Additional InformationLess than half of all Pacific Islanders have a phone and generally only had one supplier for any particular fixed, mobile or Internet service. Internet cafes and telecentres help to address the issue of low Internet penetration. To communicate outside the region, most islands are in a satellite footprint and both Fiji and Guam are connected by submarine cable.
Penetration rates of telecom services in the region remain comparatively low, although mobile and Internet penetration have gained traction in some of the more highly populated and developed islands such as Fiji, PNG and Guam. Access to basic telecom services remains relatively expensive.
Following the 2007 Pacific Islands Forum in Tonga, officials revealed that strong progress had been made to the digital connectivity plan. The strategy largely comprises two parts, a dedicated Pacific Islands satellite system sponsored by Australia, and the construction of a new cable connecting the 12 member nations and partially funded by the French government. Pacific leaders are aiming for a 2008 implementation of a major new undersea cable network and satellite links servicing island nations throughout the region.
Mobile telephony is expected to continue outpacing growth in fixed-line connections as the market moves into 2008. New technologies are gaining ground in some island countries. Several of the South Pacific nations are upgrading satellite links to outer islands, installing wireless broadband and upgrading fixed-line broadband capability and some are rolling out high-speed ADSL2+ broadband. There is strong interest amongst South Pacific operators regarding WiMAX as a communications solution.
In November 2007 Fiji’s first licensed VoIP service provider, VoiceNetIP (Fiji) Ltd, planned to launch commercial operations after waiting three years for its VoIP licence.
The islands comprised a total economic market of about US$20 billion. The Pacific Islands Trade Agreement (PICTA) governs the tiny proportion of trade that is conducted between the islands themselves in the region.
In November 2007, after a lengthy process, the Fiji interim government passed a New Telecommunications Bill that fully deregulated Fiji’s telecom sector. The New Bill effectively ends the exclusive privileges granted to Telecom Fiji, Fintel and Vodafone Fiji.
The Pacific Island Countries have three major options in terms of improving telecommunications access - satellite communications, submarine cable, and mobile wireless computing.
There are few submarine cables in the region, therefore, satellite communications plays a critical role in both the national and international infrastructure.
Mobile telephony is expected to continue outpacing growth in fixed-line connections as the market moves into 2008.
Fixed-line broadband via ADSL, WiFi (wireless broadband via hotspots), fixed access wireless broadband and satellite broadband are now available in number of countries (see below).
Several South Pacific nations are upgrading satellite links to outer islands, installing wireless broadband and upgrading fixed-line broadband capability with a number rolling out high-speed ADSL2+ broadband.
There is strong interest amongst South Pacific operators regarding WiMAX as a communications solution. Operators are attracted by its relatively low-cost, simplicity and mobility upgrade path.
By July 2007, Paclink’s WiMAX installation had seen Fiji’s Fintel claim 68% of its Phase 1 target market, which comprised large enterprises and government departments, in Suva.
By July 2007 a wireless broadband WiMAX project was planned for OPT in New Caledonia as well as Tahiti later in 2007 by WiMAX vendor Paclink.
The University of the South Pacific reported that by late 2007, there should be an island-wide WiFi network installed on Nauru - the world’s first ever island-wide WiFi/WIMAX network powered by Renewable Energy.
WiFi services are now available throughout Tonga.
Broadband availability by access type - 2007 - 2008
Country Fixed-line ADSL WiFi Fixed wireless Satellite
Niue - X - -
Guam X X - -
New Caledonia X - - -
French Polynesia X - - X
Cook Islands X X - -
Papua New Guinea X X - X
Fiji X X X -
Vanuatu X - - -
Tonga - X X -
(Source: BuddeComm based on industry data)
GSM networks have been growing in the region, with 14 islands groups connected with GSM-900/1900 networks.
In 2006 a choice of mobile operators was available only in Tonga (two cellular networks), Guam (five networks) and North Mariana Islands (three networks), while the remaining South Pacific countries still had monopoly providers.
In October 2007 GUAMCELL launched a GSM overlay across the island.
By 2007 Samoa had two additional new cellular providers in operation - Digicel Samoa Ltd, launched in 2006 and incumbent fixed-line provider SamoaTel, which launched services in 2007.
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