Tonga will have access to high-speed internet within the next few weeks as a result of a new cable being laid between the kingdom and Fiji.
This week, a fibre-optic cable is being connected to the Fijian company Fintel's southern cross cable, which runs between Australia, Fiji and Hawaii.
Fintel's manager of commercial sales and marketing, George Samisoni, told Jamie Tahana the cable will give Tonga a significantly faster, more affordable internet service than it currently gets with its satellite connection.
GEORGE SAMISONI: It'll allow Tonga to be part of the global bandwagon in terms of broadband and especially IP internet. At the moment they're on satellite, which is quite expensive. Now, even though it's capital-intensive initially, the cable will allow them to have broadband on the island.
JAMIE TAHANA: In terms of speed, what kind of distance would we see in that?
GS: It's a massive difference. They're looking at 2 by 10 gigs in terms of bandwidth, compared to what they're doing now, which is about 20-to-30 megabits per second, so we're talking about gigs there, which is huge. That'll be landing on to the island. And as it has happened in Fiji through the Southern Cross Cable, the flow-on effect into the domestic will be commended so the reach will be there for them to take at least 1 or 2 MB to each individual person on the island as we are doing here in Fiji on our national broadband policy.
JT: And who's funding this cable?
GS: The funding is by ADB, the World Bank and Tonga Cable Limited.
JT: What kind of project is this you're undertaking?
GS: It's a massive project. They're looking at about $US30 million. The laying commenced this weekend, so the cable is on the way to Tonga. And at the Fintel cable stations the cable is connected straight on to the equipment. So we're looking at round about the end of this month for it to be in service.
JT: Once this cable is in service in a few weeks it will be immediately there to be connected to?
GS: That's right, yeah. It'll be switched on and then that 10 gigs is available for Tongans and they can use Southern Cross for their bandwidth onwards. Vanuatu is the next island, and that's the next project to be connected to Fiji and hopefully to the Southern Cross Cable. That's the second project that started in January 2014. We've done the survey and that will certainly kick off in two months' time in tems of installation of the equipment. So for Fiji it's really materialising now in terms of being the hub of the Pacific thanks to the Southern Cross Cable, it's only Fiji then straight to Hawaii, whereas all the Pacific islands are missing out, mostly, on satellite and it's costly. So this cable project is really the end to the satellite costs and also the broadband designated for every Pacific Islander.
JT: How many nations are we hoping to connect to the Southern Cross Cable? How many does it pass by and not connect to?
GS: Initially, the World Bank did due diligence. Four islands were indicated - Vanuatu, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Samoa. The Solomons and Samoa are looking at options, while Vanuatu and Tonga have been confirmed to connect to Fiji.