Sub-Partners cable negotiations break down: TasICT

TasICT's Will Kestin.
TasICT's Will Kestin.

A proposal to build a submarine data cable and increase Tasmania’s digital capability and competition has come to a “screeching halt”, a technology chief has declared.

For several years a plan to construct an intercontinental data cable between Australia, Indonesia and Singapore has excited Tasmania’s digital industry – which has pushed for the state to connect to the project. 

The two SubPartners cables, totalling almost 10,000 kilometres, will start in Singapore before heading south to Jakarta, Perth and through the Bass Strait to Sydney.

TasICT chief executive Will Kestin said a push for Tasmania to connect a spur to the cable had come to a “screeching halt”.

After months of discussion between the state government and the project consortium, Mr Kestin said negotiations appeared to have broken down. 

He said the government and TasICT “can’t get anything out of SubPartners” after numerous attempts to make contact with the organisation had failed.

“It’s still a disappointment to the industry that the government wasn’t able to negotiate this,” he said. 

“We would have liked to be involved and had the opportunity but I don’t know if it would have turned out differently.”

Indigo, the company planning to build the SubPartners’ cable, proposed a separate cable from Sydney to Hobart be constructed at a cost to Tasmania of $15 million.

That proposal was knocked back by the government and industry

“We don’t think a cable running from Tasmania to Sydney separate of SubPartners is worth the cost,” Mr Kestin said.

Innovation Minister Michael Ferguson agreed.

“It is not a good use of taxpayers’ money, which would be at the cost of investing in essential services such as health,” he said.

“We of course remain open to discussions about participating in the Indigo Cable, which despite the Tasmanian Government’s repeated requests has never been offered.”

Mr Kestin hoped the Indigo consortium would build the capacity for a future spur to be connected.

He said after the SubPartners cable was built from Perth to Sydney, businesses might take note of Tasmania and connect a spur.

“We will hopefully see the market expanded,” he said.