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Cooks opt for satellite telecom network

Could the Cook Islands become the next Bangalore of the Pacific? They do have the right technology to begin with but comparative telecommunication prices could prove to be the difference between being a technological hub of the Pacific or simply investing in technology that would become a luxury item – for those who can afford it. Cooks texting or short message service is amongst the cheapest in the region, a survey on telecommunication services found last year. Their 3G network launched last month plus the O3b satellite networks arguably ranks the Cooks amongst the top in the region.

Telecom Cook Islands Chief Executive Jules Maher told Islands Business their first four satellites were launched on a ‘Soyuz rocket’ from French Guyana last year. “A few weeks later we were able to successfully track these satellites as they circled in “Medium Earth Orbit” 8,000kms from the surface of the earth,” said Maher. Before that they relied on “GEO” satellite service, which stands for “Geostationary Earth Orbit” and has satellites placed 36,000kms from earth. O3b’s satellites are closer to earth and takes shorter time to send signals from the satellite to its destiny. “The time is reduced by 75 percent and the effect for us is that we now have internet service as fast as undersea fibre cable, at a fraction of the cost,” he said.

How does it work?: Maher said one antenna tracks one of the four O3b satellites as they fly across the sky at 8,000kms altitude. “When that satellite is just about to disappear over the horizon, the second antenna picks up the signal from the next satellite on the opposite horizon and starts tracking that.” O3b’s plan was to launch a second set of four satellites at the end of September 2013 but this was delayed because of a technical hitch. “These next four will be launched sometime in the first half of 2014 but in the meantime the Cook Islands is fortunate to be in a geographical position that can get full service from just 4 satellites,” added Maher.

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