By Andrew-Eves Brown, Head of Economic Development at Sunshine Coast Council

As published in My Weekly Preview’s first B2B feature*. Thursday 24 February 2022.

The submarine cable is a game changer. In the 19th century, governments and private companies built Australia’s railway network to increase economic growth and development.

Thanks to advances in technology, the auto industry boomed, and the road freight network overtook rail as the 20th century choice for transporting many goods. Today, the 21st century is again driven by technological advances, and the cable network is about to make its mark on the economy. The difference this time is that it’s speedy, it’s low latency, it’s global, and we are in the front seat cruising the information superhighway.

The Sunshine Coast’s International Broadband Submarine Cable project has made local and worldwide news over the past eight years. While not exactly core local government infrastructure, it is an innovative and strategic investment by Sunshine Coast Council and the Queensland government to future proof the region’s telecommunications capacity.

Image: Sunshine Coast International Broadband Network connectivity map.

As the rail and road networks were fundamental in the past, and remain essential today, so too is the cable network and data housing. Building the cable landing station was ambitious, and a first for an Australian local government.

Key drivers behind the project presented real opportunity to increase our region’s smart city capability by ensuring access to important data networks, and an opening to attract a major data centre operator to the Sunshine Coast. Data centres are becoming an essential part of the business, economic and social landscape and a core element of the digital architecture that underpins connectivity, accessibility, security and information storage.

ASX-listed NEXTDC is an established data centre provider and operator, and as of December 2021, the owner and operator of the cable landing station. With 11 data centres across Australia, mainly in capital cities, the organisation’s ecosystem consists of more than 640 cloud platforms, carriers and information communication technology providers, delivering a comprehensive suite of information technology solutions spanning the globe.

Its global linkages will deliver the Sunshine Coast unprecedented expertise and significant quality assurance for customers who store their data at the data centre. NEXTDC CEO Craig Scroggie describes a data centre as ‘a hotel’ for computers. Data centres house and manage computer infrastructure for large and small businesses, which rent space and provide high-capacity, high-speed connectivity.

Designed to be highly secure, with large amounts of power always on and always available, the role the data centre plays is being a mission-critical digital platform that allows enterprises to bring their computer services to the Sunshine Coast.

With the majority of economic activity relying heavily on telecommunications, name an industry that this infrastructure doesn’t benefit. There won’t be many. Whether it’s a small local business or Esports (one of the fastest growing e-industries globally), the benefits range from ensuring we can do more remote working, attract workers right across the country and internationally, and have our local businesses compete internationally. I’m often asked if, by undertaking the cable project, have we positioned the Sunshine Coast as one of Australia’s leading city regions? I’d say we are in pole position – more than ready to cruise the information superhighway.

Image: Wendy Macdonald with Mark Hamilton inside the Cable Landing Station.

THE CABLE CHRONICLE

2015

Submission lodged

The council lodges a submission with the Australian Communications and Media Authority to start the process to declare an offshore cable protection zone.

2015
2018

Contract signed

A contract is signed for a submarine cable connecting the Sunshine Coast to Asia and the US.

2018
2019 - 2020

Construction complete

Completed in September 2019 and operational in March 2020, the cable landing station has the capacity to cater for four submarine cables and houses 24 data cabinets.

In June 2020, the council landed a Cyber Security Innovation Node, one of only two regional nodes in the country.

2019 - 2020
2021

NEXTDC hand over

Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson hands over the keys to the Maroochydore CBD cable landing station to NEXTDC chief executive officer Craig Scroggie on December 20.

2021

*My Weekly Preview’s B2B feature will deliver informative articles, plus expert advice from some of the Sunshine Coast’s leading industry experts.

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