Cable comes with vow to cut data costs

Wednesday January 08, 2020 Written by Published in Local
The CS Reliance laying the Manatua undersea cable from Samoa to Rarotonga and Aitutaki.    TOKERAU JIM 20010717 The CS Reliance laying the Manatua undersea cable from Samoa to Rarotonga and Aitutaki. TOKERAU JIM 20010717

Local internet providers are promising cheaper data plans once the submarine cable goes live.

Cable operator Avaroa Cable Ltd says it will provide more competitive wholesale data pricing, supplied through the Manatua fibre link from Samoa and Tahiti.

In turn, Bluesky Cook Islands says if the access cost of internet from the cable provider is lower than the current satellite rate, their customers will get data at a cheaper rate.

Avaroa Cable chief executive officer Ranulf Scarbrough said the isolated location of the Cook Islands, and its small population, made an affordable service challenging, and they would not finalise wholesale pricing until later this year.

“However, Avaroa Cable Limited will set wholesale pricing to enable much lower retail data tariffs, as well as faster speeds and greater resilience and reliability,” he said.

The cable would enable cheaper, faster and more resilient internet on Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

“Cook Islands consumers and visitors have indicated that they feel the affordability, reliability and speed of data should be better.”

Scarbrough also said the new Competition and Regulatory Authority Act 2019, passed by Parliament in December last year, would see a regulator established with powers to review retail pricing. “Affordability is likely to be one of their focus areas.”

Bluesky country manager Phillip Henderson said the retail price of data capacity was a reflection of the wholesale cost.

Last year they negotiated a reduction in their international access costs and this was passed on to the customers in increased data caps. “If the access costs on Manatua are less then what we currently procure on satellite, then customers can expect to see this reflected in the data plans that we offer.”

A report last year found Cook Islands had some of the most expensive mobile data in the world, outstripped only by the likes of Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea and a handful of other Pacific and Caribbean island states.

Since then, Bluesky has increased caps and lowered costs – but it is still far more expensive than bigger countries.

Both Henderson and Scarbrough said the study was now outdated.

“I’m assuming they just took published rates from on line, which are not a true representation of the effective rate that customers actually receive,” Henderson said.

And Scarbrough noted that the study failed to take into account cost of living and operating costs in different countries. “For example, according to the data, India has very low prices but I suspect labour costs are low and prices reflect local affordability. Is it meaningful to compare prices in India to those in the Cook Islands? In short, no, it isn’t.”

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