New Fiber Optic Cable Will Boost Vanuatu’s Internet Access

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Local cable will connect to Fiji and allow for cheaper, faster usage

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, July 2, 2012) – Vanuatu is set to get a new fiber optic cable link which will dramatically improve its connection to the internet.

Currently the only option is slow and expensive satellite communications, but if all goes according to plan, fast internet should be available in Vanuatu by September next year.

Once the cable is in place, Vanuatu will see internet speeds 3,000 times faster than present levels.

The cable will also put Vanuatu in a position to compete with Fiji to host international call centers.

Vanuatu, like many other Pacific countries, has already seen the dramatic impact new communications technology can have.

The introduction of competition into the communications sector and the entry of Digicel into the mobile phone market massively increased the number of people with access to a phone services and had a measurable impact on economic growth.

Simon Fletcher, CEO of the Port-Vila-based company Interchange Cable Network hopes his new fiber optic cable will have a similar impact on internet access.

"This will be a quantum leap forward for Vanuatu in terms of its technical ability to meet the needs of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector," said Mr. Fletcher.

The new fiber optic cable will run across 1,200 kilometers of seafloor between Port Vila and Suva, in Fiji, where it will meet up with the main trans-Pacific cables, linking Australia and New Zealand with North America.

Simon Fletcher says the resulting faster, cheaper internet will open new opportunities for individuals, as well as businesses in Vanuatu.

"Telecommunications enhancements in bandwidth supply could offer products such as remote monitoring and diagnosis of medical conditions, MRI scans for example," he said.

"There could be a doctor in Australia viewing a live MRI scan in Port Vila, providing the technology is enabled to provide that. Also we may see in education, much more access to live education offerings in other jurisdictions, online degrees and lectures that require a far greater access to bandwidth than is currently being provided in Vanuatu."

Mr. Fletcher is hoping to reduce the risk of outages on the fiber optic cable by building a loop link which could bring in Solomon Islands or New Caledonia.

"Obviously, the first cable is the most important cable at this point in time but we see our growth opportunities in connecting to New Caledonia, via Lifou, or potentially connecting to the Solomon Islands, which has designs on connecting to the pipe cable network that runs down to Australia," he said.

"So the second cable will provide a level of redundancy and give a great deal more comfort to those that are looking to invest in Vanuatu ICT," said Mr. Fletcher.

"In the case of the unlikely event that one of our cables was to fail, we have another opportunity or routing path for those businesses to use so there is not disruption to their services."

The AU$31 million [US$31.7 million] first phase of the project will be built by French Communications equipment giant, Alcatel.

It is due to begin in August, once distribution contracts are finalized.

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