From Niue ISP to rural NZ

Niue’s Emani Fakaotimanava-Lui, owner of RockET Systems Limited, is using his experience as an internet services provider on Niue Island to supply cheaper broadband access to rural New Zealand.

rsz_20140406_174205MakaNet is the New Zealand wholesaler for broadband satellite company Kacific, which is in the process of completing Kacific-1 – a purpose built satellite using a Ka-band and High Throughput Satellite (HTS) technology (and the Ka in Kacific).  The Kacific-1 satellite is planned to launch in 2018.

On Niue, MakaNet is already providing wholesale bandwidth via another satellite company and already signed up Niue, a year before for Kacific, once operational.

“But both can have mutual benefits such as taking what we’ve learned on Niue and applying it to rural New Zealand,” Mr Fakaotimanava-Lui said.

The Kacific-1 initiative should deliver cheaper broadband for the Pacific, South East Asia and New Zealand.  Rural New Zealand could also access better broadband via satellite for $1 a GB of data or about $1.25 wholesale. Although a potentially exciting development for isolated rural areas it is no surprise that MakaNet and Kacific have had mixed reactions from New Zealand’s ISPs.

The current players in the market continue to operate at higher prices than Kacific’s future offering.  Other major players who are providing fixed wireless via the Rural Broadband Initiative have also given MakaNet and Kacific a cool response so far, Mr Fakaotimanava-Lui said.

rsz_emani_lui_makanet_photo
“Being able to enable connectivity for underserved and unconnected communities is a worthy cause,” Mr Fakaotimanava-Lui says.

However, it is a significant development from a small Pacific Island based internet service provider from a smaller island, providing cheaper broadband services for isolated rural New Zealand communities. It highlights the potential for the Pacific to export valuable skills and services via the internet rather than relying mostly on its minerals, goods and tourism.

Mr Fakaotimanava-Lui’s RockET Systems is an established ISP business in Niue, set up in 1999 to support the wireless ISP.  It then acquired the entire ISP service for the island. Although initial set up costs of upgrades to the ISP were expensive the company thrived.

Mr Fakaotimanava-Lui said setting up as an ISP in New Zealand is an opportunity to introduce a new satellite service to the rural areas where there is either no service or it is both costly and unreliable.

“Being able to enable connectivity for underserved and unconnected communities is a worthy cause.”

Kacific-1 is designed to provide broadband access through tightly focused satellite beams using advanced Ka-band High Throughput Satellite (HTS) technology. They will be aimed at the Pacific Islands and South Asian archipelagos. Using several 400 to 500 Mbps beams, internet speeds will be faster with 17-20Mbps down and 2-5Mbps up but speeds could possibly go up to 40-50Mbps.

According to Kacific, the satellite is a scaled down version of an existing large HTS using existing technology and equipment designs. The aim is to provide fast, affordable and accessible broadband internet where end user terminals can be set up in 20 minutes with no installation cost.

The end user will require hardware of a 70cm-1.2m dish and cabling Mr Fakaotimanava-Lui said.

Kacific launched a pilot service in Vanuatu in July using bandwidth on an existing satellite provider, Telesat.  (NBR, July 2016).  Other Pacific Islands have signed up to Kacific individually. Mr Fakaotimanava-Lui is also planning another new initiative for the new year so watch this space.

For more information, please email Eleanor Ikinofo at Eleanor.i@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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