’s earlier plan to build its cable as far as Hawaii and then pick up on existing submarine links changed.
While the Southern Cross Cable Network has plenty of unused capacity, there’s a case for building at least one additional submarine cable out of New Zealand if only for resiliency. The chances of both Southern Cross links breaking at the same time may be small, but it would be economically devastating.
Another argument is that there are benefits from a cable not owned, or part-owned, by telcos. Although that really falls more in the ‘nice to have’ than the ‘must have’ category.
On the other hand, it’s not clear why a trans-Pacific link is still essential. New Zealand’s communications centre of gravity is moving to our West. More and more key data is being cached or hosted by data centres in Australia. When New Zealand companies buy overseas cloud services they are more likely to work with Australian or Asian hosts than US-based services.
There’s talk of better ping times from a direct connection. Are a few milliseconds wait so important that it makes sense to spend upwards of $300 million?
Meanwhile three telcos plan to build a new trans-Tasman cable. This could prove more important for most local users.
Where does this leave Hawaiki and what are the chances of the trans-Pacific cable being built? The answer isn’t down to New Zealand, a best we’d only use a fraction of the traffic on the network. It isn’t really about what we want or need here, it’s about whether Australian customers need another trans-Pacific cable. After all, the business model depends of their business.