Inside view: satellite technology a ‘game changer’ for Papua New Guinea


Global telecommunications company Speedcast has been working in Papua New Guinea for over 12 years. Tony Waters, Senior Sales Director, says the advances in satellite communication could mean high-speed internet access at a good price for the country’s 22 provinces.

Over the last 30 years, satellites have been orbiting our planet from a geostationary orbit of 35,000 km above the Earth. Signals take a quarter of a millisecond to go up and another quarter to get down, and most people have got used to the 500-millisecond (or half a second) delay, or latency.

In fact, it so common now that we don’t even think about it when we are watching television, for example, but in some instances – mission-critical business communications, for example – this delay matters.

To reduce the latency, companies can opt to use lower orbit satellites, which can reduce latency to about 150 milliseconds – meaning everything is at your fingertips, all the time.

In Papua New Guinea, satellites are a game-changer because the difficulties of its demanding terrain. Tony Waters, Senior Sales Director at telecommunications company Speedcast, says that there are other difficulties that satellite can help overcome in PNG, including ‘environmental constrains from the humidity and salt; landowners’ rights, in terms of putting towers up or other things on landowner property’ and earthquakes, among others.

Submarine cables such as PNG’s domestic Kumul Submarine Cable Network, which are a vital part of infrastructure, can be vulnerable to earthquakes.

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In these cases, Waters explains, C-band satellites (4GHz to 8GHz frequency range) can be used because they have more ‘tolerance to movement’ and are ‘particularly useful in environments such as PNG.’

Connecting business to business

Speedcast has been in PNG for over 12 years providing internet access and other telco solutions to different companies across the country.

A key player in the international telco industry, Speedcast has installed communication infrastructure and one of the first licensed international gateways in PNG. It has installed 03b low-latency satellite terminals in Lae and Port Moresby, and provides remote services particularly to the resources sector.

One of Speedcast’s current clients is the landowner-owned company Anitua, which is based in Lihir Island.

Waters says Speedcast operates a satellite terminal with Anitua to distribute connectivity around the island.

‘We are a business-to-business service,’ says Waters. ‘And solutions are our forte. If you have four or six sites in PNG and you want to connect them back to remote areas or to Port Moresby, we can resolve that.’

Speedcast is also involved in other projects, such as developing special solutions for residential users.

More to come

Waters says that the company is currently involved in a trial that utilises internet-of-things and wireless technologies in Port Moresby and Lae to connect devices, such as trackers.

Speedcast is also deploying low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, which orbit 500 to 2,000 kilometres from Earth. This technology could turn things around to PNG, finally offering fast and reliable internet connection to the most remote areas of the country.

‘This can be a game changer for PNG,’ says Waters. ‘Delivering low latency and high-speed internet at a good price.’

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