Low Key Intro for 4G
Telecom Niue is quietly going about its task of introducing the 4G network and making the necessary changes to their customers’ smartphones. There are a few technical issues to be resolved, for example, some users cannot use the phone unless their home wifi router is disabled. This is because the frequency that 4G is using is close to that of the wifi router. There are also blind spots that engineers are working to plug with additional access points. Boat owners will welcome the fact that they can now ring home from between Mutalau and Lakepa but there is a blind spot off the coastline at Toi, likewise from the south of Lakepa to Limufuafua point.
Those who are now connected to 4G appear to be happy with service in general and with the ease with which they can access the internet for emails and to check the bank balance. Some consider the service to be expensive but Telecom Niue is offering several options from which customers can make a selection to suit the pocket. Some of the elderly who are not into emails and social media are calling for a straight phone service only.
Delay to marine cable
In the meantime, according to Telecom Niue’s general manager Colin Talamahina, there is now a delay to the Manatua marine cable until 2020. Niue has agreed to a partnership with three other Polynesian countries, Samoa, Cook Islands and Tahiti to fund the cable. But the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce has raised serious doubts if the Manatua project, as currently configured, is the most cost effective for Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Niue too for that matter.
In a submission to their government, the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce is calling for a review of the project with regard to its proposed configuration and connections. It suggests that no financial commitment be made until an independent legal, economic and financial analysis has been completed.
The submission claims that based on current estimates and in the absence of any economic and financial analysis, the indicative cost from the Manatua consortium of $200m is at least equal to the current price for a Satellite service and four times the forecast cost of Satellite when the cable is ready for service.
The planned configuration for the Manatua cable is for it to run from Samoa to French Polynesia with spurs to Niue, Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Bora Bora. To connect to a main supply cable, Samoa will run a cable, the Tui Samoa Cable from Apia to Fiji where it will connect to the Southern Cross cable that runs from the US to Sydney.
CICoC says a better option would be to connect the Manatua cable to the newly commissioned Hawaiki cable running from the US to Auckland and Sydney. It is understood that the Government of American Samoa had invited the Manatua consortium to follow its lead and become part of or to connect to the Hawaiki cable.
This approach was backed by the Government of French Polynesia. The Manatua consortium did not take up the offer despite the fact that American Samoa is now enjoying a much improved connection and at an affordable cost using Hawaiki.
With the Southern Cross cable coming to the end of its life in 11 years time, CICoC says it makes sense to look at the new Hawaiki cable that is capable of providing different levels of service according to the end user.
Given Niue’s size and ability to pay, we are pretty much at the mercy of our bigger cousins. Nevertheless that should not be a deterrent to getting the best possible deal. ICT [Information and Communications Technology] has become an important component of our economy.
It is predicted that in the next 5 years, the cost for a Satellite service will drop considerably due to improved technology. Polynesian solidarity aside, it is as well for Telecom Niue and its owner the Niue Government, to select the best undersea cable deal for the island, or be prepared to face stiff competition from Kaniu.