Docomo Pacific welcomes the recent support shown by Gov. Eloy S. Inos and the Legislature for a new undersea fiber optic network from Guam to the CNMI, company executives said this week.
On Aug. 18, both the CNMI Senate (S.R. 19-14) and the House of Representatives (H.R. 19-28) unanimously approved formal resolutions opening the door to the Office of the Governor to assist Docomo Pacific in various logistical efforts, including the application for and processing of permits for a new undersea fiber optic cable project between Guam and the CNMI.
“In light of recent events, including the submarine cable outage between Tinian and Saipan and the devastation caused by recent typhoon activity, the timing of the CNMI Legislature’s resolution couldn’t be better,” said Jonathan Kriegel, Docomo Pacific’s president and CEO. “As Docomo Pacific explores all facets of a possible cable build, garnering this type of support from the CNMI’s leadership sends a strong signal that they understand just how important staying connected is for the future of the islands,”
Need for redundancy
Currently, a single undersea fiber optic cable connects Guam to the CNMI. The cable, owned by IT&E, is nearly 20 years old. Most experts estimate the operational life of a typical undersea cable at about 25 years—meaning that at some point in the future, a new cable is inevitable.
A single cable also presents ongoing connectivity challenges. In 2011, the CNMI commissioned a study of broadband Internet connectivity by 1 Global Economy Corp. Their final report described Saipan as “one of the least connected places on Earth,” and highlighted the urgent need for redundancy as well as lower prices for interisland bandwidth.
A new cable would provide a number of immediate, tangible benefits for the CNMI and Guam, the most significant of which would be much lower interisland bandwidth costs that would stimulate business activity and instill greater confidence in the overall infrastructure of the islands.
“Increased connectivity and lower cost bandwidth has the potential to be a game-changer for local businesses, government, hotels, hospitals, schools and libraries, not to mention the daily experience of our mobile and Internet customers,” said Thomas Higa, Docomo Pacific’s chief commercial officer.
Kriegel confirmed that Docomo Pacific recently presented its initial plans to its shareholder and parent company, NTT DOCOMO Japan, and that Docomo Pacific had received approval to take the project forward to the next level, including landing site surveys, selecting consultants and vendors, initiating the federal and local permitting process, and considering various financing options, including possible partners and investors.
“While the possibility of a new cable is certainly exciting, much work remains to be done, given the many logistical considerations that accompany such a project,” said Kriegel.
“For the time being, Docomo Pacific remains focused on restoring its network on Saipan to its full pre-Soudelor capacity, as well as ensuring that both Guam and the CNMI enjoy the highest quality service possible,” Kriegel said, pointing out that as part of the company’s rebuilding efforts on Saipan, they are placing previously aerial fiber underground, to “harden” the network and ensure that it is able to withstand future storms without damage.
“This is a time of great opportunity for our islands, and Docomo Pacific is committed to leading the way to bring a new era of connectivity,” said Kriegel.
The process of building an undersea cable is complex, and the overall project timeline depends on a great number of variables, some of which are still being explored. Typically, projects of this scope take approximately 18 to 24 months. However, given the importance of the project, Docomo will be looking for ways to expedite the process. Once the planning and permitting are accomplished, the actual laying of the fiber optic cable between the islands would take just a few weeks.
Senate Resolution 19-28
According to the resolution, Docomo Pacific’s proposed projects include the following upgrades:
• Placement of a new undersea fiber cable between Guam and the CNMI;
• Providing of live standard definition and high definition television programming;
• Placement of fiber optic infrastructure underground to all cell sites, hotels, public schools and critical government agencies to protect their communications from damage in future storms. (Docomo Pacific)