From Dreams to Reality

Surge in Subsea Cable Connectivity in the Pacific Islands

George Samisoni of FINTEL discusses the importance of providing international connectivity to small developing island states around the globe

By George Samisoni
July 22, 2021

Introduction

The small Pacific Island nations of Niue, Tokelau and Christmas Island each have a population of less than 2000.

Niue is now connected to a subsea cable, whilst the Tokelau and Christmas Island will experience subsea cables with capacities in the gigabits for the first time, landing at their shores before the end of 2022.

What were only dreams have turned into realities.

The social and economic impact for the island nations would be enormous as they board the global subsea cable telecommunications bandwagon.

The international connectivity of small island developing states (SIDS) remains key to their economic development and creation of their own information society.  Access to international subsea cable networks at reasonable costs, including submarine cable capacity is central to the realisation of universal broadband access policy goals in many Pacific island countries.

Most Pacific Island nations have attracted significant public and private investments in subsea cables for their sustainable network infrastructure and international internet bandwidth.  Deployments of subsea cables have been rapid for the last four years.

Subsea cable investments are capital intensive. The multilateral development banks recognize the significant lack of capital in the Pacific Island nations for subsea cable connectivity, whereas the economic impact could be immense.

The lack of affordable, good quality internet access thus came to be identified as the principal constraint to further ICT diffusion and long term economic and social development more generally.  This coincided with the recognition that greater integration of the island economies, both nationally and with the larger neighbouring economies, was essential to the sustainable development of the Pacific islands and overcoming the economic costs of distance.

Towards these ends official development assistance from multilateral development banks, has in recent years been directed towards the construction of submarine cables to the Pacific islands and, once landed, economic reforms to ensure the potential economic benefits are realised.

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