11 Oct 2013

Some teething issues with Tonga's high speed internet

7:06 pm on 11 October 2013

The rollout of Tonga's high-speed internet has brought teething problems but local businesses are still welcoming its introduction.

An 800-kilometre fibre optic cable system now links Tonga to Fiji via the Southern Cross Cable, which is the main trans-Pacific link between Australia and the United States.

The cable was launched in late August.

Amelia Langford reports.

The state-owned Tonga Communications Corporation, or TCC, is the only network provider in Tonga using the cable at this stage, with Digicel set to follow. The board chairperson of TCC, Aloma Johansson, says there are some hiccups to iron out.

"ALOMA JOHANSSON: Right now, the company is experiencing some problems because there are congestion problems with the current network and the company is working on improving that and there are already measures in place to have a better network system."

Aloma Johansson, who is also the President of the Tonga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says feedback on the new internet system has been quite varied.

ALOMA JOHANSSON: You have people who are very pleased with it, who say that the speed and volume is brilliant and you have others who complain that it is not working as they had expected.

Aloma Johansson says the high-speed internet rate is about 35 percent cheaper than the original satellite connection.

Paki Orbassano, who is the general manager of the Waterfront lodge and cafe, says the lodge has received good feedback from guests about its internet service.

PAKI ORBASSANO: I have a few customer who told me that they are very impressed with the internet here at the Waterfront. And I told them that we are with fibre optic already and they were very impressed about it. They said that's very good, when they went on the internet it was really really fast.

Paki Orbassano says the lodge can now provide customers with a better service. But the owner of the Billfish Restaurant and Bar says there are some teething problems apparent. Liz Sullivan says it is currently quite expensive for users, be that a business or private residence, and she's not rushing to join up yet.

LIZ SULLIVAN: We look forward to when they have done their homework and bring forward something a little more affordable for the businesses as well as the people because we want to see this go ahead and be successful.

Liz Sullivan says faster internet is a great development for Tonga and will benefit a range of sectors - including the burgeoning call-centre industry. A spokesperson for the Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society, Etuate Cocker, says it's a new era for Tonga.

ETUATE COCKER: We've been in the dark age for a long time. Internet in Tonga was a bit of a nightmare in the way that if you tried to connect to the internet it's very slow sometimes, you get unexpected downtimes, and trying to download a small file takes a lot of time.

But Etuate Cocker expects the cost will eventually go down for users, once more internet service providers start using the fibre optic cable.