14 June 2018Hot off the Press
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Solomon Islands counterpart Rick Houenipwela have agreed to construct an undersea high-speed Internet link between the two countries.
Solomon Islands had previously signed a deal with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in late-2016 to construct a cable to improve Internet and phone reliability in the impoverished Pacific nation.
Concerns over cybersecurity resulted in the intervention of the Australian Government, which has effectively forced Huawei from the project.
Canberra has indicated it would deny a landing point for the cable on the Australian mainland due to Huawei’s links to the Chinese Government.
Prime Minister Houenipwela said last week that his country has “had some concerns raised with us from Australia, and I guess that was the trigger for us to change from Huawei to now the arrangements that we are now working with Australia on.”
Australia will now pay about two-thirds of the construction costs for the cable, which will also link Papua New Guinea, almost halving the financial burden on the Solomon Islands Government.
A $2 million scoping study by Sydney company Vocus has already been completed, and it is estimated that construction of the link will cost the aid budget more than $100 million.
“What we have offered the Solomon Islands, and they have accepted, is an alternative to [China’s] offer, and ours is cheaper,” said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. “It’s likely to be faster results for them, and technically superior. And also more resilient.
“We put up an alternative, and that’s what I believe Australia should continue to do. We are a long-standing partner of Solomon Islands, and I want to ensure that countries in the Pacific have alternatives, that they don’t only have one option and no others, and so in this case we are in a position to be able to offer a more attractive deal for Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, and they accepted it.”