Your Excellency Chairman
Senior Officials of the ITU
Ladies and gentlemen
I would like to express my thanks to you for organising this conference and for the generous hospitality of our hosts.
It gives me great pleasure to have this opportunity of addressing you and sharing some information about the challenges we face in providing telecommunication services in my country of Kiribati and some of the unique solutions we are developing.
With our small population of 100,000 people living on 21 of our 33 islands spread over 5 million square kilometres of the Central Pacific Ocean and our low teledensity of 18 phones per 100 population, the World Bank has called us
one of the least connected countries in the world
Yet we are a resilient and determined people.
We are working hard to promote economic development and to overcome the challenges of our isolation, and exposure to the threat of rising sea levels caused by global warming.
HF radio services remain the main communication links for over one third of our people and our highly fragmented population means that costly and technically complex networks, based on satellite links, are the only option for much of our domestic network and international connections.
As part of an ambitious plan to bring our telecommunication services up to at least the standard of our Pacific Island neighbours, we have embarked on a programme of comprehensive reform. Page
Our new national ICT policy promotes an open and competitive market, and a new law to allow and make competition possible was passed last year.
My Government has decided to privatise our national telco, TSKL and to find a new owner with the management skills and access to capital resources that will be needed to operate successfully in a competitive market.
This sale will be advertised shortly and our regulatory agency, CCK, is planning to licence a second mobile operator later this year.
We expect that these strategies will bring us better services, improved coverage and penetration of services and better prices, just as they have in the countries of our Pacific Island neighbours.
However, we also know that our difficult geography and associated high costs mean that these measures alone will not be sufficient to achieve our vision of delivering high quality mobile voice and broadband Internet services to all of our inhabited islands.
Even voice services, let alone broadband Internet, for about 25% of our population living on 15 of our Outer Islands are almost certainly not commercially viable with current technologies.
So we have developed a plan and we are now discussing it with our Kiribati Development Partners.
The plan is to use aid funding to construct an Outer Island Network based on state-of-the-art 3G mobile technology.
The network will have local call switching capability and intelligent call routing that will ensure that over 90% of calls (including international) will encounter no more than one satellite hop, and it will deliver broadband Internet services to the Outer Islands.
It turns out that the costs of constructing this network closely equate to the amount of subsidy that is needed to make the provision of services to these islands commercially viable for private operators.
So we expect that making this network available to our licensed operators will make it possible for them to provide 3G voice and broadband Internet services to our Outer Islands on a commercial competing basis, provided that their networks are technically compatible. Page
The biggest challenge for Kiribati and many other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in delivering Broadband Internet for Sustainable Development to our people is the very high prices for satellite bandwidth to link our islands together and to link us with the rest of the world.
However, we are very pleased to now see the new O3b satellite system offering much better prices than the existing operators.
Kiribati therefore plans to use the O3b system to help us realise the vision of affordable Broadband Internet for Sustainable Development for our main atoll of Tarawa and for as many of our Outer Islands as possible.
Thus we are confident that we now have an economic model and a viable plan that will enable us to meet our goal of providing affordable services to every inhabited island in Kiribati.
This will deliver to Kiribati the developmental, economic and social benefits that we know will flow from country-wide access to modern voice and broadband Internet communication facilities.