Tiwi Islanders can look forward to more reliable communications after the Northern Territory Government announced early this week it was investing $8.5 million to establish a 60km undersea optic fibre cable to the Islands.
The Tiwi Islands are situated 80 km to the north of Darwin. The two inhabited islands are Melville and Bathurst, with nine smaller uninhabited islands in the group. At 570,000 hectares, Melville Island is the second largest island off the Australian mainland, while Bathurst covers 210,000 hectares.
Home to around 3,000 people, the Tiwi Islands have hit a wall communications-wise, with broadband (satellite) and mobile phone services (high speed digital radio link) at capacity and unable to meet any growth in demand. Reliability is also an issue, with severe weather events and general equipment malfunction sometimes seeing the region cut off for days.
These outages are more than just an inconvenience. Some Tiwi Islanders are reliant on Centrelink’s “basics card”, and everything from fuel to power must be pre-paid. When the internet is out of action, purchasing items can be more difficult.
The fibre optic undersea link, to be constructed by Vocus, will also open up new economic opportunities for Tiwi people and provide better access to telephone and digital health services, while also helping to build on the population’s digital literacy and skills.
“Affordable and reliable fibre optic connectivity is a fundamental pre-requisite for the participation in the global digital economy,” said Vocus Group CEO, Kevin Russell. “Vocus is pleased to play its role in delivering this capability to the communities of the Tiwi Islands.”
Vocus already owns and operates an undersea optic fibre trunk network from Darwin to Port Hedland called the North West Cable System. Through a ‘branching unit’ in this system, the firm will be able to run a cable link to the Tiwi Islands.
Australia Singapore Cable Commences Service
While on the topic of Vocus, the firm announced on Wednesday its Australia Singapore Cable (ASC) has been put into early service following a major disruption on the Sea-Me-We3 (SMW-3) submarine cable between Perth and Singapore.
“After consulting our team conducting final testing, we are confident that ASC is ready to provide reliable and effective services to mitigate the effect of the SMW-3 outage,” said Simon Smith, Vocus Group Chief Technology Officer.
The Australia Singapore Cable stretches between Perth, Western Australia and has landing points in Jakarta, Indonesia and Tanah Merah, Singapore. The ASC will provide a minimum 40 Tbps (terabits per second) of capacity – 41,942,977 Mbps.
The company’s Australian fibre network is now over 21,000 km and growing. Lightning Broadband acquires backhaul from leading tier-1 providers including Vocus.