Funds sought for first submarine cable to Antarctica

Will also be first cable to go from South America to Australia

Chilean state-run infrastructure fund Desarrollo País and Singapore-based BW Digital subsidiary H2 Cable have issued a request for proposals to build a 15,000km submarine cable to connect Latin America, Asia Pacific, Oceania – and Antarctica.

The duo are looking to partner with "the world's best suppliers" for turnkey supply and installation of the "Humboldt Cable".

Desarrolo País said the route and execution schedule had been set, and any supplier proposals should be based on an open cable system model, meaning the wet and dry parts of the cable are separated from day one to allow more flexible vendor choices and capabilities.

BW Global's International Connectivity Services is scheduled to finalize the system design, launch the procurement process and engage with anchor customers. The duo said that depending on responses from the market, they will make the necessary investments to build and operate the cable.

"The Humboldt Cable will be the most significant piece of subsea infrastructure connecting South America, paving the way for deployment of essential datacenters, AI and other data-driven technologies to help to put Chile on the digital map," said the partners.

The cable, which has been on the drawing board since late 2021, is to run from Valparaiso, Chile to Sydney Australia and have branching stubs for connection to New Zealand, Juan Fernandez and Easter Island.

Connections from New Zealand to Australia and beyond, including the USA, are already covered by BW Global sibling cables: the south island of New Zealand by Hawaiki Nui and the north island by Hawaiki.

Desarrollo País CEO said the project would "transform Chile to a digital hub for Latin America," but that is not the only area that would be transformed by a successful project.

The Humboldt Cable will include an almost 2,000km branching stub to Antarctica – the only continent currently without such a cable. BW Digital said the cable will "provide the first ultrafast broadband connection to the scientific community at Scott Base."

Presently, researchers at Scott Base and nearby McMurdo Station rely on satellite internet, but an effort has been brewing to further build out the area's connectivity.

"Current networking capacity at McMurdo Station is insufficient to even be considered 'broadband,' with a summer population of up to 1000 people sharing what is equivalent to the connection enjoyed by a typical family of three in the United States," detailed Antarctica researcher Peter Neff in a 2021 National Science Foundation document. ®

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