A diagram shows the route of the proposed undersea fibre optic cable.
A diagram shows the route of the proposed undersea fibre optic cable.

Oil and gas giants Shell and INPEX have signed a $100 million deal with Nextgen Group to build an optical fibre cable providing high-speed communication services to the companies' projects off the Kimberley coast.

Nextgen will build, own and operate the cable system supporting INPEX Ichthys LNG project and Shell's Prelude LNG project in the Browse Basin.

The system will stretch about 2000kms between Darwin and Port Hedland.

The cable will enable INPEX and Shell to provide a full range of communications services for the life of both the Ichthys and Prelude projects.

The cable will have a design capacity of more than 8 terrabits per second and the potential to be upgraded to more than 32 terrabits per second.

It will be based on Alcatel-Lucent's undersea technology.

Work will commence immediately and is scheduled for completion in 2016.

In a joint statement, INPEX and Shell said the cable would provide superior reliability and quality compared with other available communication options such as satellite technology.

Ichthys project managing director Louis Bon said constructing subsea infrastructure of this kind for private customers on the mainland was an Australian first.

"This is a great achievement for the Ichthys Project and an excellent example of what collaboration in the oil and gas industry can achieve," he said.

"It means that both of these projects, far north of Port Hedland, will be connected to data centres thousands of kilometres away in Perth."

Shell Prelude asset manager Jim Marshall said Prelude FLNG's close proximity to Ichthys represented a significant opportunity for INPEX and Shell to achieve a better technical and commercial outcome.

"It means that workers at Shell and INPEX will have an ultra high speed communications link so they can stay in touch with their friends and families while working at offshore facilities," he said.

"Our investment will also establish a valuable piece of infrastructure that has the capacity to support the development of future offshore resources in the Browse Basin."

Nextgen chief executive Peter McGrath said the project would deliver essential support to Australia's oil and gas industry while providing alternative fibre optic infrastructure to Australia's North-West.

"Nextgen understands Australia's resource industry will need increasingly high speed and robust communications links over time," he said.

"As an Australian company we're delighted to support two global leaders working in a sector that is the heartbeat of the national economy.

"This project builds on our successful track record of delivering high speed communications links for businesses, government and other users in underserviced regional and remote markets."

Both projects will connect to Nextgen Group's extensive telco infrastructure in Western Australia, including the Shenton Park data centre launched on March 5.

The cable system also has significant capability to service other oil and gas operators in the region including resource companies in the Pilbara.

Nextgen is a Melbourne-based supplier of networks, data centres and cloud services. It is jointly owned by Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (70 per cent) and Leighton Holdings (30 per cent).

The West Australian

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