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«TA-7787 REG: May 20113 Cook Islands: Report on the Feasibility of an International Submarine Cable System for the Cook Islands For The Minister of ...»

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Technical Assistance Consultants’ Report

TA-7787 REG: May 20113

Cook Islands: Report on the Feasibility of an

International Submarine Cable System for the

Cook Islands


The Minister of Telecommunications and the

Government of the Cook Islands

May 2013

Prepared by

Hugh McGarry and Noelle Jones

Principal Consultant Principal Consultant

Garnet Consulting Network Strategies

Australia New Zealand This consultant’s report does not necessarily reflect the views of ADB or the Government concerned, and ADB and the Government cannot be held liable for its contents.


– ADB Asian Development Bank – ADB-PSOD ADB Private Sector Operations Department – ADM Add Drop Multiplexer – ADSL Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line – American Samoa – Hawaii (Cable System) ASH – ASN Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks – BBI Broadband Internet – BCCD Broadband Commission for Digital Development (ITU) – BMH Beach Man Hole – BTS Base Transceiver Station – BU Branching Unit – Capex Capital Expenditure – CIR Committed Information Rate – CoC Chamber of Commerce – CI Cook Islands – CLS Cable Landing Station – EDGE Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution – EIA Environment Impact Assessment – EIRR Economic Internal Rate of Return – EMP Environmental Management Plan – FIRR Financial Internal Rate of Return FOC Fibre-Optic Cable – GNI Gross National Income – GSM Global System for Mobile communications – GPRS General Packet Radio Service – HV High Voltage – ICT Information and Communications Technology – IEEE Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers – IFC International Finance Corporation – IM Instant Messaging – IRR Internal Rate of Return – IRU Indefeasible Right of Use – ISP Internet Service Provider – ITU International Telecommunication Union – JV Joint Venture – LDC Less Developed Country – LPA Landing Party Agreement – LTE L

–  –  –

1.0 Executive Summary

1.1 Major Findings

1.2 Next Steps

2.0 Introduction

2.1 Background

2.2 Scope

2.3 Consultancy Approach

2.3.1 Stakeholder Meetings

2.4 Limitations of the Study

2.5 Structure of the Report

3.0 Cook Islands Telecommunications Sector Profile

3.1 Introduction

3.2 Existing Suppliers

3.2.1 Telecom Cook Islands

3.2.2 Other Suppliers

3.3 TCI Network Infrastructure

3.3.1 Mobile & Mobile Data

3.3.2 Fixed Line and Broadband Internet

3.3.3 Wi-Fi Hotspots

3.3.4 National Backhaul Networks

3.3.5 International Networks

3.4 Other Networks

3.5 Government Use of ICT

4.0 The ICT Regulatory Environment

4.1 Background

4.2 Going Forward

4.3 Telecommunications Regulatory Reform and Investment

5.0 Analysis of International Submarine Cable Route Options

5.1 Geography

5.2 Background

5.3 Methodology & Design Issues

5.3.1 Design Assumptions

5.3.2 SCS Operating Costs

5.4 Analysis

5.4.1 Regional Changes since the 2009 Assessment

5.4.2 Cable Landing Sites on Rarotonga

5.4.3 International Routes Shortlisted

5.4.4 Rarotonga-Samoa Repeatered Cable (1,631kms)

5.4.5 Rarotonga-Tahiti Repeatered (1,631 kms)

5.4.6 Spur and Branching Unit on New Third Party Cable

5.5 Summary of International Cable Options

5.5.1 Cost Summary of Options

4 5.6 Selecting a Preferred Cable Option

6.0 Submarine Cable or Satellite?

6.1 Introduction

6.2 Performance Comparisons

6.2.1 Latency or Delay

6.2.2 Capacity

6.2.3 Availability

6.2.4 Natural and Man-made Hazards

7.0 Demand analysis

7.1 Fixed broadband

7.2 Mobile broadband

7.3 Voice telephony and SMS

7.4 International leased circuits

8.0 Financial & Economic Comparison

8.1 Capital costs

8.2 Operating costs

8.3 Revenue

8.4 Sensitivity Analysis

8.5 Financial and Economic Benefits

8.5.1 E-Government services

8.5.2 Telehealth

8.5.3 Reversing the population decline

8.5.4 e-Banking services

8.5.5 Increase in consumer surplus

8.5.6 Other benefits

9.0 Financing and Institutional Arrangements

10.0 Conclusions and Next Steps for Consideration

10.1 Conclusions

10.2 Next Steps for Consideration

11.0 Acknowledgements

Appendices Appendix 1 Terms of Reference for Technical Consultancy

Appendix 2 Terms of Reference for Financial and Economic Consultancy.............. 54 Appendix 3 An Introduction to Submarine Fibre-Optic Cable Systems

Appendix 4 The Project Phases of a Submarine Cable System

–  –  –

The Government of the Cook Islands has recognised that without a reliable supply of lower cost good quality broadband Internet its socio-economic future would be compromised. This feasibility study was commissioned by ADB for and at the request of the Cook Islands to determine if an international submarine cable was feasible particularly when compared with the new reduced cost and low latency (when compared with the existing geostationary satellite) of the O3b satellite solution due to come into service later in 2013. The study identifies what at this time appears to be the best route option for an ultra-high capacity international submarine cable system (SCS) and then compares the medium- to long-term performance and cost benefits of the broadband capacity it would provide with that of O3b.

In February 2013 specialist technical and socio-economic consultants were engaged to complete the study. The consultants travelled to Rarotonga during February and March 2013 and consulted with stakeholders including Government, Telecom Cook Islands, the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce and other relevant organisations.

These meetings confirmed a growing need for more affordable and better quality broadband. An extensive review of relevant existing and proposed policy and regulatory documentation was undertaken. Discussions were also held with potential landing party partners in Samoa and several leading suppliers of submarine cable systems, and budgetary quotations were obtained for the supply of cable systems and landing party services in Tahiti.

1.1 Major Findings

At this time a direct cable from Rarotonga to French Polynesia (Tahiti) represents the most feasible and most likely route for an international submarine cable and so this configuration has been used as the basis for a cost-benefit comparison with O3b’s satellite service due to be introduced in the Cook Islands later this year. The capital cost of this cable is estimated at US$33.6 million.

Note that the selection of this preferred cable route for the analysis does not rule out the possibility of other route options worthy of consideration emerging over the next 12-18 months.

With the important proviso that concessional loan funding can be secured and providing the projected demand is realised there appears to be a sound case for the Cook Islands to invest in and implement an international submarine cable system within the next 5 years.

The primary reasons for this conclusion are:

–  –  –

Meanwhile in the short to medium term O3b should bring to the Cook Islands the anticipated benefits of more plentiful capacity, lower price and better quality broadband that is needed to meet increasing demand for affordable broadband Internet and the surge in growth anticipated from the introduction of 3G mobile services later this year. If an international submarine cable was to be introduced towards the end of Telecom Cook Island’s 5 year contract with O3b, those satellite services could then be very usefully redeployed under a new contract to provide essential national backhaul and international diversity capacity.

1.2 Next Steps

In the event that the Cook Islands Government decides to proceed with the plans for an international submarine cable a ‘road map’ has been proposed for consideration.

It calls for an early engagement with potential lenders to the SCS project and for the establishment of ongoing high level dialogue with French Polynesia, Samoa and possibly other countries or investors in cable systems so that an awareness can be maintained of any changes to existing cable options as well as future developments.

It is also important that over the next 18 months following the introduction of both 3G mobile services and the O3b service that the level of demand is monitored to confirm it is achieving the growth that has been projected to justify the introduction of a cable system.

Finally it is suggested that a coherent and appropriate regulatory framework for telecommunications will, as is already planned, need to be implemented and decisions made concerning the future ownership and structure of Telecom Cook Islands in order to minimise the level of investment risk that providers of funding for a SCS might otherwise perceive.

2.0 Introduction

2.1 Background In September 2010 the Broadband Commission for Digital Development1 presented to the ITU and UNESCO a landmark report titled “A Leadership Imperative – The

Future Built on Broadband”. The report states that:

1 http://www.broadbandcommission.org/#about

–  –  –

The Government of the Cook Islands recognises that a reliable supply of affordable good quality broadband Internet – now widely regarded globally as essential infrastructure, similar to electricity and water distribution networks – is crucial to the economic growth of the country and the improvement of its people’s lives. In the case of relatively isolated Pacific nations such as the Cook Islands the major hurdle to achieving such a supply has been a total dependency on expensive geostationary satellite capacity.

Following a request in 2012 by the Cook Islands Government, the Asian Development Bank in January 2013 engaged two specialist consultants under a Technical Assistance program as part of its Pacific Regional Information and Communications Technology Connectivity Project to undertake a study on the feasibility of an international submarine cable system for the Cook Islands.

2.2 Scope

The scope of the telecommunications study, as stated in the collective Terms of Reference for both consultants, was primarily to investigate the medium- to long-term technical, financial, economic and institutional feasibility of an international submarine cable for the Cook Islands in comparison with alternative satellite-based solutions. While both consultants have worked in close liaison with each other, Hugh McGarry was engaged to focus primarily on the technical, regulatory and institutional aspects of the study, with Noelle Jones undertaking mainly the financial and economic analysis.

The outputs of the telecommunications study as described were to comprise broadly


–  –  –

2.3 Consultancy Approach ADB’s Technical Assistance program for this consultancy commenced in January

2013. The technical consultant while attending the annual Pacific Telecommunications Council in Hawaii in January 2013 met with O3b in order to gain a fuller understanding of the technical and commercial aspects of the MEO satellite services that have been contracted for delivery to Telecom Cook Islands in the second half of 2013. While in Hawaii meetings were also held with the Office of Posts and Telecommunications (OPT), French Polynesia and the CEO of Blue Sky Samoa since these two countries are possible landing points for any future Cook Islands international submarine cable system. Meetings were also held with SCS suppliers Alcatel Submarine Networks and Huawei. Both suppliers agreed to assist the study by providing budgetary capital costs (ROM) for a short-list of possible cable configurations.

The consultants travelled separately to the Cook Islands in mid-February and early March for meetings with stakeholders as part of the data gathering exercise. Further discussions were held with Pua Hunter of the Cook Islands Government, TCI and O3b during the APT/ITU Pacific Forum Conference in Samoa at the end of April. A final visit was made to the Cook Islands in May to share the draft study with the Cook Islands Government prior to its finalisation.

The work has been carried out in Rarotonga and at the consultants’ respective homeoffices.

A Desk Review was performed, encompassing documents considered relevant to the

project, including:

–  –  –

2.3.1 Stakeholder Meetings Introductory and information gathering meetings were held with the Cook Islands Government Ministries and Departments and private sector entities who were likely to have an interest in the future of broadband Internet availability. The purpose was to brief stakeholders on the objectives of the study and to understand any particular

existing or future broadband needs that they may have. Those met included:

–  –  –

2.5 Structure of the Report Following the Executive Summary and this Introduction, the Telecommunications Sector Profile (Section 3) describes the state of telecommunications services and infrastructure development in the Cook Island. An assessment of the Cook Islands regulatory landscape follows in Section 4.

Section 5 examines the most feasible options for international submarine cable connectivity. Sections 6, 7 and 8 compare in terms of performance and medium- to long-term investment value the most favoured of the SCS options with O3b’s MEO satellite service; due to be activated in the 3rd quarter of 2013.

Section 9 examines the institutional arrangements that could be adopted to own and operate a submarine cable as well as funding options for the venture.

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