An unexpected explosion in data demand has encouraged Bluesky to increase its satellite capacity, and reward its most loyal customers with about three times more data.
The company’s 2285 broadband subscribers and 2001 postpaid mobile customers will get far more attractive deals, allowing them to either use much more data – or spend far less money.
There are grumbles, however, that there’s nothing in today’s announcement for prepaid customers – mostly those on lower incomes – and fears that the added demand may choke the country’s already snail-paced upload and download speeds.
A Cable report earlier this year found the Cook Islands had some of the most expensive data in the world, outstripped only by the likes of Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea and a handful of other Pacific and Caribbean island states.
But as of today, the data allowance for a customer on a $119 mobile phone plan is increasing from 12GB to 30GB a month.
A $139 Broadband Plus customer’s data cap will rise from 25GB to 80GB, and a $699 Broadband Mega’s data cap will rise from 150GB to 800GB.
One Mega customer, Fletcher Melvin, said the internet had become an essential part of daily life for his business and family.
The increase was good news as people would get more for their money. “The teenagers in my house are very happy with the news and I can certainly see more opportunities opening up for businesses and education in schools,” he said.
Bluesky buys its internet capacity from international satellite firm O3b Networks. That company has launched more satellites into orbit – and so over the past few months, Bluesky has done a deal for more capacity.
Bluesky country manager Phillip Henderson said customer demand for data had exceeded expectations, so they were pleased to be able to pass on the benefits of their new deal to customers.
Local IT expert and Techtro Solutions owner George Ngatikao said the new prices would be good for the Cook Islands, making the country a more attractive place to do business. “One downfall here on the island has always been our Internet usage, pricing, reliability and speed,” said Ngatikao.
Ngatikao is hoping for even more opportunity with the new undersea fibre cable set to hook Rarotonga and Aitutaki up to the world, in May next year.
The Manatua Cable would bring almost unlimited broadband, Ngatikao said, with faster speeds like the rest of the world – and the government also plans to break the Bluesky monopoly and open up the market to other telecommunications providers.
Dr Ranulf Scarbrough, chief executive of Avaroa Cable Ltd, said the new offers from Bluesky are clearly a welcome boost for consumers.
“This shows the threat of competition from the new cable is already working to make O3b reduce its prices. Competition is a key aim of the government's new Telecommunications Policy and it’s great to see it having an effect before it’s even fully in place,” said Scarbrough.
However, he said the Cooks Islands still had a long way to go to get the speeds, affordability, reliability and resilience seen on other Pacific Islands. “The Manatua Cable is fundamental to achieving that and will enable improvements well beyond those announced today once it goes live and for many years to come,” said Scarbrough.