NEXTGEN Group will build a subsea fibre optic cable system stretching about 2,000 kilometres between Darwin and Port Hedland under a deal with Shell and Inpex.

The cable system will provide access to high speed data and voice communication services for the Shell Prelude floating liquefied natural gas project and the Ichthys project, Nextgen said.

Nextgen will build, own and operate the system, to which the two projects will contribute equally, saying it would be more reliable than other available communications solutions such as satellite links.

The system will provide an initial design capacity of 3.2 Terabytes per second and has the potential to scale well beyond that as technology matures.

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.

“The subsea cable will give us a highly reliable and stable high-speed voice and data service which is essential for effective and efficient operations at our future offshore facilities,” Mr Marshall said.

“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.”

“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 provide essential support to Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry.

It will also establish an alternative backhaul path to Perth supporting high capacity voice and data services on land.

“As an Australian company we’re delighted to support two global leaders working in a sector that is the heartbeat of the national economy,” Mr McGrath said.

“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,” he said.

Work on the project began in May and will be completed by 2016.