Coral Sea Cable lands in Solomon Islands

By: Dionisia Tabureguci

Solomon Islanders will soon have access to faster, affordable and reliable Internet services as installation work on a new international submarine telecommunications cable landing begins in Honiara.

The Coral Sea Cable Network (CSCN), which will connect Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea to Sydney, Australia, is now only a few months away from completion. It will bring with it Internet capacity 30,000 times more than what currently exists in Solomon Islands.

“Exciting progress has been made as the Coral Sea Cable System touched down in Port Moresby on 29 June and Honiara on 14 July. These are significant steps in the project as they marked commencement if the cable network’s lay,” CSCN announced last week, adding that the cable laying vessel Ile de Brehart left Solomon Islands on the same day to continue the laying of the international component of the 4,742 km fibre optic cable.

An additional 730km will be built domestically to connect Honiara to Auki, Noro and Taro islands when the international component of the cable is completed.

Australian tech company Vocus Communications, which has been contracted by the Australian government to build and manage the network, said some of the 42 repeaters – key pieces of technology used to boost signals – placed along the cable length have been named after prominent or inspirational Solomon Islanders following a public competition held there in May.

Australia is co-funding the project along with the two Pacific nations.

“We’ve laid the cable from Port Moresby to a point in the Coral Sea where we’ll now lay the cable from Honiara to that same location, pick up the cable that’s been laid from Port Moresby, join that to a branching unit and then lay again to Sydney,” said Mathew Shields, Vocus technical lead for the project, in an interview with Solomon Islands television network Connect News.

The cable will land at Telstra’s Paddington Exchange in Sydney. Telstra is the cable’s landing party in Australia.

Upon its completion, CSCN will become the first ever international telecom cable to land in the Solomon Islands and will effectively end the country’s sole reliance on satellite connectivity.

In PNG the CSCN will add on to two international fibre optic cables currently in service there.

Of 21 countries scattered across the South and North Pacific, four, including the Solomon Islands, have never experienced Internet speed and capacity possible only through fibre optic cable and they rely totally on satellite services for their international communication needs.

With CSCN, Solomon Islanders will be able to fully enjoy what Pacific islanders in countries with robust cable connections now take for granted – services such as Internet enabled voice calls, live streaming and video conferencing, among others.

Overall, expectations are that cost of communication in Solomon Islands will drop, investment in ICT will increase, spawning more employment opportunities, and new technologies possible through improved Internet connectivity will boost services like education, health and small and micro enterprises. 

Once complete, PNG and Solomon Islands will majority own the international cable and according to CSCN, both countries will receive all revenue generated.

Solomon Islands will also own its domestic cable and all revenue generated.

With a construction timeline earmarked for between June to October, Vocus said the CSCN is on schedule to switch on for service in December.