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PNG sticks with Huawei for subsea cable: Report

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(Image: Huawei Marine)

Huawei will continue building out a submarine cable network interconnecting Papua New Guinea despite pressure from Australia, the United States, and Japan, according to a report by Reuters.

The report said PNG’s Public Enterprise and State Investment Minister William Duma told Reuters that the nation had “an existing agreement” with Huawei.

“It’s about honour and integrity; once you enter into a deal and an arrangement, you go with it,” Duma reportedly told Reuters, adding that Huawei has already completed around 60 percent of the project.

“It’s a bit patronising”, he reportedly added in relation to counter-offers allegedly being pushed by Australia, Japan, and the US.

Huawei Marine had in October 2016 announced that it would be helping PNG build out an 8Tbps, 5,457km national submarine broadband cable network alongside the government’s telco PNG DataCo across 14 main cities and population centres, along with a link to Jayapura, Indonesia.

Earlier this year, the Australian government had used AU$200 million in foreign aid to lock Huawei out of supplying a subsea cable connecting Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands with Australia.

Vocus was subsequently awarded the AU$137 million contract by the Australian government to construct the cable.

“Awarding the AU$136.6 million contract to delivery partner Vocus is a major milestone and signals the start of the physical installation of the Coral Sea Cable System,” former Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said in June.

“Australia will deliver and majority-fund the cables, with financial co-contribution from both PNG and Solomon Islands.”

Vocus said the Coral Sea Cable System, which is expected to be complete by the end of next year, will use multi-terabit technology. It will now commence a “comprehensive program of survey, manufacture, and deployment activities”, the company added.

The telco is also set to build out a domestic submarine cable network in the Solomon Islands to link Auki in the Malaita Province, Noro in the Western Province, and Taro in the Choiseul Province with the Honiara landing point, which will be jointly funded by Australia and the Solomon Islands.

Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had in April confirmed the subsea cable would be built, saying that the federal government would provide the “majority” of the funding for the project, which will also land in Port Moresby.

During the week of political turmoil that saw Turnbull and Bishop step down from their roles, and Scott Morrison installed as Prime Minister of Australia, Huawei was then banned from participating in any 5G deployments across the nation due to supposed national security issues stemming from concerns of foreign government interference in critical communications infrastructure.

US President Donald Trump has also been cracking down on Chinese involvement in the American tech sphere, including through draft legislation barring the sale of national security-sensitive technology to China, and blocking government or contractors from buying telecommunications equipment and services from Huawei and ZTE.

Huawei in July told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that the US should not miss out on its world-leading technology, pointing out that its exclusion would drive up consumer costs.

United States Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Warner then reportedly told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ban Huawei from taking part in its 5G networks.

Huawei in September denied similar reports that the Indian government had excluded it from taking part in joint 5G trials, saying it is currently proposing a set of solutions to support the government’s requirements for a nationwide 5G rollout.

South Korea’s largest carrier left Huawei off its list of 5G vendors, with SK Telecom announcing in September that it would be going with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung.

Huawei is still actively participating in 5G across the United Kingdom and New Zealand, however.

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Hispano Suiza Carmen Boulogne: New hyper EV promises more of everything

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Spanish coachbuilder and EV maker Hispano Suiza has announced the arrival of its newest Carmen-based hyper-luxury EV: Carmen Boulogne. From afar, the Hispano Suiza Carmen Boulogne shares particular design cues with Bugatti’s Chiron supercar.

However, there’s no mistaking those curvaceous rear fenders, a stiff salute to the brand’s pre-war racing cars. According to Hispano Suiza, the Boulogne name dates back to 1921 when the company built a racing version of its H6 Coupe, where it scored three consecutive victories in the George Boilot Cup from 1921 to 1923.

So yes, the newest Carmen Boulogne hyper EV has some racing heritage to its credit. But like the Bugatti Chiron, Hispano Suiza’s latest creation is a proper grand tourer with impressive performance and a welcome dose of luxury.

Similar to a standard Carmen, the Boulogne has two permanent-magnet synchronous electric motors on each rear wheel. However, those four motors are tuned to squeeze out 1,100 horsepower, 95 more horses than a regular Carmen hyper EV. Meanwhile, the torque rating is at a mind-blowing 1,180 pound-feet, accessible from zero to 6,500 rpm.

And whereas Carmen has a top speed of 155 mph (250 kph), Boulogne has longer legs and can reach a maximum speed of 180 mph (290 kph). The sleek and lightweight carbon-fiber body enables Carmen Boulogne to weigh 132 pounds (60 kgs) less than a base Carmen, allowing it to rush from zero to 60 mph in 2.6-seconds.

Having four electric motors in the rear (and a thousand foot-pounds of torque) might sound like a recipe for disaster, but it’s not. Carmen Boulogne has sophisticated torque-vectoring to prevent you from wrapping it to a tree.

Powering those four motors is an 80 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack, good for around 248 miles of effective range. Carmen Boulogne can fast-charge at up to 80 kW DC to replenish the batteries in 30 minutes when the juice runs out.

Hispano Suiza is only building 14 units of the standard Carmen, while only five Boulogne models are slated for production, making it more exclusive than a Pininfarina Battista or Lotus Evija.

If you like Carmen Boulogne, prepare your checkbook as base prices start from $2-million (€1.65 million) at current exchange rates. Each of the five cars will take twelve months to build, and the first delivery will happen in 2022.

Hispano Suiza Carmen Boulogne Gallery

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2021 Audi R8 RWD Panther Edition has red wheels and a stealthy vibe

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Audi of America has something in store for early reservists of the 2021 R8 RWD sports car. Unique to the North American market and limited to only 30 units, the R8 Panther edition will be the first rear-wheel-drive R8 models to arrive at dealerships this December.

We’ll get to those red wheels in a minute since the 2021 R8 RWD Panther Edition is brimming with likable details, like that Panther Black paint, for example. It has a deep, glossy black finish from afar, but the paint hue transitions from black to deep purple upon closer inspection.

No, we’re not fans of chameleon paint jobs, either, but Audi’s Panther Black paint is a sight to behold. We first saw this bedazzling finish at the 2019 L.A. Auto Show in an Audi RS 5 Panther Edition, but we never thought it’d look so good in the 2021 Audi R8.

Complementing its new Panther Black paint are a bevy of carbon-fiber exterior trim, including the mirror caps, side intakes, and the rear engine cover. Blacked-out Audi badges are standard, too, while 20-inch double-spoke matte black wheels complete the sinister vibe.

And as you can see, those gorgeous wheels have bright red accents. Love it or hate it, those red wheels are here to stay, but standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires will somehow ease the pain.

Meanwhile, the interior is black-and-red like the exterior. Crimson Red leather seats are standard, while the rest of the cabin is covered in black leather with red stitching. On the other hand, the steering wheel, gear shifter, and headliner are swathed in fine Alcantara.

The 2021 Audi R8 RWD Panther Edition remains motivated by a naturally-aspirated 5.2-liter FSI V10 engine, good for 532 horsepower and 398 pound-feet torque. With this engine, the RS RWD can sprint to 60 mph in 3.6-seconds, while the top speed is at 201 mph.

Additionally, all R8 Panther Edition models get standard sports exhausts along with LED headlights and taillights, dynamic turn signals, illuminated door sills, and a 550-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system with 13 speakers.

Audi said its 2021 R8 Panther Edition will arrive at U.S. dealerships this month. Base prices start at around $183,000 before taxes and destination.

2021 Audi R8 RWD Panther Edition Gallery

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2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 First Drive Review – Luxury you can’t ignore

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The 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 is the first-ever SUV from Maybach and, you could say, a playful jab – and somewhat less costly alternative – to other super-luxe contenders like the Rolls-Royce Cullinan and Bentley’s Bentayga. The Maybach name returned in 2015 as a sub-brand of the three-pointed star, and since then the automaker has sold more than 45,000 of its Mercedes-Maybach S-Class flagship sedans globally. In 2018, one in seven S-Class models sold was a Maybach.

Those sales figure alone explain why Mercedes is launching a two-pronged attack with Maybach this year. Having already driven the Maybach-flavor of S-Class a couple of months back, it’s hard to imagine topping that. Perhaps that’s why, though the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class could arguably be the best all-around luxury sedan on the market, Maybach’s first attempt at an SUV focuses on doing the same thing for trucks.

The Mercedes-Maybach GLS is built on the current third-gen GLS seven-seat SUV. Back when I drove that, I figured it was already pretty much an S-Class on stilts. The most powerful version – the GLS 580 – has a twin-turbocharged V8 motor with 483 hp and 518 lb-ft of torque. Figuring in EQ Boost generates 21 more hp and 184 more torque as required.

The new Maybach GLS 600 is also powered by the same 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 engine, only it’s a bespoke version of the motor built exclusively for the sub-brand. Power is up, rising to 550 hp and 538 lb-ft of torque, and it also has EQ Boost for a temporary electrified top-up. With a heavy right foot, the Mercedes-Maybach GLS will max out at 571 horsepower and a heady 722 lb-ft of torque; find the right stretch of desolate road, and it’s nothing short of glorious.

Ride and handling aren’t compromised either, with the GLS donating its 4MATIC variable all-wheel-drive system with an electronic multiplate clutch. For an SUV of this size, air suspension is a must, and sure enough the Maybach GLS can waft like the best luxe sedan.

A 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic gearbox routes power with a Torque-on-Demand feature. The drivetrain can send zero to 100-percent of available torque between the axles to consistently deliver surefooted grip, traction, and capable handling. I’ve driven the routes around Malibu on many drive programs – mostly in vehicles designed to excel at tight turns, rapid elevation changes, and off-cambers. This was the first time I’d had the opportunity to throw a massive SUV around this neck of the woods, and it’s a strange but addictive experience.

While you still feel the weight, it’s astonishingly nimble around tight and narrowing corners. You can absolutely push the GLS hard, particularly if you switch to the Sport or Curve drive modes whereupon the SUV borrows some of the playfulness of its sports car cousins. Would you want to do that with a full complement of passengers onboard? Probably not, but it’s a good argument for driving yourself.

With more power than a standard Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 and its clever AWD system routing that to the road, the Mercedes-Maybach GLS can rush from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 130 mph.

Power is a given, then, but the newest Mercedes-Maybach SUV shines brightest in the comfort department, or should I say, how it makes you feel like a genuine VIP on the road. Unlike a standard seven-seat GLS, the Maybach is configurable as a five or four-seater only, with the latter offering a quartet of fully-motorized captain’s chairs with standard heating and ventilation.

Compared to a Mercedes-Benz GLS, the rear seats are moved inward by 1.2 inches and pushed back by 4.7 inches, giving rear occupants more elbow room. With its lengthy 123.4 inch wheelbase, and thanks to leaving out the third-row seats, second row legroom is at a staggering 43.4 inches. Moving the front passenger seat in the ‘chauffeur position’ generates up to 1.34 meters (4.4 feet) of legroom, which is more than enough to extend your legs for a mid-journey nap. With a driver at the helm, I had a chance to experience the good life in the expensive seats; even as a tall guy there was space to stretch out.

Sleep is a very strong possibility, then, since the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS is as comfortable and silent as its Maybach S-Class sibling. All four or five occupants are wrapped in fine Nappa leather, while the brilliant wood paneling is reminiscent of the decks in ultra-expensive yachts. Fitted with a unique THERMOTRONIC climate control system – with a completely separate air-conditioner for the rear – the system blows cold or heated air as quietly as possible thanks to air ducts treated with a Teflon-like coating, and a special, super-quiet fan motor.

The unperturbed riding experience is courtesy of standard AIRMATIC air suspension with adaptive damping and E-Body Control. The latter is partly juiced by the EQ Boost 48V electrical system, with the GLS performing a complete road surface scan as you drive. The system compensates for any roll, pitch, and lifting movements to deliver the smoothest possible ride.

Regular Mercedes have Comfort mode, but for the GLS 600 the smoothest cloud-like ride comfort comes when you notch over to the Maybach drive mode. In this eponymous setting, the air suspension engages its cushiest configuration, while the transmission starts in second gear as you move from a stop. It borrows some strategy from the Curve drive mode, too, which keeps stability for what’s undoubtedly a large vehicle on twisting roads; for Maybach mode, the focus is ensuring the plushest, most stable ride settings possible for the rear passengers. Throttle response is blunted, and auto start and stop is also switched off, to make sure as little mechanical distraction as possible makes it through to the cabin.

And yet, the new Mercedes-Maybach GLS is strangely practical. It may only seat four or five adults, but it has a fixed partition in the rear compartment offering 525 liters or 18.5 cubic feet of luggage space: that’s more than enough room for four golf bags. In addition, the back shelf isolates the front and rear occupants from noise and vibration, leaving the newest Maybach among the quietest SUVs in existence.

Attention to detail is key, here, and little exemplifies that like the electrically-operated running boards. Standard on the Maybach GLS, they each measure 6.8 feet and run the side sills’ full length. The anodized aluminum steps have black rubber strips to offer a surefooted grip, and each running board brandishes a chrome Mercedes-Maybach emblem.

It’s more than a gimmick, I tell you. Those electric running boards make it a pleasure to board or depart the vehicle: the air suspension lowers the car by 25 mm upon opening a door, for easier egress, but the running boards allow you to step instead of climbing aboard your Maybach SUV. It just makes boarding and departing your vehicle more elegant, even when wearing slim-fit designer trousers or the shortest designer dress. They’re smart, too: if your leg is in the way when you open the door, the boards will immediately attract so as not to get those trousers or dress dirty.

As you’d expect from a Mercedes-Maybach, the GLS 600 is brimming with tech. It has a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, all of which are governed by the latest version of MBUX with voice control and artificial intelligence. It offers augmented video for navigation, similar to the S-Class, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. The Burmester 3D surround audio stirs the soul with its 27 speakers, 24 separate amplifier channels, and 1,590 watts of power.

Those in the back get an MBUX-powered rear-seat entertainment system, with a pair of 11.6-inch touchscreen displays. If even reaching forward is too much effort, an MBUX rear tablet – docked neatly in the rear center console – can be popped out and used to alter all the vehicle settings.

On the safety front, the new Mercedes-Maybach GLS is loaded to the brim. It has PRE-SAFE Plus, which primes the vehicle for a crash, and the executive rear seats have cushion airbags for added protection. Standard driver assistance systems include active speed limit assist, lane-keeping assist, active stop and go assist, blind-spot assist, traffic sign assist, and evasive steering assist. Thankfully for those huge, 23-inch wheels, the 360-degree camera is standard too.

The Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 starts at $160,500 (plus $1,050 destination), but you’ll be unsurprised to hear that the opportunity to customize is considerable. The SUV I drove rung up at $171,600, after additions such as a $800 champagne flute holder for the rear, $5,500 for the stunning R65 23″ Maybach multi-spoke forged wheels, $1,100 for the 4-seat configuration, $1,800 for the folding table in the rear, and a $1,100 rear refrigerator.

You pay more for the bespoke two-tone paint, too, but then the Maybach GLS is for people who aren’t really bothered in the least by six-figure price tags.

Choosing between an S-Class or GLS-Class won’t be an easy task when the first cars arrive in dealerships by the end of the year, but the Maybach GLS makes a compelling argument for going SUV. Capable of the same supremely-cosseting ride quality, but with more space and a lot more road presence, the only thing you sacrifice versus the sedan is the ability to arrive – relatively – surreptitiously. Perhaps the smartest money, then, puts both in the garage: something you can, conveniently, do for less than the price of a fully-loaded Cullinan.

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