Two transmitters have been installed on Rarotonga, with more to come. Installation and testing of the new transmitters is expected to be completed early this week.
The Cook Islands is the first place in the world to install the equipment, which will eventually help provide high-speed internet everywhere in the Cooks through service provider O3b.
O3b, which Telecom signed up to in June 2010, aims to provide internet to the “other three billion” people worldwide who can’t connect to fibre optic cable.
Technicians from Telecom and New Zealand-based company Kordia have been working at Telecom’s Aroa site since March 18 to install the transmitters, which will improve internet speed and by linking to satellites that are only 8,000km above the earth – a quarter of the distance of Telecom’s current satellites. The shorter distance means the satellite signal can reach the earth more quickly.
O3b will be launching four satellites on June 24, followed by another four in September.
O3b manager of customer fulfilment and service delivery, Abdoulaye Sagnane has flown in from the Netherlands to oversee the tests.
“I came to look at it and make sure everything has come to hand.”
Sagane said the installation of the terminal has been very successful and technicians are finalising the last details.
There are several stages of testing. Technicians are currently testing the mechanical assembly of the equipment before the satellites are in orbit. There will be another testing phase in July, lasting three or four weeks, following the launch of the first four satellites.
“We’re going to push the system and see how it responds. (During that time) service delivery isn’t going to be as optimal – it’s going to be a bit limited compared to what we’ll be offering in the future,” said Sagnane.
Sagnane said the initial launch was originally planned for late May, but has been delayed because rocket-launching company Arianespace, based in French Guyana, had more urgent projects to complete in May. Each rocket can only carry four satellites at a time, so they must be launched in batches.
He said once all eight satellites are in orbit, Telecom customers will notice big improvements in internet speed.
“We know it’s going to change a lot about people’s experience. People in remote areas will have access to high-speed internet.”
The equipment will be linked to a ‘gateway teleport’ – a place where the signals from different connection providers come together – in Hawaii. O3b also has gateways in Peru, Greece, and Australia.