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Faster internet for Pa Enua ‘in the works’

20 Sep, 2021

Vodafone Cook Islands chief executive officer Phillip Henderson said when tourism stopped in 2020 the company entered “survival mode” and was unable to start the planned upgrade.

“We designed the Pa Enua’s complete overhaul right down to the exact dollar we needed. We got board approval to go ahead, spend all this money and build the outer islands up, but Covid hit and we had to put it all on hold because we couldn’t afford it.”

He said Vodafone’s profit margin was made from tourism.

But the upgrade is still planned and should take three to four days to fit out each island when everything is ready, Henderson said. The refit is planned to start 16 weeks after all the necessary parts for the upgrade arrive in the country, which could arrive next month.

Vodafone Cook Islands’ chief technology officer, Robert McFadzien, said the company plans to use a new product from O3B, which is the current satellite system that supplies internet for Vodafone’s services.

“They’re launching a new product that is very high power, very high capacity, so that’s what we were planning to use as the base to build our network in the Pa Enua,” McFadzien said.

Everyone in the Pa Enua will be able to use 3G and 4G on their devices when it’s rolled out, he said.

McFadzien says the new system will have very low latency, which is the time it takes for data to be transferred between the satellite and destination. He said it would be comparable to the Manatua undersea fibre cable at the moment.

Henderson said the redesign was needed for much more than entertainment and was useful for health and education.

The outer islands do not have doctors and have only nurse practitioners. Henderson said it means if someone gets sick, the government needs to pay for a medivac which costs between $6000 to $25,000 depending on what island they’re leaving from.

“Particularly up North, it’s important to fit the nurses with just ordinary tablets (computers) so they can consult live with a doctor here,” he said.

“High-quality video will improve the diagnostic capability on the island rather than that person being at risk of a missed diagnosed.”

Henderson said it was hard to estimate the timeline for the restructure because supply chains had been impacted by the virus.

But McFadzien said all going well, stock ordered in March would arrive in October.

Written by Caleb Fotheringham, CINews.