Rural satellite broadband and new LTE services come to Vanuatu
Telecoms services have progressed significantly in Vanuatu in recent years and in 2016 there have been two milestones reached with both the launch of LTE services by one of the leading players, Digicel, and the introduction of a rural satellite broadband service by Kacific.
Mobile phones have become the primary mode of communication across the country, bringing deep social changes. As of 2015, more than 92% of the population is covered by a mobile network TVL's reaches about 80% of the population, and Digicel's around 90%. However, in rural areas mobile phone use is sometimes limited by electricity shortage, having to rely on solar cells, batteries, and diesel generators.
While fixed broadband penetration remains low in Vanuatu (1.63% per 100 inhabitants in 2015), it did grow significantly between 2013 and 2014 when operators began investing more heavily in fibre optic cables and the ICN1 submarine cable landed. This resulted in an increase in capacity and subsequent reduction in broadband pricing.
Following this, mobile broadband infrastructure also expanded and improved with pricing drops also applied to mobile internet subscriptions. Mobile and fixed broadband penetration in Vanuatu now sits at a more
robust penetration rate of around 45%.
Vanuatu has developed a Universal Access Policy (UAP) which aims to make the following ICT services available to 98% of the population by 2018:
narrowband data services, including text messaging;
broadband with a download speed of at least 21Mb/s and an upload speed of at least 12Mb/s.
The UAP fund is subsidised primarily by AusAID. In September 2015 the TRR announced it had signed Undertaking Agreements in regards to the UAP with Telecom Vanuatu, Telsat Broadband and Digicel Vanuatu. Key telecom parameters 2013; 2015 Sector | 2013 | 2015 Approximate subscribers to telecoms services: (e) Fixed Broadband subscribers | 310 | 4,297 Fixed-line telephony | 5,500 | 4,800 Mobile phone subscribers | 127,200 | 174,818 (Source: BuddeComm based on industry data)
Mobile subscriber growth grew strongly in 2015, despite the devastating impact of Cyclone Pam in March of the same year. This was attributed to the fast recovery efforts by the mobile operators to both fix the damaged networks and reconnect users as quickly as possible. Multiple SIM ownership continues to be common in Vanuatu, with many customers subscribing to both mobile networks in order to take advantage of discounts and special offers. Mobile broadband internet growth is expected to remain strong in Vanuatu in the coming years, in comparison to other Pacific islands where adoption is already high.