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Pa Enua set to get online upgrade

Wednesday 2 November 2022 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in Business, National, Outer Islands

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Pa Enua set to get online upgrade
Vodafone CEO Phillip Henderson (left) and Office of the Prime Minister chief of staff Ben Ponia sign a new agreement to bridge the digital divide between Rarotonga and the Pa Enua. - 22110105

The Outer Islands online connectivity is improving with authorities looking to have it on par with Rarotonga in the next six months.

Vodafone Cook Islands and the Cook Islands Government have signed a new agreement to provide upgraded 4G cellular networks.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown got to test the new network in Manihiki last month when he was there with New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

The networks “proof of concept” was launched in Manihiki in December.  

Brown, who livestreamed part of his Manihiki trip in October, said the online connectivity was comparable to countries like New Zealand and Australia.

“[It was] as fast as if not faster than the service here on Rarotonga.

 “It was just seamless, I know the people on Manihiki have been enjoying it over the last few months,” he said.

Brown said the signing of the agreement with Vodafone marked the beginning of efforts to “bridge the digital divide” between Rarotonga and the Pa Enua.

Prime Minister Mark Brown says the connectivity upgrade was “seamless” when he trailed it in Manihiki. - 22110104
Prime Minister Mark Brown says the connectivity upgrade was “seamless” when he trailed it in Manihiki. - 22110104

A media release from the Office of the Prime Minister said the Pa Enua Telecommunications Agreement would be rolled out over four years at a cost $2.5 million. The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the Telecommunications Grant Funding will contribute $2.4 million.

Brown said the quality of online connectivity was a factor considered by people thinking of living and working in the Pa Enua.

“It certainly gives them the incentive to be able to live and work in the Pa Enua, it's just one of the critical components.”

High quality broadband would also help deliver education services and improve medical services, Brown said.

“There is so much you can do with online applications.”

Brown said better connectivity in the Pa Enua was critical in the government achieving the National Development Agenda and the Economic Development Strategy which said: “Every Cook Islander has equal access to basic services and economic opportunities”. 

“This digital upgrade complements the government’s new income tax policy for the Pa Enua and will encourage our people to consider living and working in the Pa Enua,” the PM said.  

Brown said depopulation occurred when the Pa Enua was left out of services available in Rarotonga.  

“You've got to be able to deliver a level of service the same across all the islands.

“Internet connectivity, broadband, is one that we can do using the satellite services that Vodafone is engaged with, it's possible, and that's why we're doing it.”

Vodafone CEO, Phillip Henderson said the outer islands would “come online” with the new service in six months but he was confident it would happen beforehand.

Henderson said “fibre in the sky” technology would be used in the Pa Enua and would deliver cable like latency at 120 milliseconds.

Henderson said this was similar to the latency of the Manatua cable that is used in Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

Latency is the time delay it takes for data to travel between the sender and the receiver. Slow latency is most noticeable in online gaming and video calls.

Henderson said since the proof of concept was launched in Manihiki live streaming on the island was “going gang busters”.