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Broadband, mobile services hit in Solomons due to cable damage

Friday 12 May 2023 | Written by RNZ | Published in Regional, Solomon Islands


Broadband, mobile services hit in Solomons due to cable damage
An IT&E diver checks an undersea fibre optic cable Photo: IT&E/23051219

Solomon Islands' internet submarine cable has been damaged affecting broadband and mobile services to parts of the country.

Solomon Islands Submarine Cable Company has confirmed to RNZ Pacific that the damage to the cable was caused on Wednesday when a foreign flagged vessel dropped its anchor on it.

A spokesperson for the cable company said they are scrambling to get a repair vessel dispatched - most likely from Asia - but it could take three to five weeks to fully repair the cable.

Solomon Islands Telekom says broadband, mobile and landline services in the provincial centres of Auki on Malaita, Noro in Western Province and Taro in Choiseul province have been affected.

Together the three provinces account for around 41 percent of the country's population.

The chief technology officer for the local telco, Michael Palmer, is attempting to boost its satellite and microwave links to provide some connectivity but services will be patchy and slow.

Solomon Islands is connected to the Coral Sea Cable System which links the country and Papua New Guinea to the major East Coast Internet Hub in Sydney, Australia.

The interruption to internet services could not have come at a more inopportune time for Solomon Islands which is preparing to host the Pacific Games in the capital Honiara later this year.

Prior to this week's incident the most recent undersea cable incident in the Pacific involved the Southern Cross Cable in Tonga which was caused by the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haapai volcano in January 2022.

Repairs to that cable were completed a month after the eruption.

In January 2017, the Marshall Islands had a three-week internet blackout caused by damage to the Hantru1 Cable System which connects it with Guam and the Federated States of Micronesia.

In 2018, the Northern Marianas experienced a unique situation where a telecommunications company threatened to cut its fibre-optic cable over an unsettled debt of $US1.3 million.

After the recent Tonga undersea cable damage - which was its second cable incident in three years at the time - University of Canterbury law professor Karen Scott said it exposed vulnerabilities within the global communication system.