The Pacific Island countries and territories of Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia are populated by about 10 million people, who are spread over about 30 million km of the earth’s surface. Pacific Island countries face common challenges resulting from their small size, geographic isolation, similar tropical climates and natural disaster vulnerability. This sub-region is experiencing high levels of poverty and slow economic growth for which international and domestic connectivity offer relief.
For these isolated peoples, satellite technology has been a huge asset. The broad reach and weather-resilience of C-band communications have been essential in bringing the islands into a regional and global community. In the 21st century, the island populations are also optimal consumers of satellite technology to deliver broadband connectivity, and the industry is rapidly expanding use of other frequency bands to meet these needs. These complement and distribute broadband connections which are increasingly delivered by submarine fibre cable – however landing points occur at discrete places, and require some extension and further penetration to disparate islands, by some form of radio (eg.satellite) or terrestrial network. Also, the most convenient form of broadcasting is still by satellite.
C Band usage in the Pacific already delivers many essential services, including telecommunications services; trunking for voice, internet, data etc); video content access and distribution; emergency communications and disaster recovery; submarine cable restoration; linking remote islands to main islands; and extending mobile coverage in remote locations. C Band VSAT services allow shared bandwidth, bringing costs down and efficiency up.
However, while satellite competition is strong and there is good coverage, many of the small islands only have small operators with small volumes of consumers which keeps the prices high compared to other locations. Additionally, with rapid technological development the smaller operators face the challenge of too many different satellite technologies to embrace. High throughput satellites should help increase the bandwidth in the future and begin to address this need.
Ongoing challenges in the Pacific Islands include pressure for access to the C Band spectrum from mobile telecoms operators; the fact that the region is a remote and geographically challenging part of the world with a number of the countries listed as UN’s Least Developed Countries; and a need to increase the bandwidth capacity across all of the region.
Due to the number of Pacific Island nations, as a voting bloc within the ITU they represent a substantial proportion of the membership.