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Map of Tasmania to be shorn of electrical, data links to outside world

Basslink comms fibre will be cut on purpose during power cable fix

Internet service providers in the Australian state of Tasmanian are bracing for a temporary loss of connectivity, as the owner of the Basslink cable connecting the island state to the mainland scrambles to fix a break in its electricity transmission system.

Basslink operates electricity and telecommunications connections across the Bass Strait. In December, the power cable that connects Tasmania to the national grid suffered a break.

With the island state's dams at very low capacity and hydro-electric generation capacity therefore also low, the loss of Basslink is a problem for the state's electricity supply, because it prevents Aurora Energy from buying mainland power. Repairs are expected to take until March 19.

The company's cable route also provides the only non-Telstra connectivity to mainland telecommunications networks. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports that the repairs will take the submarine fibre offline as well.

The state's shadow treasurer Scott Bacon reckons the outage could last as long as six weeks. Basslink CEO Malcolm Eccles told the ABC the operator's telco customers have been warned about the outage.

The company says cable vessel the Ile de Row is now at the location of the suspected fault (PDF here).

Because electrical cables are much heavier than telecommunications cable, the ship needed considerable works to prepare it for the operation, including strengthening its deck to cope with an 80 tonne cable reel.

The vessel will spend the next week “deburying” the electrical cable to locate the fault. It will then return to Geelong to collect the personnel needed to carry out the repairs, and Prysmian is flying cable joiners to Australia from Italy to assist in the project. ®

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