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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (Oct. 31, 2002 - Oceania Flash)---French global telecom company Alcatel said this week it has strengthened its position in the Pacific with a new client: Kiribati.

The company has been chosen to supply what will be Kiribati's first GSM/GPRS cellular network.

The first phase of the project will cover the main island of Tarawa and Christmas Island, where most of Kiribati's 90,000 population is located.

The system will operate mainly using prepaid mobile phone cards on "One Touch" type equipment with a capacity of up to 2,000 users.

Kiribati's telephone operator Telecom Services Kiribati Limited (TSKL) and Alcatel signed the deal valuing "several million dollars" in Nouméa on Monday.

"We chose Alcatel over other suppliers because they offer mobile operators a compelling end-to-end solution customized to our needs. Our cooperation with Alcatel will provide Kiribati inhabitants with advanced digital technology in terms of mobile networks," said Ieronimo Kienene, TSKL chief executive officer, in a release. "Alcatel's strong local presence in the Pacific islands was another element we considered, as we are guaranteed of qualified services and a solid relationship", Alcatel said in a release.

Alcatel's Mobile Networks President Marc Rouanne said the deal sealed this week with Kiribati was Alcatel's "fifth GSM network in the Pacific islands."

"This contract reinforces our leading position in this region and proves that our solutions are fully capable of meeting the needs of all Pacific islands telecom operators," he added.

Alcatel is present in several Pacific island countries and territories, including the three French overseas territories of New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna, as well as the independent states of Vanuatu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Samoa and more recently Australia.

Alcatel's activities cover both mobile and fixed phone systems, high speed Internet access and fiber-optic underwater cables (including the recently-installed Southern Cross cable that links the United States' West Coast to Australia via Hawaii, Fiji and New Zealand).

Also this week, Alcatel announced it had signed another deal with Australian operator Telstra to provide a 7300 ASAM (Advanced Services Access Manager) system.

This device was needed to help the Australian company meet an increasing demand for broadband services, especially in urban areas.

The deal is worth "several millions of dollars over a three-year period," Alcatel said, and should start being implemented this month.

The high-speed technology involved will allow Telstra to provide high-speed Internet access and online access to such products as video and music data.

"Broadband is the key growth area in telecommunications," Alcatel's broadband networking activities President Michel Rahier said.

"Telstra's decision to expand the coverage of its broadband infrastructure is an excellent step in extending the reach of broadband to many Australians and accelerating the uptake of broadband services ... Telstra is investing wisely in the long term success of broadband in Australia ... It is this sort of leadership that will drive the demand for broadband services to the point that today's highly valued services will be viewed as tomorrow's necessities," he added.

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