Several weeks ago, I came across this new Submarine Cable Map from Telegeography Research. It’s a great visualization for understanding how the underpinning physical layer of the Internet actually works. By clicking a cable on the map, you can view when it came into service, locations it connects and the companies that own it. Note that cables appearing in gray are projects expected to come online in the near future.
The map reveals a lack of infrastructure in the Southern Hemisphere while, the East Asian corridor reveals the most number of new cables coming into service.
Around the time I started writing this blog in 2006, S. Hemisphere nations of disparate size such as Fiji, Australia, and South Africa faced the same dilemma: lack of cable infrastructure resulting in very costly wholesale pricing.
In that time however, Australia and South Africa have pushed forward with several new cable projects. In October 2009, Australia added the Pipe Pacific Cable-1 (Read 2009 CW Post) and has since seen dramatic reduction in Internet costs for users. South Africa has several cable projects that will be ready for service in the near future. As a result, their consumers are beginning to taste considerably lower prices.
Meanwhile, Fiji and New Zealand, without real competition at the wholesale level lag considerably behind as seen in this table comparing budget plans:
|$ FJD/Mo. Data Cap||$41/2 GB
|Sources: Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa|
This is not the best comparison as the pricing for Fiji and South Africa are from mobile service providers, while ANZ pricing is for fixed-line service. Still, it does help to paint the contrasts. South Africa is poised for major competition as one mobile provider now offers an unlimited cap service for FJD 70.
If there is one variable that has the most effect on retail Internet pricing, it is competition in wholesale.
Barring that, only an effective regulatory intervention can bring about a more competitive outcome. It is no coincidence then that New Zealand and Australia have been at the forefront of movement to enact functional separation of incumbent operators.
Taking a closer look at the South Pacific region reveals some interesting information. If you recall, the SPIN project promised to connect New Caledonia to Tahiti, via the islands in between. It does not appear on the map and its unlikely it ever will. The Governments of Vanuatu and Tonga are investing in cables connecting to Fiji’s Southern Cross Cable connection that should come online in the next two years. Other cables that have come online in the past few years are Gondwana (New Caledonia – Sydney), Honotua (Tahiti – Hawaii) and ASH (American Samoa – Hawaii).