Fast broadband Internet for a growing connected population

By Wilson Leguvaka, CEO

The international Coral Sea submarine cable was a milestone achievement for Solomon Islands. It brought fast, reliable and potentially unlimited communications and Internet bandwidth capacity to the tune of 20 Tbps or 20,000 Gbps. Consider that before the Coral Sea started commercial operations on 1 February 2020, the total international bandwidth for the country was about 2 Gbps.

So what else has changed?

For Pacific Vaizeds, the Coral Sea infrastructure and the sectoral reforms through the Telecommunications Act 2009 under stewardship of Commissioner Bernard Hill of the Telecommunications Commission of Solomon Islands (TCSI), brought opportunities that were not thought possible. In September 2019, the company started operations as the 4th Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the country, operating with maximum 5 Mbps bandwidth via C-band satellite. With the technical assistance of the Submarine Cable Company (SISCC), Pacific Vaizeds migrated all its customers from satellite to Coral Sea on 1 February 2020. After SISCC adopted wholesale volume traffic pricing on 1 June 2021, Pacific Vaizeds became the first ISP to offer retail traffic pricing to its customers with the “Family/Student Plan” at SBD$650 for 30 GB per month. The advantage of volume or traffic pricing is the unlimited speed. So for its customer connected using Telrad 4G LTE CPEs, the average speed is about 50 Mbps Download and 30 Mbps Upload with no contention. Pacific Vaizeds still offers its customers Bandwidth pricing plans, similar to all other retail ISPs in the country.

Pacific Vaizeds is pleased to have the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC) as a customer, providing fast, reliable Internet for Cabinet Conference Room and for its virtual meetings with international participation. Other crucial customers are the Solomon Islands Maritime Authority (SIMA) and the Pacific Games Secretariat Office.

An exciting milestone achievement for the company was the installation in November 2021 of broadband Internet connection for the NFD Office in Noro, Western Province. Connectivity to Noro uses the Coral Sea (CS2) and Solomon Islands Domestic Network (SIDN) submarine cable infrastructure, and then by 100 Mbps microwave backhaul / last mile to the NFD offices. In March 2022, that microwave backhaul will be upgraded to 750 Mbps.

The important lessons over the last two years of Pacific Vaizeds operations are:

  1. The TCSI application of the Telecommunications Act 2009 has proven useful for deregulation and innovation purposes, and supportive of new small entrants.
  2. The significance and value of the Coral Sea (CS2) and SIDN submarine cable infrastructure to Solomon Islands and its people will continue to transform the social, economic and political development of the country, and particularly the provinces.
  3. Even as a small operator, Pacific Vaizeds has introduced proven innovative technologies at affordable prices, to add to the coverage by the incumbent operators.
  4. The NFD, Noro installation is a successful proof-of-concept for the Pacific Vaizeds presentation to OPMC that it is possible to extend the CS2 and SIDN high speed bandwidth by microwave backhaul and Telrad 4G LTE / pre-5G wireless to cover about 60% of the whole country and its 725,000+ population.

In just over two years, Pacific Vaizeds has 40 customers in Honiara, many of those in previously unconnected areas and one in the Western Province. In its current contract with SISCC which includes 1 Gbps over SIDN to each of the three cable landing stations in Auki Malaita, Noro Western Province and Taro Island in Choiseul, the expectation is to offer the same prices in the provinces as in Honiara.

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