UPDATE ON FIBRE CABLE PROJECT – APRIL
Further to the update provided in March 2023, there are now four project work streams that remain outstanding before the Island can begin fully enjoying the benefits of the new cable:
- Finalisation of the cable landing station at Rupert’s Bay
- The design, build and transfer of a domestic network
- Tender and award of licence for a new internet service provider
- Introduction of a new regulatory regime
Finalisation of the cable landing station at Rupert’s Bay
Between May and June 2023, representatives from Telecom Egypt will travel to St Helena. Once here, they will undertake finalisation works at the cable landing station at Rupert’s Bay.
This will see the line terminating equipment insulated and commissioned ready for use. This is the final piece of work required to make the station operational, which will allow data to flow to and from St Helena over the cable.
It is expected the works and testing will be completed by the end of June 2023.
The design, build and transfer of a domestic network:
Late last year, Maestro St Helena Ltd (Maestro) was awarded a contract to design, build and transfer a new domestic network to SHG by the end of 2023. This will see the construction of a future-proofed passive optical network to cover present and future needs, as well as a wireless system to provide connectivity to more remote locations around the Island.
Since this time, significant work has been ongoing in the background to finalise the detailed design of the new network. A Detailed Systems Design has been received and evaluated to ensure that the final design meets the Island’s needs and future proofs it for generations to come.
The network will be owned by SHG for the benefit of the Island, so authorities have been working hard to ensure that the final design meets the foreseeable future needs of the community. To help with this, the design was reviewed by technical experts from SHG’s telecoms advisory consultants and following this, at SHG’s request, the designs were quality assured by the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). This has meant that physical construction works haven’t been able to start as early as planned.
The detailed design has now been accepted by SHG, allowing Maestro to begin the build phase. To ensure Maestro are prepared for this, in conjunction with the design work, mobilisation has also been taking place in the background. This has seen materials and staff beginning to arrive at the Island over the last few weeks, with more due in the coming weeks.
Planning permission applications are being prepared and where applicable, households will shortly be contacted to seek permission for teams to install drop wires and receivers on their properties. These will allow connection to the core fibre network once completed,
Tender and award of licence for a new service provider
Although a tender process began late last year for the service provider, SHG has taken the decision for this tender to be paused. This is while SHG considers all options following the delay in the finalisation of the detailed design and the potential knock on impacts this could have on the programme. More information will be made available on this tender in due course.
Introduction of a new regulatory regime
In the meantime, work is continuing to refine and finalise the appropriate regulatory environment for the Island’s new telecommunications landscape, and it is expected that a new regulator for the sector will be in place before the end of the year.
On the latest developments with the various project work streams, Minister for Treasury, Infrastructure and Sustainable Development, Mark Brooks, said:
“We’re all aware of just how significant this project is for the Island, so I’m very pleased to see the progress being made across the board. The detailed design of the network has now been completed and has been quality assured by experts to ensure it meets the Island’s needs both now and in the future. We will now begin to see the start of physical construction works. It is likely given the delayed start that project timeframes will need to be revisited and more information on this will be shared once these are finalised.”
“In just a few months’ time the cable landing station will be ready for use. This follows a significant amount of work over the last few years, and I commend our local staff and international partners for their efforts on this element of the project. Once operational it will open up opportunities for satellite ground stations to start to use St Helena, and I know from experience that there are lots of people working very hard to make sure the wider community also get to make use of it as soon as possible.”
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21 April 2023