12 Nov 2013

Cooks government assessing options to speed up internet

6:10 pm on 12 November 2013

The Cook Islands Finance Minister says the government is considering a number of options to link up to existing undersea cables to speed up the country's internet access.

Mark Brown says the government is assessing its options, including a Hawaiki submarine cable with a trunk-line between the United States, Australia and New Zealand, a fibre optic connection between French Polynesia and Hawaii, and the Southern Cross undersea network.

He told Beverley Tse about the importance of affordable high-speed internet.

MARK BROWN: There's no doubt that there is a huge demand out there for faster speeds. But a price based on volume downloaded is going to have an effect of increasing monthly bills because the faster the speeds, the more volume you're going to use. So the key thing is if Telecom providers provide faster speeds they have to bring the unit price of those gigabytes that consumers use way down because the consumption is going to be enormous as you increase the speeds. And it's been evidenced everywhere around the world - when you increase speeds, volumes will increase. But you cannot have the same pricing structure on those increased volumes, otherwise households will get huge, enormous bills for the amount of volume that they use.

BEVERLEY TSE: Is there an incentive to trying to speed up internet, because there's so many tourists here and I'm sure they would appreciate having faster internet.

MARK BROWN: Absolutely. The business plan is there for companies to look at and adapt. The increasing use of mobile and hand-held devices, the increasing demand for high-speed, the use of social media, increasing number of tourists coming through the islands with all of these devices and demanding these services. There's no doubt that any telecommunications on the island would have to structure their business plan around those high-volume demands that these new mobile devices insist upon. So it's got to be high-speed, high-volume demands, but at a price that doesn't go through the roof. It's a balancing act, basically. There is a stage where people will not pay anymore no matter how fast it goes. But I think if you bring in the concept of competition then you will see the prices start to drop per gigabyte used per month while still enabling high-speed, which is what the consumer is demanding.

BT: Now, you've mentioned Telecom is considering a BGI cable.

MB: Telecom has invested in O3b, which is the new satellite system which is a global satellite system now - low-orbitting satellites which produce cable-speed broadband because they're at a lower-orbitting distance from the earth. But the government is considering investment options for a submarine cable. If we're looking into the future it will become inevitable that we need to put some investment into high-speed broadband connectivity. And the way to do that is through submarine cables. Currently there is a lot of investment throughout the Pacific in this.

Mark Brown says investing in higher-speed internet could cost the government US$25 million.