High Speed Fiber Optic Cable Project In Solomons Delayed

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Agreement to connect to Guam, Sydney cable could not be reached

By Ofani Eremae

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 1, 2013) – Plans to launch the country’s first submarine fibre optic cable network at the end of this year are now not possible.

Instead, Solomons Oceanic Cable Company (SOCC) says the multimillion dollar project will now be completed in mid 2015.

SOCC, a joint venture between Our Telekom and National Provident Fund (NPF), has been tasked to develop the project, which aims to boost internet and communication links with the outside world.

The company’s chief executive officer Robin Russell said their initial plan, developed last year, was to connect to the established Pipe Pacific Cable No 1 (PPC-1), which connects Sydney and Guam, by inserting a new Branching Unit at the nearest point to Honiara, about 450 kilometres to the west.

However, Mr Russell said SOCC was unable to reach agreement with PPC-1’s owner for the interruption to service that would be necessary to insert a new branch.

"Following this setback, we are now working with the Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC) of PNG on a joint project to provide international connectivity to both Honiara and Port Moresby," Mr Russell said.

"SOCC still plans to connect to PPC-1, but will now utilise a Branching Unit, that was inserted in the cable when it was originally laid in 2009 with a view to providing future service to Port Moresby.

"This branch requires a 900 kilometre spur from Honiara," he said.

Mr Russell said SOCC is disappointed that they were unable to implement their original plan.

"But we are now pursuing a solution that we think can be delivered close to original cost estimates.

"By working with IPBC, we will be able to benefit from a larger scale project that offsets the cost of the additional length of cable.

"We anticipate there will be no increase to the prices we will need to charge our customers."

"SOCC and IPBC expect to conclude negotiations with the PPC-1 owner, Pipe Networks, in the first quarter of 2014 and to complete the project, including connections to Auki and Noro as originally planned, in mid 2015."

The project is estimated to cost $420 million (USD$60).

Financing will come from a grant and loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to the national government, as well as SOCC’s shareholders and commercial financing.

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