Soundings Papers: Securing Australia’s Submarine Communications Infrastructure: A history of Australia's engagement with undersea cables and lessons for understanding the contemporary strategic environment

Soundings No. 32
Soundings No. 32

PDF : 4.71 MB

Angus Eckstein

The security of submarine communications cables (SCCs) is vital to Australia’s strategic and economic interests. Transoceanic information flows for military, government, corporate and private communications rely almost entirely on SCCs. There is no alternative system capable of handling this data as satellite communications have relatively low bandwidth and high latency. As an island state, Australia is dependent on SCCs and especially vulnerable to SCC system interruptions.

This report collates and expands upon primary and secondary historical sources, including important archival material, and makes an essential contribution to the currently scarce literature around the strategic value of Australia’s SCCs. Australian-linked SCCs and their terrestrial infrastructure have significant vulnerabilities. While Australia has several legal and regulatory protections for SCC infrastructure, further action by Defence and other government agencies are required to protect these vital links, especially as the country enters an uncertain strategic future.