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Australia and US ‘trying to block Huawei’ from PNG subsea fibre backbone

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Australia and the US are trying to block Huawei Marine from subsea and terrestrial national backbone for Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The move was confirmed by the US chargé d’affaires in Australia, James Carouso, who said in a radio interview that the two countries wanted to give “alternatives”.

He told an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio interviewer: “It’s up to the PNG Government at the end of the day. But the whole idea is to give alternatives. This is not to say don't do business with China. Chinese offers are out on the table. It’s up to us to be competitive.”

Governments of both the US and Australia have blocked Huawei from supplying network equipment to their major carriers, and this appears to be a follow-up from that.

Two years ago Capacity reported that the PNG government had ordered a 5,400km network of subsea cables around the coast of the country, to create a national fibre backbone network as well as a number of data centres. The cable, with a capacity of 8Tbps, would link 14 major coastal centres as well as islands and would be operated by PNG DataCo, now reported to be merging with fixed-line incumbent Telikom PNG.

The Reuters news agency said that PNG’s minister for state investment, William Duma, told a local newspaper that China’s Exim Bank would finance the Huawei project, costed at $200 million. Reports say the Australian government is trying to finance PNG’s network using a joint infrastructure fund, in a trilateral partnership with the US and Japan.

According to ABC radio, Australian government ministers have refused to comment in public about the affair, but Carouso – who is the top US representative in Australia, as there is currently no ambassador – answered a reporter’s questions frankly.

He said, according to the ABC: “So what we are going to do is say we are going to help you, we are going to lead you along the way, along a transparent process that tells you exactly what you are going to get.”

Carouso pointed to “our private companies and the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank” as possible sources of finance.

 

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