HyperOne: Big, bold and way overdue

17 March 2021 | Melanie Mingas

Cover

Bevan Slattery’s HyperOne is billed as the first true private national fibre backbone project to connect Australia. Introducing Project HAM

Announced mid-February, the AU$1.5 billion HyperOne is Bevan Slattery’s answer to Australia’s outdated backbone. It was during construction of the Indigo cable projects — connecting Sydney to Perth, then Jakarta and Singapore — that it became apparent Australia’s existing backbone “was simply not up to the task”.

Tech entrepreneur Slattery, who founded cable developer Sub.co, says: “There was little or no competitive protected fibre available for sale across Australia.

“Carriers often only had single paths; fibre capacity, while seeming abundant, practically was scarce. For example, carriers might have 12 pairs intercity fibre installed back in 2000, but they can only use three due to defective fibres, or spare long-haul fibre was sacrificed to service local networks along the route. Some routes only have three pairs available,” he recalls.

Fast-forward four years, mega cable projects with 12 pairs or more are commonplace and they’re just one of the advances that have outdated the continent’s infrastructure.

“Seeing the continued exponential growth in cloud in-region, the appearance of mega cables, the future of satellite ground station arrays, geopolitical issues in Asia, the rise of green hyperscale data centres — it just became apparent that networks designed 20 years ago simply aren’t able to appropriately capture the needs of today, let alone future industries,” Slattery says.

Six months ago, Slattery initiated what he calls “project HAM” — an acronym of his children’s first initials, rather than the cut of meat — and plans were made for HyperOne, the hyperscale national fibre network billed as the first true private national fibre backbone project to connect Australia.

It will also be the largest private digital infrastructure project in the country’s history, and one that can carry more traffic than every other national backbone built in Australia, combined; a cool 10,000 terabits per second.

Covering more than 20,000km once complete, it is expected to create 10,000 new jobs during construction.

Slattery says: “HyperOne is really focused on being the backbone network enabling the access networks. Similar to the electricity grids, there are the access networks that power businesses and homes, then there are the main transmission lines. This is the hyperscale backbone to interconnect major digital infrastructure across the nation.”

Existing networks are also unable to bridge the digital divide in remote and regional Australia. Opening up affordable connectivity for people and businesses in these areas, more than 1,000 regional fibre on-ramps will be added for underserved communities. “Something that no-one has done before,” Slattery adds.

In tandem with the local opportunities, the backbone will also support new locations from where hyperscalers can access markets such as Asia.

“Darwin and the Northern Territory have an amazing opportunity to be a new, secure hub in Asia,” says Slattery.

“Gigawatts of green energy — particularly solar — are planned, new submarine cables, cheap available land, proximity to Asia and the stability Australia can bring, is big for hyperscalers and cloud,” he adds.

ROI projections for HyperOne as a whole are “dependent on the uptake”, but for Slattery, the most exciting things is the potential to accelerate Australia’s digital infrastructure.

“What is personally more exciting for me is the future industries and digital infrastructure we enable, the greater the return we get. We grow if our partners grow. We want more submarine cables, hyperscale data centres, etc.”

The HyperOne project office has already begun discussions with the National Broadband Network, the Northern Australian Infrastructure Fund, telecommunication companies, various market participants as well as the Federal Government and state governments.

Credit Suisse Australia’s Evan Kilpatrick has been appointed chief investment officer, while former Queensland government minister Kate Jones is principal advisor, and Andrew Lawrence is the chief information security officer.
Phase 1 is due for completion in 2023, followed by the Northern Loop in 2024.

“HyperOne is big, bold and way overdue,” says Slattery.

“It will be the first true private national fibre backbone project connecting major data hubs in every capital city in every state and territory across Australia. It will also create new major interconnection points for more international undersea cables into Australia from Asia and as far as the Americas and Antarctica.

“With the current geopolitical instability in the region there is unprecedented opportunity for Australia to become the region’s leading, secure and stable hub for future industries and jobs,” he adds.

An online portal has launched for companies to register their interest in partnering or working on the project.