On 2 March the Minister for Communication and Aviation, the Hon. Peter Shanel Agovaka and Australia’s Head of the Office of the Pacific Ewen McDonald exchanged signed copies of a funding arrangement worth SBD37.6 million (AUD6.5 million) for six new telecommunications towers to be built this year. The support for the towers was requested by the Solomon Islands Government as part of its COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts.
Australia will provide grant funding for the installation of six new 3G/4G telecommunications towers across three provinces: four in the Shortland Islands in Western Province, one in Isabel Province, and one in Malaita Province.
Minister Agovaka said the project aligned with the Government’s National Development Strategy and the National Security Strategy.
“Enabling security, welfare, and connectivity for communities in remote parts of the country especially along the Western border is a key priority of my Ministry.”
“We are grateful for Australia’s ongoing support to improving connectivity in Solomon Islands. The support is a testimony to the strong partnership between our two countries in the telecommunications sector that builds on the success of the Coral Sea Cable project to deliver improved internet connectivity to the people of Solomon Islands,” said Minister Agovaka.
The increased 3G/4G internet coverage, particularly across the Shortland Islands, will enable more efficient and effective management of the border with Papua New Guinea.
Chair, Solomon Telekom Company, Baoro Laxton Koraua, expressed pride at receiving the project on behalf of the people of Solomon Islands. “These towers are absolute gems for the company and the country and will improve current network coverage across the country” he said.
Mr McDonald said that the agreement was an example of Australia’s ongoing commitment to improve connectivity especially for people living in the remote parts of Solomon Islands.
“These towers will increase connectivity, which is important not only for the Solomon Islands Government’s ability to respond to humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters, but also for boosting business opportunities for communities along the border, and strengthening health and education outcomes,” said Mr McDonald.
The towers will utilise Ericsson mobile communications equipment, NEC microwave links and Australian-supplied towers. The construction package will be fully funded by Australia. Our Telekom has committed to installing, owning, operating, and maintaining the infrastructure as part of its broader mobile network. All six towers are expected to be operational by the second half of 2022.
Present at the event were several senior Government officials including Secretary to Prime Minister, Dr Jimmie Rodgers, Permanent Secretaries for Communication and Aviation Moses Virovolomo, Finance and Treasury, Mckinnie Dentana, Foreign Affairs and External Trade Collin Beck, Police, National Security and Correctional Services Karen Galokale, and CEO, for Solomon Telecom Company Ltd Christina Lasaqa.