Papua New Guinea ‘to honour’ subsea deal with Huawei

Papua New Guinea ‘to honour’ subsea deal with Huawei

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The Pacific state of Papua New Guinea has decided to keep its deal with Huawei to build a fibre network, in the face of Australian pressure to cancel.

William Duma, the country’s minister for public enterprise and investment, said that Papua New Guinea (PNG) “has an existing agreement” and said the decision was “about honour and integrity”. A Huawei executive confirmed the decision to Capacity.

The 5,457km 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. Huawei and the government of PNG signed the contract in 2016.

Paul Komboi, managing director of PNG DataCo, said in 2016: “This new system is very important to Papua New Guinea as it includes not only a new submarine cable network but also internet gateways and data centres. This will improve the whole ICT infrastructure in the country and greatly increase network coverage, capacity and the availability of internet and broadband services to end users.”

Two years later, in October 2018, the Australian and US governments said they opposed the plan. The US chargé d’affaires in Australia, James Carouso, said the two countries wanted to give “alternatives” to the Huawei project.

PNG has become the scene of US and Australian rivalry against China in past months.

At the beginning of November Huawei started a talent programme said to contribute to the digital development of PNG. Flierl Shongol, the country’s communication and information technology and energy secretary, said Huawei was investing in talent training programmes to support the country’s digital future. “This transition … is one that all must accept and embrace so that we can prosper and participate in global markets,” he said.

Two weeks later the PNG government announced the completion of a National Cyber Security Centre, jointly funded by the Australian government, that would enable the country “to benefit from advanced communications technology while protecting its critical information and communications technology infrastructure from incidents”.

Australia’s minister for foreign affairs, Marise Payne, officiated at the announcement. “Robust cyber security is a fundamental element of growth and prosperity in the global digital economy,” she said.

Australia is backing the Coral Sea Cable System (CSCS), a 4,700km cable linking Sydney with Port Moresby in PNG and Honiara in the Solomon Islands. Australia is funding a reported two-thirds the cost of CSCS but other reports say China’s Exim Bank is also part-funding the project.

And 10 days ago PNG won a deal from Australia, New Zealand, the US and Japan to build fibre and electricity infrastructure. A statement from all five governments said the deal would deliver “enhanced connectivity and the goal of connecting 70% of [the] population to electricity by 2030”. Only 13% of the population has mains electricity at the moment.

A statement from the White House did not detail how the fibre network would be installed along with the electricity system.






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