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Progress towards addressing capacity issues in Samoa
The geography of the Pacific region has made internet connectivity a serious problem for the many islands dispersed over vast oceanic spaces. Submarine fibre-optic networks are expensive to build and maintain, with capital costs that are prohibitive for the smaller island communities. Some countries have to rely solely on geostationary satellites. As a result, bandwidth is limited and broadband prices are extremely high.
However Samoa is beginning to address its international capacity issues with a major public-private project underway. Facilitated by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (WB) and the Samoan government, it will see high-speed telecom improvements in Samoa via a fibre optic submarine cable which will connect Samoa (Upolu and Savai’i) with the Southern Cross Cable Network in Fiji (Suva). The Tui Samoa cable, as it known, will be co-financed by the ADB, the WB, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) as well as the Samoa Submarine Cable Company (SSCC) which also incorporates other smaller investors. The project is expected to cost around US$49 million and should be available by the end of 2017.
There are two other cables planned which will also serve Samoa. These include the construction of the MOANA Cable System which is forecast to be completed in 2018. It will link New Zealand to Hawaii, as well as serving Samoa and American Samoa. It is to be built by Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks and BlueSky Pacific Group.
Samoa has one of the highest rates of mobile phone coverage in the Pacific region. Samoa has over 100% mobile penetration (including multi-SIM ownership) and almost full mobile network coverage based on a mix of 2G and 3G technologies. While Papua New Guinea and Fiji will be the two major markets for 4G technology in the South Pacific region going forward; there is also progress towards 4G LTE in Samoa with Digicel Samoa officially launching its network in mid 2016.
Key telecom parameters – 2013; 2016
|Subscribers to telecoms services: (e)|
|Fixed Broadband users
(Source: BuddeComm based on industry data)
- In mid 2016 an acquisition was underway which would see Amalgamated Telecom Holdings (ATH) purchase the South Pacific operations from Amper SA, a Spain based enterprise. This acquisition would include the purchase of BlueSky Samoa. The acquisition was expected to be finalised by the end of September 2016.
- The consensus is that a mix of technologies will be used to service the Pacific region going forward, including mobile, satellite as well as fibre-optic submarine cables, and that a coordinated planning approach at the regional level is essential for network resilience, performance, value for money, and extent of coverage.
- Singapore start-up Kacific Broadband Satellite is developing a broadband offering for the Pacific region and in 2016 private investors from the US and Australia had contributed around US$22.3 million to the project collectively.
- In May 2016 Digicel Pacific announced it would be working with O3b to upgrade its capacity in Papua New Guinea as well as conduct smaller upgrades for Samoa and Nauru.
Companies covered in this report include:
Amalgamated Telecom Holdings (ATH), Amper SA, Blue Sky Samoa, Computer Services Limited (CSL), Digicel Samoa, Kacific Broadband Satellite, O3b, Samoa.ws