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Suriname Pilot Project


Integrated Pilot Project for the Provision of Basic Telecommunications and Informatics Services in various Regions of Suriname (Phase 1 - Brownsberg sector)



Organization: Telesur

Region(s)/Area(s): Brownsberg region (Brownsberg and Botopasi sectors)

Telecommunications infrastructure: non-existent

Background Consideration and Justification


A feasibility study was undertaken by the ITU in January-February 1996 in response to a request from Suriname to participate in the Buenos Aires Action Plan (BAAP), Programme No. 9 - Integrated Rural Development.

The initial objective of the ITU funded mission to Suriname was to assist the national operator, Telesur, in the preparation of a proposal for a pilot project to be implemented within the framework of the above mentioned BAAP Programme No. 9. According to the Terms of Reference the consultant should collect all relevant data and, in particular, identify the area and locations of communities to be covered by the pilot project and potential partners, make a preliminary demand forecast, including services and applications to be introduced, prepare preliminary network plans, proposals for technology options, tariffs and a preliminary business plan.

During the mission, an existing plan to serve the targeted region only with basic HF radiocommunications was reconsidered and it was decided to reallocate the funds provided by the Dutch Government for the initially planned HF system to the pilot project proposed by the consultant.

The full report, which includes all the information listed above, is based on a field survey and draws heavily upon earlier rural telecommunication feasibility studies, carried out by the ITU in Suriname, in particular the "Kennedy report".

The proposed project concerns five rural and isolated regions (Brownsberg, Botopasi, Adjura Kondre, Apura and Lely Gebergte), covering a total area of some 60 000 sqkm. The area of the regions range from some 9 000 sqkm (Brownsberg, Adjura Kondre and Apura) to some 20 000 sqkm (Lely Gebergte). Most of these regions are inhabited by a large number of relatively small tribes.

The total population in all five regions is some 40 000 people which represents some 80% of the rural ("interior") population in Suriname. The population of each region range from 3 000 in the least populated region Apura, where people mostly live in concentrated villages in the Jungle, to some 19 000 people, mostly living along the rivers in the most populated region, Botopasi. The Botopasi region, together with the adjacent hilly region of Brownsberg (which is where it is planned to locate the first cell site for a cellular radiocommunication system) include some 40% of the total population in the five regions distributed in some 30 villages.

The provision of access to telecommunications in these areas, where there is presently no telecommunication infrastructure, is in line with government policies which aims at preserving the rural societies and indigenous culture and has a high priority in the national development plan. The objective is to reach a teledensity of 20% by year 2010 in accordance with the Acapulco Declaration.

Needs for telecommunication (tentative forecast of demand)

Primary users of the services will be the local (tribal) chiefs, local government offices, local business already in place (e.g. bauxite, and gold mining companies, a hydroelectric project, lumbering industry and tourism industry) or to be established when adequate telecom services are provided. Applications in education and health are also envisaged (there are in total more than 50 schools and 35 health centres). UNESCO and WHO representatives in the region have expressed their readiness to participate in the project. There are also a number of NGOs which have offices in the targeted regions. These will be users of the system and, in most cases, contribute as partners. Thus, the project is truly an "Integrated Rural Development " project.

It envisaged to establish, in the first year (1996), four advanced Community Telecentres (equipped for telemedicine and teleeducation through VSAT DAMA service, complementing the terrestrial network which offers a maximum data speed of 9.6 kbs and offering access to data networks, including the Internet). All of these are to be located in the Brownsberg and Botopasi regions (Brownsberg, Gujaba, Masiakiiki and Tabriki) and some 14 more basic telecentres (or "telekiosks") in the other regions.

Altogether some 1500 subscribers (including some 30 payphones, mainly deployed in the Telecentres) will be connected in the first year. In year five the number of subscribers is expected to reach three thousand and, in year 10, four thousand.

It is planned to use the network also for TV re-broadcasting (in some areas) and local TV production facilities are considered in some Telecentres to promote local cultural developments.

Current telecom infrastructure development

The national operator, Telesur, is currently extending the existing backbone network by installing a digital microwave link from Paramaribo to Apura, Adjuma and Brownsberg and Lily Gebergte as well as a by installing a fibre optic cable in Adjuma Kondre. Telesur will also deploy an AXE10 switch in Zandery and provide a cell site with a capacity of 3000 fixed and mobile subscribers in Brownsberg. This is considered to be part of the proposed project and is already being implemented (part of the Telesur contribution).

Suriname-based partners

Telesur, which is the main national partner, will also contribute with planning engineering, logistics, installation, infrastructure building and additional fixed cellular phones and will be responsible for operation and maintenance of the telecommunication systems installed and subsidize tariffs for poor users of the system for public services. The total value of Telesur’s contribution is evaluated to more than USD 1 million. Other partners, such as Golden Star Mining Ltd, MUSA (forestry), the University of Suriname, Hospitals (MEDIZEP), the Peace Corps, PAZ, the Federation of local Amerindians (FIDS), intend to contribute in-kind (e.g. with staff, training and applications) or in cash for infrastructure building, to an estimated total value of more than USD.5 million (letters of intent are annexed to the full report).

Technology options

Digital microwave and fibre optic cables are chosen for the backbone network (see above). For the local access network it is envisaged to use cellular fixed and mobile radiocommunications for telephony, fax and low-speed (9.6 kbs) data communication. Point-to multipoint, multi-access radio communication systems may also be considered. Flexibility (modularity) and compatibility with existing network and equipment are important criteria for the choice and since there is no main power supply in most regions, solar power is most likely the most appropriate solution in most cases. For advanced telematics applications in four of the telecentres, it is envisaged to complement this network with 4 VSAT DAMA stations. Frequencies have already been allocated for such systems and there will be no problems in obtaining the required licenses to operate the systems. If the project is executed by the ITU it should also be possible to import equipment free of taxes and import duties. The initially envisaged HF system may be deployed in sparsely populated outside the five regions to extend the coverage.

Cost-benefit - return on investment

The total cost of the project is estimated to some USD 8 million. Telesur and other national partners’ contribution covers about 50% of this investment; the rest must be obtained from international partners, development agencies and/or other financing institutions.

A preliminary rough estimate of revenues, assuming that the existing tariffs are applied, indicates that this investment would be recovered in two to three years.

The preliminary forecast is of course rather uncertain. should it be too optimistic and tariffs have to be lowered or more heavily subsidized for poor users of telecommunications for public services (e.g. health, education, security, access to government records, etc.), the project may take considerably longer time to break even financially (if only revenues from telecommunication services are considered).

However, the indirect benefits generated by provision of access to telecoms, e.g. reduction of cost of transport, improved productivity of private and public enterprises, improved health care, improved education, reduced urbanization (creating other problems costly to resolve), etc. justify this project in any case from the Suriname society’s point of view.

Pilot project

International partners may of course decide to participate in the whole project described above. However, if is felt that this is a too large a project to fit into the BDT programmes. It is therefore proposed to limit the pilot project, as such, to the areas of Brownsberg and Botopasi (which includes some 40% of the total population of all the five regions). The cost of one advanced Telecentre alone (including VSAT) may be in the order of 300-400 kUSD so the option to start with less than four centres should also be considered. The main component of this part of the total project, the estimated project cost and potential partners are indicated in the following sections.


  • In Brownsberg: "Telecentre" including:

    - VSAT satellite earth station (Inmarsat or Intelsat DAMA) to provide direct interconnection with the national and/or international network to more advanced data applications, including tele-health and istance learning.

  • - Base station for radio cellular system. In the initial stage:
    ~ individual subscribers + ~ 10 public pay telephones
    -(+) existing digital exchange (in Zandery)
    -(+) existing MW radio link tail
    -low power TV repeater for rebroadcasting of the national programme
    -terminal equipment (telephones, faxes, computers, modems, printers, distance learning, tele-medicine,
    equipment, etc.)

    (+)to be provided by Telesur as part of the ongoing programme for rehabilitation/expansion of the national network.

  • In Gujaba:
    "Telecentre" including:
    -VSAT satellite earth station (as per Brownsberg)
    -repeater station for radio cellular system
    -low power TV repeater
    -terminal equipment (telephones, faxes, computers, modems, printers, etc.)
  • In Masia Kiiki and Tabrik:
    "Telecentre" including:
    -VSAT satellite earth station (as per Brownsberg)
    -Terminal equipment (telephones, faxes, computers, modems, printers, etc.)


  • Total cost of equipment (*)US$ 1,200,000 - 1,400,000
  • Engineering, project management, installation, training, evaluation, etc.US$ 120,000 - 150,000
  • Local costs (buildings, infrastructures, equipment made available by Telesur, transportation, insurance, civil works, etc.)US$1,300,000 - 1,500,000

(*) - For Phase 1 only and not including the cost of equipment made available by Telesur as part of the ongoing programme.

- The number and configuration of "Telecentres" to be included under Phase 1 should be finalized in consultation with the local Administration and by taking into consideration the available funds for the overall project.



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Updated : 2001-07-04