The Australian Government has awarded a $136.6 million contract to Vocus (ASX:VOC) to build the international sub-marine cable between Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Australia.
Vocus has already completed a scoping study for the project, along with consultation with external stakeholders, including the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. The $2.8 million scoping study was awarded in December 2017.
Vocus said it will now commence a comprehensive program of survey, manufacture and deployment activities.
The telco said it will use an "advanced" multi-terabit technology to improve the international connectivity of Papua New Guinea and introduce high-speed international telecommunications cables to Solomon Islands.
The landing points will be Port Moresby the capital of Papua New Guinea, Honiara the capital of the Solomon Islands and in Sydney.
The completion of the cable build is scheduled for late 2019.
Vocus has also been assigned the construction of a domestic sub-marine network within Solomon Islands, to extend the benefits of the cable beyond Honiara to the outer provinces where the majority of the Solomon Islands population lives.
“We are pleased to build on our strong relationship with the Federal Government and undertake this critical infrastructure project on their behalf," Vocus Group managing director Kevin Russell said.
"In this digital age, we all rely heavily on access to fast, reliable and affordable connectivity. Extending this to our international neighbours for the first time will provide significant economic and social benefits," he said.
Australia will deliver and majority-fund the cables, with a financial co-contribution from both Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
"Australia's strong support for this project is a reflection of our enduring commitment to the Pacific, where we work with partners to support the region's stability, security and prosperity," the country's Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said in a statement.
"World Bank research estimates improved internet access and connectivity could grow GDP by more than US$5 billion and create close to 300,000 new jobs in the Pacific by 2040."
In July 2017, Huawei had been contracted by the Solomon Islands Submarine Cable Company to build its first submarine cable.
The project was for Huawei Marine, in conjunction with parent company Huawei Technologies to design and construct a network incorporating 4000km of submarine cable with a total capacity of 2.5TB linking Sydney to the capital Honiara, with a further connection from Honiara to Auki and Noro.
However, as previously reported, in April, Australia effectively scuppered the Huawei plan with a promise to join the Solomons, and neighbouring Papua New Guinea to high-speed internet via an undersea cable to Sydney, setting aside roughly $200 million in its May budget for the task.
On 13 June, the Australian Government in a joint announcement with the Solomon Islands Government revealed that Australia had agreed to fund underwater internet cables and a cyber security centre for the Solomon Islands.
In 2017, Chinese telecommunications provider Huawei had signed a contract with the Solomon Islands, which was scrapped because of "concerns raised" by Australia, according to a report by the ABC.