The era of competitive telecommunications in Palau began on May 31 when Palau BroadBand’s three-year fight to be assigned radio frequencies ended successfully.

The Palau Ministry of Commerce and Trade on that day issued licenses to Palau BroadBand for six frequencies through its Division of Transportation and Communications.

“It has been a long and difficult journey to get to this point where we can actually start operations ” said Jason Kesolei vice president of Micronesia Investment & Development Corp. parent company of Palau BroadBand in a phone interview from his office in Koror Palau with the Journal.

The lawsuit filed by MidCorp against the Ministry of Commerce and Trade is now being dropped said James L. Stevenson managing director of Palau BroadBand. “Our goal to receive the required frequencies for our operations has been met. Further pursuit of that action is not necessary. We are however still concerned that we have lost over two years of revenue and advanced services for the people of Palau.

On Sept. 5 2003 MidCorp petitioned the Palau Superior Court for a writ of mandamus to force the issue (See “MidCorp asks court for Internet mandate” in the Sept. 22 2003 edition of the Journal.). The Ministry of Commerce contended that Palau law forbade them from issuing frequencies to private companies. MidCorp said section 107 of the law allowed the ministry to license and regulate new technologies.

“We are very happy that this legal and policy adoption phase is over ” Stevenson said “and we can now do what we do best supply state-of-the-art appropriate communication services to our customers and do it with great customer support.

“The good news in the delay: Technologies have advanced and our newest designs will reflect their advantages.”

Stevenson said many foreign companies were reluctant to invest in Palau because of the high cost of communications. “I feel the potential for clean industry growth in Palau has gotten much better.”

Palau BroadBand expects to launch services within three months. “We have not yet released to the public any costs or complete list of the services we will be providing. It is prudent at this point to be ready for the launch before doing so ” Stevenson said.
MidCorp made three separate applications for radio frequencies. Two of these were on June 11 and 20 2003.

The Palau National Communications Corp. which introduced digital subscriber line service to Palau in 1997 said it was doubtful Palau would benefit from a competitive environment. PNCC said income from international services and Internet subscriber fees subsidized local network costs. Local service fees would dramatically increase PNCC said were long-distance and Internet rates to be charged at an internationally competitive level.

Palau’s population is 19 717 and the number of telephone lines is 7 190. Palau BroadBand counts the 89 161 tourists who visited Palau in 2004 among its potential customers who will be able to connect to the Internet via WiFi hotspots throughout Koror.

Palau BroadBand is installing an umbrella-type network that will cover all population areas beginning with Koror with branches to parts of Airai and an extension to the new Palau capitol.

Kesolei said “Our new network is a completely wireless high-speed data network that will bring true broadband Internet connectivity to businesses government agencies and the public. It will also support voice communications and video.”

“When the installation is completed and you set up your account with us you will be able to connect to the network by simply opening your WiFi capable computer or handheld devices and start working playing or talking to your friends and family around the world ” Kesolei said. Desktop computers will be able to connect over wireless connections as well.

“Palau BroadBand will be announcing its upcoming services and pricing in the very near future. We are sure you will find them to be a breath of fresh air compared to any services available today in Palau ” Kesolei said.

Glenn K. Seid president of MidCorp which has interests in real estate hotel development a proposed golf course airlines banking aquaculture and agriculture said the Palau BroadBand startup costs were between $1 million and $2 million. MBJ


The following is an excerpt from a “Q&A” with Glenn K. Seid president of Micronesia Investment Development Corp. which ran in the Journal on March 7 2005. It was part of a wide-ranging interview about Midcorp’s various projects.


Q: What was the court decision?
There was no court decision. This is in our favor because there was no issue. The government is supposed to provide the frequencies if they’re not being used. They are available we’ve applied for them and they’re supposed to give them to you. That’s the position we’re taking.

Q: So you’re going ahead. Do you have a startup date?
We’re shooting to start in the next two to three months. We just had a meeting in Hawaii at the Pacific Telecommunications Conference. Alan and I met with our partners — Advanced Technologies Systems — and the people involved on the technology side and we’re working together to get it started. There are a lot of components for this thing to work — like satellite links and the earth station. We had to tie up with AT&T and other companies that provide satellite service.

Q: What are the startup costs?
There are a lot of stages. It depends on how far you want to go. I would say around $1 to $2 million.

Q: Who will broadband be available to?
The government and government agencies businesses hospitals banks airlines everybody. We offer the service. Initially broadband will be available in Koror and Airai areas where there are a lot of businesses. Later it will expand. We’ll have coverage mostly throughout Palau except in some very remote areas.

Q: What about employment opportunities?
There’ll be opportunities for locals who want to be involved in the IT business. We’ll have the best people to train them. We have one Palauan who is starting training already. It’s a good future — everything is heading that way.

Q: What about the launching of MidCorp’s .pw domain that provides personal Web sites and e-mail addresses. Does that tie into Palau BroadBand?
No. Every country in the world is entitled to one Top-Level Country Code Domain; Palau’s is .pw. It’s supposed to be owned by Palau but it’s vague. There’ve been unusual cases. By law the first person to register gets it even if it belongs to the country. It was registered by private people in Tuvalu. The government tried to get it back and lost. That set the precedent. When Internet got started here a Palauan girl — Rekel Kamikagi — registered .pw in her name. We recently approached Palau National Communications Corp. the arm of the government overseeing communications and asked to do the top-level domain business. They said if we could get it they’d make an arrangement with us. So we bought it from Rekel Kamikagi with cash and shares in the company; she’s involved with us on the business side. We worked through PNCC — they’ll do the local side and we’ll do the international side. All the registration for .pw international is being done pretty much in the States. It’s been lucrative. MBJ


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