South Pacific's Vanuatu grabbing fiber internet connection, sidesteps 'remote' stereotype

Ever been to Vanuatu? Neither have the vast majority of the world's inhabitants -- particularly those who simply can't function off the grid. For ages, the island archipelago has relied on sluggish, unpredictable satellite connections for eBay bids and liveblog following, but it looks as if fares to the blossoming nation are about to head even further north. Around this time next year, the Pacific Island destination will be connected to the real internet, thanks to an undersea optical fiber backbone cable linking it to nearby Fiji. Interchange and Alcatel-Lucent will be working to lay and operate the 1,230 kilometer cable system, which will "link directly into the high capacity Southern Cross Cable between Sydney and Hawaii." At first, the system will be equipped to handle 20Gbis/sec -- a figure that dwarfs the country's current capacity by 200x. In time, that should creep up to 320Gbit/sec, enabling your future vacation videos to hit YouTube in record time. Total cost? $30 million, or a drop in the bucket compared to the economic boom that's bound to transpire.

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Pacific Island's Vanuatu to join the world's optical fibre Internet backbone

Paris, April 14, 2011 – Interchange Limited, a Vanuatu based company, and Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) have signed a landmark agreement to deploy Vanuatu's first international submarine cable system linking Port Vila, Vanuatu, to Suva, Fiji. Scheduled for completion in mid 2012, this new system will deliver faster, more efficient and cost-effective Internet connectivity to the pacific island nation, while removing the current dependence on satellite and strengthening Vanuatu's competitive position as an e-business hub.

Interchange will construct, own, and operate the 1230 kilometre submarine cable system, which will link directly into the high capacity Southern Cross Cable between Sydney and Hawaii enabling Vanuatu businesses to connect to global telecommunications highway via USA, Australia, Asia and Europe.

Initially equipped for 20 Gbit/s data transfer, which is over 200 times Vanuatu's current capacity, the new submarine cable system is designed with an ultimate capacity of up to 320 Gbit/s to support the continued growth of Vanuatu's e-business economy well into the future. Its deployment will increase internet speeds for new and existing Internet Service Providers and deliver the lower cost capacity that Vanuatu needs to encourage economic growth and support its burgeoning tourist industry.

Interchange CEO, Simon Fletcher said: "This submarine cable will open new growth opportunities for the local economy. Vanuatu's current satellite connectivity is relatively expensive, with high latency and is capacity constrained. Interchange believes telecommunications infrastructure, via submarine cable systems, is the most cost effective and reliable means to bring high bandwidth capacity and technologies to Vanuatu facilitating growth in tourism and other industries."

"Projects like Vanuatu are further proof of the need for connectivity to extend high-speed communications in area that are still unserved or currently depending on satellite connections," said Philippe Dumont, President of Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks SAS. "Submarine cable networks provide a cost-effective and direct operational way to accelerate penetration of broadband access, while prepare for reliably supporting new applications such as data centre interconnections over time."

At a cost of USD $30 million, the submarine cable project is largely funded by the private sector. However the Government of Vanuatu has shown strong support for telecommunications infrastructure project with Vanuatu Post coming forward as a seed investor in Interchange Limited. The Vanuatu Government has also committed to the pre-purchase of capacity to enhance the utility of the e-government network by extending it internationally.

Vanuatu will now join Fiji, PNG, Samoa, American Samoa, New Caledonia and French Polynesia as smaller South Pacific Island countries which have a submarine cable.

Interchange Limited has secured an option with ASN for the extension of the system from Vanuatu to Noumea. This extension would enable connectivity for New Caledonia to Fiji as well providing Vanuatu with diverse cable outlets. The option can afford the benefit of an integrated solution reducing the cost compared to a separate standalone implementation. Such an extension would further enhance the network security for both New Caledonia and Vanuatu. This greater certainty of continued operation will equip Vanuatu to exploit its position as a pivotal location for e-business and data centres in the Pacific. Additionally the extension cable can run in close proximity to Tanna offering the potential for a cable connection between Vila and Tanna.