Slow to at times non-existent internet speeds are severely hampering the development of the Tuvalu Fisheries Department. Email communications within the country and with the outside world are extremely poor for most of the staff and it is very difficult to research topics, access resources (such as support resources provided by our Regional Technical partners), transfer data and search for and buy much-needed equipment. Communications are many times worse on the outer islands, and communications with outer islands fisheries monitors extremely poor. The Kacific system described below may be just the thing we are looking for to handle Fisheries’ needs for internet, and the Department is eagerly awaiting the start of services in mid 2016.
Singapore-based Kacific Broadband Satellites signed a five-year service agreement in 2014 with Tuvalu Telecommunications Corporation (TTC) for the provision of high speed bandwidth throughout the country. Using a single dedicated beam directed from its Ka-band high-throughput satellite (HTS), Kacific will initially provide TTC with 80Mbps of bandwidth capacity, which will be gradually increased to 150Mbps within four years. Currently, the country has less than 20Mbps of capacity.
In early December 2015 Mr Jacques-Samuel Prolon, the General Manager of Kacific Broadband Satellites visited Funafuti and described the plans for the services, which are expected to start in mid 2016. Initially the company will use a partner satellite from Condo-sat to provide services, but that will eventually be replaced by their own satellite focused on the Pacific. The services will start at 50 Mbps (mega-bits per second) in 2016 which is twice the current bandwidth (using Ku-band). By 2018 using Kacific’s own satellite this will be increased to 80 Mbps (Ka-band); followed by an upgrade to 120 Mbps in 2020. The company will guarantee the same price in the first years despite using other equipment than their own. They are currently designing dishes capable of working with both bands (Ku-band and Ka-band). Interestingly, because the Tuvalu islands run in a line from north-west to south-east, the circular focused beam suitable for most Pacific countries will need to be made elliptical to fully encompass all islands in the group.
The technology to be used is relatively new, but has been tested (over 10-15 years and 2 million subscribers) and is working well. It has been deployed in other parts of the world, but is new to the Pacific. This new technology differs from other satellite services because instead of covering a large footprint area, the beam is focused into many smaller footprints avoiding wasting the ‘beam’ on large empty areas of ocean. The footprint map looks like many small circles (500 km wide) focused on human cities, settlements and islands. The signal is 10-15 x more powerful than the broad beam satellite services more commonly in use up till now. This, in turn, allows the beam to give many times greater bandwidth in the focus areas, with faster speeds, a small (70cm wide) dish, and many times cheaper cost for subscribers. This can be installed on any roof top.
The service will cover 20 countries in the Pacific and has been shown to lead to higher penetration of the market (i.e. greater % of subscribers) because the cost to each is much cheaper to access, and subscriptions can be shared (e.g. a group of schools may get their own shared subscription). In a World Bank study it was found that in mature economies 24.3% are subscribers of this kind of service, while in developing economies, this goes up to 86.9% at a 25% price reduction (1). The dish is the only equipment needed, and this can be assembled by either a professional or do-it-yourself in 20 minutes, using a recommended direction and elevation (around 53-59 degrees in Tuvalu). A sound signal is used to complete the alignment. In cases of disasters, communications can be re-established from a suitcase very quickly. The signal would bounce from Tuvalu to 2 gateways (one in Indonesia, and one in Australia) to join the world-wide web. An example was given that USD $5 would provide 2,460 webpages, or download of 1,066 songs, or 17 hours of Skype with video, or 237 hrs of Skype with voice only. The cost of a dish (terminal) is around USD $400, plus a one-off charge for the subscription of around USD 280; so the system can be up and running for around USD $680; with a recurring cost of $390/month for 7-10 Mbps.
(1) Taylor, R.L. & Berry-Springer, A. 2014 Driving Demand for Broadband Networks & Services.