Australia's fastest telecommunications connection to Asia and second fastest to the United States will occur from the Sunshine Coast, thanks to a new international submarine cable contract that has been agreed between Sunshine Coast Council and RTI Connectivity Pty Ltd (RTI-C).
Mayor Mark Jamieson said Sunshine Coast Council was the first local government in Australia to secure an investment in an international submarine cable and in an increasingly digital world, the value of this investment for the region's future could not be understated.
"Without a doubt, this infrastructure investment will result in a significant point of difference for the Sunshine Coast," Mayor Jamieson said.
The project includes a 550km undersea fibre optic cable which will connect the Sunshine Coast to the 9600km Japan-Guam-Australia South (JGA-S)* submarine cable that is currently being delivered by a consortium involving RTI-C, Google and AARNet, as previously reported.
At Guam, the JGA-S cable will connect to the SEA-US Cable System, a highly efficient Trans-Pacific cable which will forge connections between South-East Asia and the United States for more than 1.5 billion people.
The investment of up to $35 million in the undersea cable connection from the Sunshine Coast to the JGA-S cable plus supporting land-based infrastructure is being jointly funded by the Sunshine Coast Council and the Queensland Government, with the project forecast to deliver up to 864 new jobs and stimulate $927 million in new investment in Queensland.
Mayor Jamieson said he believed these figures were conservative, given our insatiable demand for data and that data traffic from Australia was increasing by at least 40% annually.
"The Sunshine Coast will provide the fastest, most affordable international connection point for Queensland and Australia to Asia, providing a significant step-change in Queensland's attractiveness as an investment location," Mayor Jamieson said.
"This project will stimulate investment and jobs growth on the Sunshine Coast thanks to the superior telecommunications connectivity and data infrastructure and could serve to attract some of the world's biggest data users to our region.
"This game-changer will transform the Sunshine Coast and open up enormous opportunities for Queensland."
Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick said the Queensland Government was providing $15 million towards the project from the Jobs and Regional Growth Fund following a commitment made at the last election.
"The reality is only a small volume of international telecommunications is delivered via satellite, with 95 to 99 per cent of Australia's internet needs serviced by a limited number of undersea cables coming into Sydney and Perth – a risk and limitation for Australia's internet connectivity and commercial data centre capacity," Minister Dick said.
"The landing of a submarine cable on the Sunshine Coast will not only diversify the landing locations for telecommunications traffic, but will also provide speed, reliability and capacity improvements for the whole of the state.
"A modern and growing knowledge-based economy relies on access to high-speed communications networks to ensure fast and reliable delivery of services across our state, from key social services to telehealth in our hospitals.
"This initiative will bolster connectivity and reliability of these networks, and the services that rely on them, benefiting all Queenslanders.
"This landmark project will transform the way the Sunshine Coast runs and open up enormous opportunities for Queensland."
Mayor Jamieson said most of Queensland's data and voice communications currently travelled to Sydney via land, before heading to its international destination through submarine cables.
"People don't realise that every time you make an international phone call or transfer data overseas, every time you search Google, every time you like something on Facebook, it doesn't go through a satellite," Mayor Jamieson said.
"In fact, the majority of Australia's international voice and data traffic travels via submarine cables.
"To have all Australian east-coast international cables landing in Sydney is not only more expensive, it's a huge business and national security risk if those cables are damaged at the same time."
Mayor Jamieson said the international submarine cable – which would connect to a new cable landing station near the Maroochydore City Centre - would increase data transmission speed, provide greater redundancy and should, over time, lead to a reduction in international communications costs for business and consumers.
"New cables and new technology have tended to drive down prices and create a more efficient environment.
"Our ratepayers will also benefit from the agreements we have reached with RTI-C because council will receive a revenue stream from customers accessing the JGA-S cable network through the Sunshine Coast cable connection.
"Once again, our council is at the forefront of thinking outside the square, securing new revenue sources and pursuing opportunities to generate economic and employment growth as a major dividend for our residents, thus ensuring we continue to be Australia's healthy, smart, creative region.
"It also fulfils another key commitment I made in the lead up to the 2016 local government election.
"Arguably, the submarine cable will be the leader in our suite of game-changers for this region.
"Our Sunshine Coast Solar Farm – which was another local government first; our Sunshine Coast Airport Expansion project; and the Maroochydore City Centre – Australia's only greenfield CBD and about to become Australia's fastest CBD, are all examples."
Mayor Jamieson also acknowledged the support of the Federal Member for Fairfax, Ted O'Brien, who has been a long-standing supporter of this project and who helped secure $250,000 in funding from the Commonwealth Government for a feasibility study for the submarine cable project in 2016.
RTI CEO Russ Matulich said the investment by the Sunshine Coast Council and the Queensland Government placed the Sunshine Coast on the business map of the world.
"Businesses need the fastest communications path between two locations," Mr Matulich said.
"They need the ability to store data and this new cable, and the landing station at Maroochydore, will enable this to happen.
"The Sunshine Coast cable is in an outstanding location because it provides physical diversity – a new location into Australia – which is a high priority for government and commercial reasons.
"This new path will deliver traffic into and out of Australia faster than the Sydney route because it is geographically closer to mainland China and Hong Kong, where there are over 1.1 billion people; to Japan where there are several hundred million people; and to the west coast of the United States where big companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon are located.
"Compared to other destinations, the Sunshine Coast project is one of the few cables that will be able to reach into those big cities over one network – RTI's network."
Mr Matulich said the international submarine cable would also benefit small business because it provided better connectivity, speed and redundancy and encouraged new companies to look at the Sunshine Coast to take advantage of the connectivity to international communications infrastructure.
"The whole community wins because they are getting the residual benefit of big investment coming into the region," he said.
"International submarine cables impact economies by increasing communications, trade and education. The higher the number of cables, the higher GDP per capita.
"And the more cables landing in a specific location improves the quality of life, not just for the local citizens but for the nation."
The submarine cable, to be supplied and installed by Alcatel Submarine Network (ASN), is expected to be completed by the first half of 2020.
ASN president Philippe Piron said the organisation was proud to work with RTI and Sunshine Coast Council.
"ASN is very pleased our technology will be used to provide high speed connectivity to the Australian east coast, thanks to the investment by Sunshine Coast Council."