The Proposal was presented at the third Annual International Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Conference currently underway in Samoa by Digicel chairman Denis O’Brien.
According to media reports, the company executive called for a partnership between the private sector and various governing bodies to work together on the proposal, which would see a cable run from Papua New Guinea, through Pacific islands states, and onwards to Australia.
“The private sector must partner with the World Bank, Asia Development Bank, IFC, The European Union and Pacific Governments to come together to build a submarine cable in order to close the digital divide that exists where Pacific Island nations do not have access to broadband”, O’Brien said, according to media reports.
Digicel is proposing the cable to begin in Papua New Guinea, and connect Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands, before terminating in Sydney.
According to one media report, the proposal was supported in principle by World Bank Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte, who is said to have indicated that the World Bank would consider following if Digicel were to lead on the project.
It is unknown whether the proposal will compete or compliment an existing project by Hawaiki Cable, which is behind a proposal to run a 14,000km international telecommunications cable that plans to connect New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii and the United Sates.
Finance Minister Mark Brown, who also holds responsibilities for telecommunications in the current caretaker Government, has indicated the Government’s interest in the project by potentially having the Cook Islands connected to the cable through a “linking spur” on the main trunk line.
A price tag of $30 million has been suggested as a “ball park figure” to get the Cook Islands involved in the cross-Pacific project.
In July, the NZ Government-owned Research and Educational Advanced Network New Zealand (REANNZ) put their signatures on a $65 million contract to purchase bandwidth capacity on the cable, bringing the project a step closer to fruition.
It has been speculated that the Hawaiki project could be in operation by 2016.
Digicel is currently making an effort to enter the local telecommunications market, and has made a conditional agreement with Telecom New Zealand – now known under the corporate name ‘Spark’ - to purchase its 60 per cent stake in Telecom Cook Islands for $23 million.
Two local consortiums have also made offers for Spark’s majority TCI stake, which the Kiwi company is evaluating through its assessment process. A company official has said details will be disclosed “in due course”.
Brown said he found Digicel’s cable proposal an interesting development, which he attributed to what he described as an evolving industry.
“It just confirms the fast changing state of high technology companies, and the emerging opportunities for countries to be part of the global digital, online economy,” he wrote in an email.
Competing submarine internet cables for the Pacific region?
Global telecommunications firm Digicel has announced a proposal for a submarine internet cable linking Pacific nations – an idea that could potentially bring broadband service to the Cook Islands.
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The Cook Islands News Team