11 Mar 2010

Pacific cable 13,000km long proposed for broadband

8:24 pm on 11 March 2010

Households and businesses could get unlimited, low-cost broadband with plans for a new undersea fibre-optic cable linking New Zealand to the wider world.

Pacific Fibre, headed by a consortium of top business leaders, is looking for financial backing of up to $900 million for the venture.

The 13,000 kilometre cable, linking New Zealand to Australia and the United States, would have five times the capacity of the current Southern Cross cable.

The technology industry pioneer, John Humphrey, who has been working with internet entrepreneur Rod Drury on the project for over two years, says the cable could be ready by mid-2012.

The group says without the cable, New Zealand will suffer a growing digital divide with other countries that threatens to be a major brake on business.

Mr Drury, who heads the online accountancy business Xero, says the cable would have five times the capacity of the current Southern Cross cable.

He says the group wants to encourage people to use technology rather than being scared in case it costs too much.

Other business leaders behind the venture include The Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall, and Trade Me founder Sam Morgan.

Another founder is Mark Rushworth, who until recently was Vodafone's chief marketing officer.

Prices could 'plunge'

Independent telecommunications analyst Paul Budde says prices for international internet traffic could fall dramatically if the project is successful.

Mr Budde says the proposal is ambitious, but would provide much needed competition and improved capacity.