Broadband in the Pacific


The Pacific Broadband Forum 2012, convened by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Oganisation and the International Telecommunications Union, together with regional partners PITA, PiRRC and SPC, is currently being hosted by the Fijian Ministry of Communications on Denarau Island, Fiji.  This morning’s session provided a wealth of information about the current status of broadband roll-out across the region.  Sadly, my fingers and brain were insufficiently co-ordinated to record everything that was said, but I hope that the following notes may be useful for those interested in ways through which ICTs are being developed in the region:

Cook Islands

  • No policy and regulations in place for broadband
  • There is a national ICT policy – based on 6 platforms
  • New national sustainable development plan – will have to align with this.
  • Legislation: 1989 Telecom Act; new draft bill in consultation; SPAM act 2008; electronics transactions bill; evidence act (needs to be updated); cyber crime legislation in development. But most need training in implementation.
  • Many challenges – budget, lack of implementation capacity, lack of consultation with stakeholders
  • Need to establish a regulator

Federated States of Micronesia

  • Connected with fibre optics with the Kwajalein to Guam (USA) since 2005 (spurs to Marshalls and elsewhere)
  • President Mori said need to connect all islands, and a regulator
  • 2007 ADB issued report on liberalisation, regulation and community service requirement
  • Hantru cable became operational in Pohnpei – eight 20 Gbps capacity to Guam; other islands are not yet connected.
  • Close links with World Bank who have conducted studies and due diligence
  • Optimising on current investments.
  • Debt servicing of DSDA loans that enabled what was originally done.
  • There will be sector reform to liberalise the market
  • Next challenges – to endorse the policy and the FSM Congres will need to endorse World Bank Assistance and the Telecommunications Sector Reform.

Kiribati

  • 33 atolls over 3.5 million km2; population of only 112,000
  • relies on satellite
  • fixed line 4.14%, mobile 1.04%; internet 2.07%
  • prices of telephony and internet are very high
  • monopolistic market TSKL sole ICT provider
  • World Bank funding for ICT review and advice
    • Policy and legal support
    • Regulatory support
    • Outer islands connectivity support
    • Project management support
  • 9 telecentres funded by government; PACRICS provided internet connectivity in 10 secondary school

Marshall Islands

  • 68,000 pop, 34 islands
  • broadband – 2 urban cities have cable installed; gsm sites in four islands. Telecentres. DAMA sites.  Aim to cove all country by end of 2012.
  • ICT policy should be in place by end of August and will provide for market liberalisation, regulator, cybercrime
  • Only 1% of submarine cable in being used
  • Remote area is getting connected for e-health, e-learning and climate change
  • Difficulties: connecting the unconnected; teamwork; perfect competition; consumer satisfaction; move small
  • Challenges
    • Costs of backbone
    • Geographical challenges for operations
    • Quality and reliability
    • Costs of bandwidth
  • 2008 National ICT Policy
    • NICTA regulator
    • Aims to have efficient ICT infrastructure as backbone
    • Open competition
  • 2012 National Broadband policy
  • LNG Fibre cable project announced – cable is piggy backing on the pipe

Nauru

  • Population less than 10,000
  • Regulator – enabling environment
  • Challenge of ability to provide broadband – only one service provider.  Bandwidth to increase by 30% in next month.  Talking with O3b to increase
  • If you cry hard enough you are bound to be heard.
  • Need to lay the foundations and have regulations in place
  • Major reforms in last decade in telecoms sector.  Telecom Act 2005 established regulator in 2006 which introduced competition
  • Competition has worked even in a small island
  • PM Chairs national IT committee – it is important to have leadership from the top
  • Draft masterplan for broadband supported by ITU
  • Universal access policy
  • Shared infrastructure
  • c. 95% coverage
  • Looking at 2nd submarine cable

Niue

  • Just one island – the Rock (260 sq kms); population 1600.
  • Telcom Niue – sole provider and regulator; two ISPs
  • Fixed line 60%; mobile 30% (only introduced July 2011); broadband 1% (introduced April this year)
  • Bills before Parliament (SPAM, Cybercrime, Draft ICT Policy)
  • Issues for Niue: very small market means lack of service and difficulties of setting prices; satellite bandwidth, but costs are too high for us; capacity building.
  • Free wifi access – arrangement with manager of top level domain nu – to develop access on the island.
  • OLPC has not really worked that well – laptops breakdown very easily and no back-up; and not managed properly. Children took them home and did not bring them to school except when they were broken.
  • Future plans – looking to develop services.

Palau

  • 240 islands; population 20,000
  • mobile coverage 98%; internet subscribers 6%; fixed broadband 2%
  • 113 mile long underground and submarine SONET cable connecting 3 islands.  Using VSAT to reach remote islands.  Radio also used in isolated areas for emergency.
  • PNCC (Palau National Communications Corporation) provides the majority of communications services
  • Palau Mobile Corporation commenced operations in 2006 and offers GSM services (3G hopefully will roll out next year).
  • Palau Telecoms licensed for Digital TV and internet – yet to start mobile service
  • Skyfy yet to offer services, but is licensed
  • Mobile services can reach 98% with mobile density being 80%
  • 2011-2014 Palau National ICT Policy (thanks to ITU)
  • Expanding broadband and international fibre optic cable connectivity

Solomon Islands

  • Cable plan 2013
  • Setting up 50 GSM sites
  • 3G services launched by Telekom and Bemobile
  • establishment of universal access fund policy
  • costs high

Tuvalu

  • No-cable islands dreaming for cable
  • Population 11,000; landlines 1182, mobiles 2525, Internet 4000
  • Monopoly
  • Current activities: e-government, national ICT policy, cyberlegislation, licensing
  • Challenges: funding, human capacity, geography (500,000 sq miles), high costs of ICT, poor energy supply
  • Plans: strengthening outer island connectivity, disaster risk reduction (very vulnerable – one tsunami would take us all across to Fiji), offsite backup

Vanuatu

  • Been challenged in court and politically, but has come through that as an independent regulator
    Minister was ‘in bed with’ one of the telcos and has now been taken off – so ICT responsibility is in the Prime Minister’s office.
  • Technical advisors funded by the World Bank and AusAid.
  • ICT for all (7 goals)
  • Very strong Universal Access policy in draft – has been sitting on Minister’s desk for a year – but will hopefully now go through (only raises funds from operators for specific projects)
  • Zero rate importation tax for all ICTs
  • 2015 access to broadband connectivity for 85% of population
  • Spectrum available 700 MHz LTE and 3G
  • Submarine cable being led by Interchange
  • Employment is growing in the sector – now 2500
  • Telcentres in Rensarie and Melsis high schools; Nebul and South West Bay health centres – need to provide many additional services in the centres.  Quite slow take up; importance of the manager; potential for agriculture.
  • All stakeholders must work carefully together
  • High schools and health centres are a priority
  • Using mapinfo to find the most cost effective way to deliver services
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