Everyone wants affordable and better internet

By The Editorial Board 13 April 2024, 10:00AM

The cat is finally out of the bag as the Regulator has made it clear that it was last year when Space X’s Starlink was approached to provide services in Samoa. Digital dreams are looking more than possible now.

It was revealed that it was the Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa's initiative to fully support the satellite services as a convenient and faster service provider for Samoa. Internet is becoming a necessity in this modern world.

It is a fact, that internet connectivity is not the greatest in certain places, some places have zero connectivity and the price of internet is high. There is a demand for high-quality internet that can be accessed from the remotest of places and is affordable. Knowing that the government was working to bring in Starlink is welcome news and the Prime Minister did make a push for something that would ensure internet access for everyone.

There are gaps in connectivity and Starlink would be crucial in filling those gaps. The local telecom service providers do not have 100 per cent coverage and a large number of the population are not able to either access or afford the internet.

Fiame was in New York when a presentation was made and following that the company was approached to set up in Samoa. For this to happen, a local partner is needed as the Regulator has stated.

The surprising aspect of this development is that Bluewave Wireless will be the local partner for Space X's Starlink satellite services.

The Regulator, Lematua Gisa Fuatai Purcell on Wednesday revealed plans by Space X to operate in Samoa and also confirmed that Space X had selected Bluewave Wireless as their local partner and there was no tender process.

She provided a list of service providers and they selected Bluewave.

You don’t get any technical support from Starlink. You can’t call Starlink. You can’t email them. All you can do is go to the website, enter your credit card details, and then a box arrives at your door. The rest is up to you to install it, to get it up and running, to configure it, and if you don’t know how to do that, you need someone to help you with that.

If Bluewave is made responsible for Starlink, they surely would be looking at a profit margin themselves. At this point, it cannot be said if Starlink would be cheaper than current prices.

The other thing that is bothering most people is that Bluewave was formerly responsible for the school internet project and that did not end well. What guarantee is that this company can make this work?

Vodafone Samoa who initially went public about their partnership with Space X Starlink said this came as a surprise to them as they expected a tender process.

On 9 January 2024, there was a tender for Procurement of Internet Data and Maintenance of 120 schools in which Vodafone was the only and lowest bidder. The company was later told that this was on hold and they were surprised by the announcement on Wednesday.

Vodafone has claimed that they are in touch with Starlink for the commercial launch. Vodafone’s boss Rana Bose has mentioned that even if Starlink comes, internet prices would not be as cheap as theirs.

The internet has become an integral part of our lives. From communication to business and entertainment education, the internet has become a necessary component of modern society. However, not everyone has access to the internet, which is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

In today's world, the internet is not only a tool for communication and entertainment, but also a vital part of the economy.

People also have to realise that Starlink’s Samoa operation will not happen overnight. In neighbouring Fiji, the announcement of the license was made in November 2023, but so far, the only way Starlink is operating in Fiji is through an Australian company. This company brings in the kits from either New Zealand or Australia and connects only commercial users.

However, Starlink setup is not their core business. The company provides a seamless failover for Starlink.

There is a temporary ban on bringing Starlink kits from overseas into the country, so people expecting to bring in kits from overseas to use can forget about doing that. It is estimated that it may be more than a year before Starlink gets operational in Samoa.

Those who have been able to get their Starlink kits in before the ban can continue to use high quality internet because they can afford it, while others will have to wait until Starlink is properly set up in Samoa.

In any case, despite the Regulator’s explanation, more questions remain to be answered.

By The Editorial Board 13 April 2024, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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