Broadband internet for Solomons in 2016
High Speed internet for Solomon Islands in 2016
The Solomons Oceanic Cable Company says it will have a broadband network up and running in three of Solomon Islands major urban centres by March 2016.
The Chief Executive of SOCC, Robin Russell, says tenders for the project are already out and most of the worlds major network providers have registered.
Mr Russell says bidding will close on the 12th of December and a tentative start date for construction has been set for March 2015.
ROBIN RUSSELL: The bid itself is a turnkey construction contract, for construction of a network, that will connect Honiara, for an international link and to Auki in Malaita Province and Noro in Western Province. Currently Solomon Islands is serviced a 100 percent by satellite for international telecommunications. The project itself is moving into the phase of finalising its financing. And the tender will close on the 12th of December. So we are aiming for a financial close at the end of February 2015, which will allow construction to commence in maybe March 2015, ready for service in about March 2016.
KOROI HAWKINS: How much is this going to cost and who is paying for it?
RR: We think that the cost will be somewhere south of US 70 million dollars, which is a substantial investment for Solomon Islands, so some of the funding is being provided by the Asian Development Bank, through the Solomon Island Government. The shareholders in SOCC are two Solomon Island entities, that is the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund and Our Telekom and they are providing equity funding. And then on top of that, there is commercial debt funding.
KH: How important is this for Solomon Islands, in terms of having more access to broadband?
RR: It's absolutely critical, there are both physical limitations to satellite capacity, in terms of the absolute capacity that can be delivered by satellite and also there is a linear cost structure, which means that the cost is relatively high. So a submarine cable has several virtues, first of all, its faster, its also more reliable and its, most importantly, lower cost per megabit per second and that's the critical element. So in essence, if the digital divide in Solomon Islands is to be bridged, it's got to be done with a submarine fibre optic cable.
KH: Has there been anyone come forward yet? Are you interested in any particular entities? And who is going to own or who is going to be managing this gateway? If I may call it that.
RR: Well we've already registered bid interest from all the major, potential submarine network suppliers world wide. Which there are not many and, there's less than ten, but all of the main ones have already registered their interest and we expect bids from most of those. In terms of ongoing operations it will be operated and managed by SOCC from the Solomon Islands. Submarine cables are now connecting more and more of the Pacific Island Nations and its a welcome development in Solomon Islands for sure. So its part of a, I guess a bigger thrust towards submarine connectivity throughout the Pacific.
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