The Sunshine Coast Council (SCC) has lodged a submission with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to initiate a Cable Protection Zone offshore from the Sunshine Coast. The project would provide a higher speed connection to the Sunshine Coast, and by association Queensland.

The most likely connection is to a junction box that is situated approximately 150 kilometres east of Moreton Island.(1) A similar project has been suggested since at least 2013, with SCC acting as an advocate since at least 2015.

(2)Project Cost and Government Funding – Total project cost estimates depend on a range of factors, and are not publicly available. Detailed estimates are likely to have arisen from the recent Expression of Interest (EOI) process (described below). These cost estimates were considered by the SCC in a Special Meeting held in May 2018, but are commercial-in-confidence and not publicly available.

(3) The Palaszczuk Government pledged $15 million to the cable project during the 2017 election campaign.

(4) SCC has reportedly contributed $8 million to the project.

(5) Project Status – The project is currently in the scoping stage, with completion anticipated in 2020. Further information on project status is provided below.

Feasibility Study and Benefit Estimates:

In June 2017 the Federal Department of Communications and the Arts provided $275 000 to ‘…provide support to the Sunshine Coast Regional Council to conduct a feasibility study into a potential submarine telecommunications cable.’

(6) The feasibility study was completed by GQI Consulting Pty Ltd, and submitted to the federal Department of Communications and the Arts in November 2017.

(7) This study estimated that the cable and associated facilities would create annual benefits of:
• 864 full time jobs
• an annual contribution of $453 million to the Sunshine Coast economy
• an annual contribution of $927 million to the Queensland economy
• cost savings of $30-40 million associated with national and international backhaul to Sydney.

(8) Market Sounding – A market sounding exercise was conducted by GQI Consulting, on behalf of SCC, in October- November 2017, to inform potential tenderers of details in relation to:
• the submarine cable (wet and dry components)
• the cable landing station
• backhaul connectivity from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane.

(9) Backhaul relates to the connection from the landing point to the ‘backbone’ of existing internet infrastructure.

(10) There were 39 parties that expressed interest in the project through this exercise.

(11) Expression of Interest (EOI) Process – An EOI process was conducted between December 2017 and January 2018.

(12) Shortlisted respondents to this process were interviewed in March.

(13) Future rollout – Marcoola and Maroochydore were identified as potential landing points for the cable.

(14) Rollout plans beyond the initial landing cannot be identified at this stage, as they depend on a range of factors, including progress of NBN onshore infrastructure.

(15) Sources:
(1) B Hoffman, ‘Coast in the fast lane as a key player on IT super highway’, Sunshine Coast Daily, 14 March 2013; Sunshine Coast Council, International Broadband Submarine Cable, 9 July 2018.
(2) B Hoffman, ‘Sunshine Coast in fast lane on IT superhighway’, Brisbane Times, 14 March 2013; T Moore, ‘Malcolm Turnbull visits Sunshine Coast to view proposal for new undersea communications cable’, Brisbane Times, 3 September 2015.
(3) Sunshine Coast Council, ‘Minutes’, Special Meeting (Region Making Projects), 17 May 2018.
(4) A Palaszczuk (Premier and Minister for the Arts), Meeting with Local Government Association of Queensland, media statement, 27 November 2017.
(5) T Moore, ‘Sunshine Coast goes it alone in $1 billion cable project’, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 December 2017.
(6) Australia. Department of Communications and the Arts, Grant reporting—Department of Communications and the Arts – 2013-2017-updated 18 September 2017, 2017, p 18.
(7) Sunshine Coast Council, CEO’s Quarterly Progress Report Quarter 2, 2017/2018, 23 February 2018, p 6.
(8) Sunshine Coast Council, International Broadband Submarine Cable, 9 July 2018; M Holdsworth, ‘Internet game changer’: $15m pledge for broadband cable’, Sunshine Coast Daily, 9 November 2017.
(9) Australian Tenders, Market Sounding – International Broadband Submarine Cable to the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, (accessed 23 August 2018).
(10) TechTarget, Definition – backhaul, November 2006.
(11) Sunshine Coast Council, CEO’s Quarterly Progress Report Quarter 3, 2017/2018, 18 May 2018, p 6.
(12) QTenders, Expression of Interest – Sunshine Coast International Broadband Network, (accessed on 23 August 2018).
(13) Sunshine Coast Council, CEO’s Quarterly Progress Report Quarter 3, 2017/2018, 18 May 2018, p 6.
(14) R Pearce, ‘Sunshine Coast seeks partners for new submarine cable’, Computerworld, 4 December 2017.
(15) F Caldwell, ‘Sunshine Coast Council advertises tender for business case on internet cable’, Brisbane Times, 31 May 2017.