It comes as Bluesky commits to picking up the tab to lay “the last mile” of fibre-optic cable to every home, to serve them with high-speed internet.
Chief executive Phillip Henderson said that was still to be confirmed but, on past experience, might be in the order of $800 to $1500 per premises. “That will become clearer as we progress and optimise our installation practices. This a completely Bluesky-funded network rollout.”
Concerns are being raised by William Framhein, who has taken a legal challenge against the government to be allowed to set up a rival telecommunications company in opposition to Bluesky, to drive prices down.
Framhein said the cable into Rarotonga and Aitutaki appears to come off a spur that does not provide for redundancy capacity – back-up capacity if something goes wrong. Satellite connectivity would still be required to cover the redundancy aspects, he said.
Chief executive officer of Avaroa Cable Limited Ranulf Scarbrough said undersea cables were engineered to avoid damage and be tough enough to withstand most anticipated situations. But there could be situations where a cable failed.
“Geological activity is one case – undersea earth quakes and undersea landslides are examples. These are not significant risks on the Manatua route.”
Scarbrough said there were human risks as well, like trawlers, but the very deep water in which the 3600km Manatua cable would lie made this unlikely.
“Ship anchoring is another case. No-anchor zones will be in place as the cable reaches land, where water is sufficiently shallow for anchoring. But there is always the possibility that a ship will not observe the no-anchor zone and could damage the cable,” Scarbrough said.
“The Tonga cable cut in January this year is an example.”
The cable partnership had agreements in place to ensure a repair could be undertaken rapidly if a cable break did occur.
Henderson said there was a degree of redundancy between Rarotonga and Aitutaki, meaning if a cable broke the country would not lose connectivity.
“If you design the cable correctly, make sure the root is taken into the landing station, which is the land then the risk of it being damaged is minimal. That’s why the cable is brought around Rutaki, because not a lot of ships anchor there.”
Henderson said the outer islands would remain reliant on satellite connections, meaning this remained a means of connectivity for Rarotonga and Aitutaki too, in an emergency.
If the cable got damaged, it could take weeks to repair and Bluesky would restore satellite feed until then.