The recent round of deregulation brings promise (Digicel launches in two weeks), but the internet is still an area of uncertainty because the monopoly license on the sole internet gateway (Southern Cross Cable) has not been challenged. And more importantly, FINTEL seems to have been able to hold off efforts to deregulate in this area because it is on the hook to the network owner C&W, soon to be acquired by AT&T.
FINTEL is well aware that to challenge their dominant status, govt. would have to pry control of the gateway from them–at an estimated price tag of $300 million, that is out of reach of Fiji Govt. finances.
Additionally, investing in a competing new cable running to say American Samoa, Hawaii, or New Caledonia would come at a price of about $100 million, which is also out of reach.
Annnouncement this week of Google’s investment in a new satellite business venture that seeks to provide broadband internet access at low and reduced rates to Africa, Latin American, and Asian countries offers a great deal of promise to Pacific Island countries.
While the O3B website does not list the Pacific as an area where they will operate, we can only cross our fingers that when they launch their satellites in 2010, the Pacific will be part of the coverage. The concept of satellite-based 3G wireless internet backhaul to get ISPs up and running in developing countries is extremely exciting and offers hope to the 3 billion people who still do not have internet access.
See also my previous post on how regulators can enforce ‘functional separation’, which would have to be done in Fiji to pry loose Fintel’s grip on internet backhaul in Fiji.
Next post: How mobile usage might affect the move toward expanding internet infrastructure in Fiji.