The Northern Territory government will invest $8.5 million in an optical fibre connection between Darwin and the Tiwi Islands.
The 46-kilometre undersea cable will replace the existing microwave link.
According to the NT government the islands’ broadband and mobile phone services are currently at capacity. NBN services are delivered to the island via satellite.
“The new fibre optic link provides an historic opportunity to replace the existing sub-optimal microwave link to the mainland, removing capacity constraints and improving telecommunication services to the Tiwi Islands,” Vocus Group CEO Kevin Russell said in a statement.
“Poor weather causes significant interruptions to microwave telecommunication links and the tropical conditions in the Tiwi Islands frequently mean that essential services that rely on connectivity cannot be delivered.”
Vocus will own and operate the cable, which is being built under a capital grant arrangement with the NT government.
The new cable is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, and will be based on a branching unit on Vocus’ North West Cable System.
Vocus will lay a new 60-kilometre sub-sea spur cable between the branching unit and the Tiwi Islands. The cable will use the existing landing facility at Darwin’s Mindil Beach and another pre-existing facility at Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island
Alcatel Submarine Networks and surveying company Fugro have been tasked with laying the cable.
“Access to high quality telecommunications is critical in our remote areas for health and education, for economic development and creating local jobs, for community wellbeing, and for staying connected with family and friends,” said the NT government’s minister for corporate and information services, Lauren Moss.
Vocus is currently conducting the final tests on its Australia Singapore Cable system.
The US$170 million, 4600km cable system is expected to be ready for service on 14 September.
Under a contract with the federal government the network operator is also constructing the Coral Sea Cable system, which will connect Australia to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.