Internet: New Caledonia installs a second submarine cable to secure its digital links

Gondwana-2. It is not a secret code but the name of the second submarine fiber optic cable allowing New Caledonia to secure its international digital links. His pose started on March 15. 1,515 kilometers long, it will go as far as Fiji and should enter service next August. It will provide the French archipelago of 270,000 inhabitants with a second international digital route. Since 2008, New Caledonia has been connected via Sydney by the submarine cable, Gondwana-1.

“It’s important when you’re like us a small country, a small people, to benefit from all the technological progress to open up to the world and to our region. It is strategic for New Caledonia”, declared Louis Mapou, separatist president of the Caledonian collegial government, on the occasion of the equipment of the first landing site of this cable in the district of Nouville in Nouméa.

And Yoann Lecourieux, president of the Office of Posts and Telecommunications (OPT), to specify: “This second cable brings the international security of digital telecommunications to New Caledonia. We saw recently in Tonga how a volcanic eruption had put an entire island economy in difficulty”. Last January, in fact, the Tonga Islands found itself cut off from the world for five weeks after the rupture of the only digital cable in the archipelago linking it to the Fiji Islands, during the eruption of an underwater volcano.

“Without submarine cables, there is no longer a European Internet” (Jean-Luc Vuillemin, Orange)

Avoid any internet disruption, even simple outages

Gondwana-2 aims to avoid any interruption of services or internet cuts by securing all communications in New Caledonia, both internationally and locally, and to allow the Loyalty Islands and the island of Pins to access very high speed. It will also make it possible to open digital highways between the three French territories of the Pacific, Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia being already connected to Fiji.

Since the commissioning of Gondwana-1, New Caledonia has lived with the risk of seeing its communications cut off. A backup device does exist to compensate for a break in this first cable, but it would only keep 3% of the flow, “especially for everything related to emergencies, what is medical and what is related to the police “, explained in 2019 the OPT in New Caledonia the 1st. ” On the other hand, financial operations, banking transactions, everything related to digital would be neutralized in the event of a break in the existing submarine cable”.

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The OPT is also developing the local network via another cable, Picot-2, which will close the connection loop between Grande-Terre and the islands (des Pins, Yaté, Maré, Lifou), and bring broadband to some 9,000 potential users.

These two digital devices represent an investment of 4.5 billion CFP (37.5 million euros), half of which is financed by equity by the OPT, a public institution in New Caledonia.

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99% of the internet goes through undersea cables

The development of submarine cables has intensified in recent years. 2020 will have recorded a record number of deployments with 36 new cables. Nearly 99% of total Internet traffic is provided by submarine lines, the real “backbone” of global telecommunications, says Serge Besanger, professor at ESCE International Business School, in an article published on The Conversation. The satellites make the remaining 1%. If the “motorways of the sea” are preferred to spacecraft, it is mainly because they are less expensive and are much faster.

According to this expert, today there are more than 420 submarine cables in the world, totaling 1.3 million kilometers, which is more than three times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. The longest cable is no less than 39,000 kilometers. Called “SEA-ME-WE 3”, it connects Southeast Asia to Western Europe via the Red Sea. These strategic infrastructures are now also perceived by many specialists as a major vulnerability, particularly in the new context represented by “hybrid warfare”. As economic sanctions rain down on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, Europeans fear that Moscow will cut some submarine cables, thus depriving the continent of some of its digital connections.

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(With AFP)