BY BERNADETTE H. CARREON

Palau Correspondentt

KOROR, Palau, and TUMON, Guam — Construction work has started on three submarine cable links to connect Palau, Yap and Chuuk digitally for the first time to the rest of the world.

During a May 4 ceremonial signing in Guam, Belau Submarine Cable Corp., signed a supply contract with NEC Corp. of Tokyo to construct a spur to Palau, and the FSM signed a supply contract with NEC to construct a spur to Yap and signed an additional agreement for the extension from Pohnpei to Chuuk. 

Belau Submarine is backed by a loan from the Asian Development Bank, while the FSM is backed by a grant from World Bank.

The spurs to Palau and Yap will come from the Southeast Asia-U.S. cable, which is under construction by NEC and will ultimately connect the United States to the Philippines and Indonesia via Hawaii and Guam. SEA-U.S. was connected at its Guam landing station on April 24. The submarine cable is expected to be operational by Dec. 31. 

Chuuk’s cable connection will be extended from Pohnpei, which has a spur connection to the HANTRU-1 cable system, which connects Kwajalein and Majuro of the Marshall Islands with Guam.

All three routes feature transmission speeds of 100 Gigabit per second per channel. The speed is expected to be more than 1,000 times the current capacity available in Palau, which has been relying solely on satellite connections. 

Globe Telecom in the Philippines and PT. Telekomunikasi Indonesia International (Telin) in Indonesia are major owners of SEA-U.S. in partnership with U.S. partners GTA in Guam, Hawaiian Telecom, RAM Telecom International and Telkom USA. 

The cable is expected to arrive in Koror this month, according to the information provided by BSCC. From there, it will be transported by barge to the landing site, for which construction began on Feb. 28 (See “Groundbreaking ceremony held for Palau’s fiber optic landing station” in the March 6 issue of the Journal.).

 “Palau has seen the need for a submarine cable for many years, recognizing the many national and economic benefits such facilities bring,” said George Rechucher, chairman of the board for BSCC, in a release from NEC. “However, the scope for a cost-effective connection for Palau was limited until the SEA-U.S. cable was contracted, SEA-U.S. being a major submarine cable express route passing close to the shores of Palau. With the unique opportunity provided by the SEA-U.S. cable, co-operation with our customers, the Palau ICT service providers and funding support from ADB, Palau will now be able to secure abundant capacity to the world and enable broadband internet access in Palau with better quality and at reduced prices.”

Palau President Thomas E. Remengesau Jr. was in Guam to witness the commemoration ceremony. He said the possibility of what the fiber optic can do is endless. 

“Already I am very excited — not so much for myself, but for my children and the future generation,” Remengesau said.

He added, “I am delighted to see this milestone marked today. The submarine fiber network will be critical to so many aspects of our life in Palau from health care to education, from social networking to business. With the BSCC network expected to be in service before the end of the year, Palau is on the move.”

The FSM has adopted a national policy to connect all four FSM states — Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae — with fiber optic cable systems, according to Lukner B. Weilbacher, secretary of the FSM’s Department of Transportation, Communication and Infrastructure. 

The HANTRU-1 cable system landed in Pohnpei in 2009. 

“By the completion of this project, service providers inzthe FSM will be able to offer broadband connectivity to virtually the entire population of the FSM at competitive prices. The impact of this project cannot be underestimated, as it will provide the core infrastructure and services that will be a foundation for future development,” Weilbacher said in a release.

NEC has been involved in the submarine cable system business for more than 40 years and is now recognized as one of the world’s top submarine cable vendors. Including the current construction of the SEA-U.S. cable, the first 100Gbps trans-Pacific cable, NEC has laid a total of more than 155,000 miles of cable. mbj

courtesty of NEC Corp.

Federated States of Micronesia President Peter M. Christian, standing left, and Palau President Thomas E. Remengesau Jr., standing right, witnessed the ceremonial signing of a contract to construct undersea cable spurs to both nations. (Seated, from left) Lukner B. Weilbacher, secretary of the FSM’s Department of Transportation, Communication and Infrastructure; Pak Nanang Hendarno. chief technology officer of Telin in Indonesia; Ernest Cu, CEO, Globe Telecom in the Philippines; and George Rechucher, chairman, Belau Submarine Cable Corp.

Photo by Bernadette H. Carreon

Map courtesy of NEC Corp.