I will post news about telecommunications that would be interesting to Falkland Island consumers or businesses. If there are any updates on a particular piece of news, I’ll add them. Please send news that you think is interesting. Thank you! I have used colour coding to prioritise news: Important – Relevant – Interesting.
A local company, Seychellois group, buys Seychelles' Cable & Wireless. (07-11-2019)
OpenFalklands: This is the sale of one of the remnants of the global Cable & Wireless global telecommunications empire. Many remote islands were bought by Sure International, others by Liberty America.
C&W Seychelles has now been bought out by a number of Entrepreneurs who live in the islands.
In existence for over 125 years, Cable & Wireless (Seychelles) Ltd (CWS) has announced that it is now 100% owned by a group of well-known Seychellois entrepreneurs.
Following months of planning and negotiations, the new shareholding group purchased Cable & Wireless Seychelles (CWS from Liberty Latin America in a transaction costing in excess of US $130 million, including the consideration price and acquisition costs.
The new owners, under the formation of CWS Investment Ltd, include the JFA Group, Jamshed Pardiwalla, Ravji Raghwani and Andy Bainbridge, as well as Victoria-based professional services firm ACM, which represented the shareholders in the deal.
According to ACM Senior Partner Oliver Bastienne, the deal was an unprecedented opportunity to bring one of Seychelles’ biggest companies into local hands.
“For a group of Seychellois to piece together an acquisition of this scale from a global multi-national company is a tremendous achievement,” Mr Bastienne said. “We expect this to have a positive impact for all involved, from CWS staff, to the customers, and the country as a whole.”
The acquisition was financed by a consortium of banks led by Trade Development Bank (TDB), with the participation of Barclays and ABC Banking Corporation of Mauritius. Nouvobanq has also been instrumental in facilitating the purchase, Mr Bastienne said.
CWS employees were informed of the acquisition as soon as it was formally announced. Mr Bastienne affirmed that there is no re-structuring planned, that day-to-day operations would not be affected and no employees would be made redundant.
“CWS is a successful company and the new owners have placed an emphasis on business continuity and growth,” Mr Bastienne said. “The CWS team will stay on with the new shareholders’ backing to further strengthen the company’s commercial position.”
In the coming months, the new board will be studying opportunities for long-term growth and development from the perspective of a Seychellois-owned company, benefitting customers, staff and Seychelles at large.
“The new shareholders want to invest for long-term growth and this will directly benefit the Seychelles economy in a number of ways,” Mr Bastienne said.
CWS Chief Executive Charles Hammond, who will continue in his role under the new ownership, expressed confidence that CWS has the potential to become a more agile and responsive company.
“There will be a number of new opportunities under the direction of local ownership that understands the market well.” Mr Hammond said. “I am looking forward to continue driving the business forward in a new chapter that I believe our employees and customers will embrace.”
Source: C&W Seychelles
A clear signal of Sure’s commitment to Guernsey (17-10-19)
Did you know that Guernsey is connected to the rest of the Channel Islands, the UK, Europe and the world by a vast subsea cable network?
This week we’ve announced a significant and ambitious five-year, multimillion-pound investment plan for Guernsey that will futureproof the island’s telecoms infrastructure and equip it for a digital future.
The first phase of this plan is to upgrade the subsea cables that link us to the rest of the world and provide the majority of the island’s communications needs including broadband, voice and data services.
Safeguarding the island’s future
Upgrades to the subsea cables will increase Sure’s network capacity to 300 Gigabits per second, an increase of almost 300%, to meet the island’s future bandwidth needs for the next five years. This new network makes it much easier to upgrade at increments of 100 Gigabits; an increase of more than ten times over the technology currently deployed.
Demand for data, which is increasing by 35% each year, is being fuelled by a range of digital applications such as Netflix or Sky 4K HD video streaming, Amazon Prime’s live Premier League football streaming and services such as Google’s soon-to-launch Stadia streaming gaming service. For business customers their digital transformation activities and increasing uptake of cloud technologies are driving demand for moving more data in and out of Guernsey.
The importance of our subsea infrastructure really can’t be overstated. Guernsey has been winning business on the world stage as a direct result of our network resilience and, of course, it keeps all of us connected in our daily lives. It is the unseen foundation that enables and secures connectivity for businesses, in our homes and when mobile.
We’re carrying out this upgrade work, which is a significant multimillion-pound investment, to reinforce the quality of the infrastructure and ensure that our network continues to be the most resilient in the Channel Islands.
An ambitious plan
The subsea cable upgrade is just the first step in our five-year investment plan for Guernsey, which will significantly enhance residential broadband and business connectivity.
We are investing in a range of new broadband technologies to stay ahead of customer demands as consumers and businesses increasingly use digital services. The plans include a commitment to increasing broadband speeds through extending our fibre-rich approach and new innovations including trials for fibre directly to the home and 5G services, both of which will commence in the coming months.
We’re proud to run our global business from Guernsey and believe in the island’s future. This plan is a clear signal of our commitment to the island, its economy and its people.
We’ll be making more announcements in the coming months about our five-year investment plan and the implications for the digital future of the Bailiwick, so stay tuned to our social media channels to learn more about the future of the island’s connectivity.
Guernsey ISP Sure Prep 300Gbps Upgrade of Subsea Network (17-010-19)
The incumbent broadband, 4G mobile and phone provider on the English Channel Island of Guernsey, Sure, has announced a major 5-year plan to invest several million pounds in order to upgrade their sub-sea fibre optic links with the United Kingdom. This could increase network capacity to 300Gbps (Gigabits per second).
The incumbent broadband, 4G mobile and phone provider on the English Channel Island of Guernsey, Sure, has announced a major 5-year plan to invest several million pounds in order to upgrade their sub-sea fibre optic links with the United Kingdom. This could increase network capacity to 300Gbps (Gigabits per second).
At present most fixed broadband connections on the island are delivered by a Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL) network that is capable of speeds up to 100Mbps, although this is expected to be improved with the future introduction of Very High bit rate Digital Subscriber Line (VHDSL) technology. Some Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) infrastructure is also present on parts of the island.
Last year the States of Guernsey (Government) set out a new strategy to help bring FTTC/P to business districts, support the rollout of ultrafast 5G mobile technology and ensure that 85% of homes can access broadband speeds of up to 100Mbps (public money was proposed to help fix the final 15% but the details of this remain unclear).
Suffice to say that all of the above, when combined with rising data demands from local consumers, means that operators like Sure and JT on Guernsey will need more capacity. Both JT and Sure already have multiple links on the island, most of which connect to the UK and one goes back through Jersey and then on to France (INGRID / Channel Islands Electricity Grid).
We should point out that both CI-4 and CI-7 have an estimated lifespan of 25 years and they’ll actually be reaching the end of their predicted life this year, which is important because Sure doesn’t say precisely which of their subsea cables are going to be upgraded to deliver this 300% capacity increase or how. Sure could conceivably extend the lifespan of those cables by adding new repeaters to tackle loss, but they might also build a new cable.
Ian Kelly, Sure CEO, said (Guernsey Press):
“The importance of our subsea infrastructure really can’t be overstated. Guernsey has been winning business on the world stage as a direct result of our network resilience and of course it keeps all of us connected in our daily lives. It is the unseen foundation that enables and secures connectivity for businesses, in our homes and when mobile.
We’re carrying out this upgrade work, which is a significant multi-million pound investment, to reinforce the quality of the infrastructure and ensure that our network continues to be the most resilient in the Channel Islands. The digital future and this investment are aligned with the States of Guernsey’s ambitious telecoms strategy as we work together to secure the island’s continued prosperity and success.”
You can read the local Government’s Digital Strategy (PDF) for a bit more background to why Sure are making this change. Sure also appear to be considering the idea of using their future 5G network to reach homes with ultrafast broadband, rather than further extending their fixed line FTTC/P.
Sure currently owns 100% of fixed line services to consumer households and has the ability to connect most businesses and Government departments to fibreSure, which has over 400km of fibre in the ground and typically spends in the region of £1m a year on extending the reach of this network.
Source: ISP Preview
Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends Report 2018 (17-08-19)
At 3.6B, the number of Internet users has surpassed half the world’s population. When markets reach the mainstream, new growth gets harder to find -evinced by 0% new smartphone unit shipment growth in 2017.
We focus on trends around data + personalization; high relative levels of tech company R&D + Capex Spending; E-Commerce innovation + revenue acceleration; ways in which the Internet is helping consumers contain expenses + drive income (via on-demand work) + find learning opportunities. We review the consumerization of enterprise software and, lastly, we focus on China’s rising intensity & leadership in Internet-related markets.
See the whole PowerPoint report here.
CABLE SURVEY SHIP COMES TO ST HELENA (14-08-19)
Orkney 5G trials could soon be a reality (03-08-19)
5G networks are starting to pop up in UK cities – but for many rural areas even getting a basic mobile signal remains a challenge.
Photo credit BBC News.
This was certainly the case in the Orkney Islands, an archipelago of 70 islands off the north coast of Scotland.
Its population of 22,000 is spread across 20 of these islands and has consistently ranked as one of the most under-connected in the country.
But this could be about to change.
A lot more about the benefits to farming and fishing and other Orkneys businesses can be found here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-49191654
Huge step forward for St Helena's connectivity today! (19-07-19)
Agreement close on St Helena link to Google's Equiano Cable? (12-07-19)
A new route to achieving a connection to the global fibre-optic cable network appears to be moving fast to completion. The Independent reported last week that Google officially announced the go-ahead for their Equiano cable from Portugal to Cape Town. The cable has several branching points built into it; one is located as the cable passes about midway between St Helena and Angola. Google made their announcement twelve days ago. Nine days ago SHG’s Financial Secretary and Chief Economist said they felt confident and comfortable arrangements for the cable connection would be finalised soon.
Six days ago, (last Saturday) both the Financial Secretary and the Head of IT, Jerry Roberts, flew overseas; Dax Richards was travelling on business but the purpose of that business has never been officially announced. Frequent enquiries asking where they have gone and what they are doing resulted in one short and probably rushed email from the Financial Secretary. Dax said, “I have had a very productive week so far, of course I can’t discuss the details but I think by just having a presence at this event has made a lot of people in the industry sit up and take notice. There are other potential future options for increasing economic activity on the Island once a cable is landed as you know, and we should explore these in more detail over the coming months. Happy to discuss when I get back.”
To see more, please go to ConnectStHelena website.
Source: Originally published in the St Helena Independent, Vol. XIV, Issue 32, Friday 12th July 2019, p.2
Communications Regulator job posted (10-07-19)
Do you have the skills to be the Communications Regulator for the Falkland Islands? Are you looking for a lifestyle change and a new challenge which offers a once in a lifetime experience? How about living within a thriving community, set in a stunning natural environment? If so, this job is for you.
This is an exciting opportunity to lead the regulation of communications services in the Falkland Islands. We are looking for a senior individual with the ability to apply regulatory principles in a monopoly environment, while tailoring their approach for the unique characteristics of this role.
The core purpose of the role is to ensure effective regulation of commercial telecommunications services in the Falkland Islands. In particular, to ensure that the exclusive licensee is compliant with the conditions of their operating licence: including service levels in accordance with defined performance indicators; and implementation of major improvements.
The successful candidate will have at least ten years’ relevant professional experience: gained in either a national regulator; the telecommunications industry; a suitable consulting field, or have the necessary transferrable skills to meet the requirements of the role. Strong influencing skills are needed and the ability to establish credibility with a range of senior stakeholders. The role comes with a number of statutory powers (including arbitration of complaints and the determination of penalties should licensees fail to meet their obligations). You will be able to work independently and be highly self-motivated as this is a standalone role.
- Initial 2 Years Fixed Term Contract, with potential for extension by mutual agreement.
- Salary Range £41-56k, inclusive of the 25% Gratuity. Starting salaries will be dependent upon qualifications and experience.
- 30 Days Annual Leave, plus government and public holidays (totalling 41 days leave).
- Relocation Allowance, to help with moving costs.
- Flights Package for you and your dependents, including mid-term return flight home.
- Government Housing for rent at a subsidised rate and a starter pack to help you settle in.
How to Apply
For more information and to apply online to join our team in a unique and breath-taking location, with penguins, dolphins and the wilderness just next door to your office, please visit our new recruitment website: https://ats-fig.jgp.co.uk/vacancies/view/103701
Applications close at 23.00 UK time on 31 July 2019.
If you have any questions about working for the Falkland Islands Government or would like further information about applying, you can find contact details at the above link.
Falkland Islands Government (FIG)
The Falkland Islands is a British Overseas Territory, with full internal self-government.
As the largest employer in the Falkland Islands, we offer many unique and fulfilling job opportunities, across the full spectrum of public services. Our responsibilities include those typically managed by central government – taxation, legislation and policy, as well as those usually managed on a local level such as town planning, health and social services, and education. FIG also provides services specific to the needs of the Falkland Islands, such as fisheries research, power generation and the Government Air Service, FIGAS.
For more information about working for Falkland Islands Government, take a look at our recruitment microsite: www.jobs.gov.fk
The Falkland Islands
Set in the South Atlantic Ocean, around 400 miles east of South America and 8000 miles south-west of the UK, the Falkland Islands are a small, thriving community with a British way of life, benefiting from good local services, a varied social calendar and an absence of traffic jams!
The Falkland Islands’ stunning natural environment provides an unspoiled landscape and amazing wildlife to observe and explore, including penguins, whales and dolphins, all seen from the shore.
For those with a sense of adventure, it provides opportunities which are hard to match anywhere else in the world.
Further information on this vacancy
Source: FIG website
Updated comment about St Helena's SAeX and possible FI submarine cable (14-06-19)
Update: 1st July 2019
Google has announced it’s third subsea cable will pump data from Portugal to South Africa.
“Google’s third undersea network cable will shuttle high-speed data from Portugal to South Africa and countries in between starting in 2021, a fiber-optic line called Equiano. The fiber-optic line is part of Google’s massive investment in computing infrastructure — an investment that reached $47 billion over the last three years, Google said in a blog post Friday.”
The Canary Islands have already signed an Agreement with Google to explore the possibility of landing a cable in the Canary Islands.
Below is a final paragraph extracted from an article about a possible Arctic submarine cable. I wrote about the St Helena SAeX submarine cable in the OpenFalklands post – St Helena’s submarine cable. It’s not looking too good I’m afraid as the paragraph does accurately reflect the current view in the submarine cable industry.
“Of course, not all cable projects succeed. The South Atlantic Express (SAex), would be one of the first direct links between Africa and South America, and connect remote islands like St. Helena along the way. But SAex has struggled with funding and currently sits in limbo. Cinia and MegaFon [Arctic cable] hope to avoid a similar fate.”
Source: IEEE Spectrum
I have also written about the Chilean cable going to Tierra del Fuego in Fibra Optica Austral; Chile’s cable to Tierra del Fuego which is the nearest cable to the Falkland Islands. The build of which is going well.
It’s interesting to note that the possibility of a submarine cable to the Falkland Islands is included in the ‘National Broadband Strategy’ announced in the March 2019 Communications Week and mentioned several times on Facebook since.
I think it’s good that the favourite politician’s phrase is in use here – “Nothing is ruled out and nothing is ruled in”. However, for all the reasons discussed in my post, there is just no possibility of a submarine cable being laid to the Falkland Islands. It is too costly from a capital expenditure and on-going operational / repair cost perspective, 100% of which will need to be paid by the Falkland Islands Government. (Picture: Telegeography)
At a major submarine cable conference earlier this year that I attended, there was an explicit view stated in several presentations and in one-to-one discussions, that no new submarine can be successfully financed these days unless Google or Facebook are highly involved. This is probably the issue that lies behind the St Helena SAeX cable problem. Everyone politely smiled when I talked about a cable to the Falkland Islands.
Another common phrase would be that “I would eat my hat” if there was the slightest possibility of such a submarine cable solution for the Falkland Islands, but I don’t have a hat., so… Instead, I will put “my money where my mouth is” and propose that I will place money behind a Stanley pub bar one evening instead if a cable is proposed for the Falkland Islands. I am not optimistic, but I look forward to buying lots of drinks.
Sure Falkland Islands allows multiple Internet top-up packages (12-06-19)
It’s good to see that ‘consumer feedback’ has been listened to to correct the original single top-up negotiated by FIG and agreed with Sure Falkland Islands. It was always a nonsense that multiple top-ups were not available in the first place as that was only sensible for all parties I would have thought?
What business in the world would not want additional revenue?
It’s easy to say that KPI obligations have been met – and that is good I guess – but what is more important is what the KPI delivers and at what cost. What has not been explained are the reasons behind making top-ups a whopping 3.71 times the cost of any of the standard monthly Internet packages.
Clearly, there was some reasoning behind the pricing that has been agreed to by FIG and the Regulator unless it was a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ offer by Sure Falkland Islands? This price will now become the benchmark price for price-capping going forward so at least consumers know prices will not rise beyond RPI in coming years.
So what reasons could be conjectured for there to be a 3.71x mark-up?
1) It’s another way to recoup some of the lost revenue caused by removing overage charges?
2) Does it cover the cost of administrating top-ups?
3) Sure do not want extra IP traffic on the network, so the price hike acts as a major financial disincentive to buy top-ups?
I hope it’s not the first, but with no public explanation, this just leads to numerous conspiracy theories being broached as seen on Facebook. Why is this allowed to occur as it seems to happen time and time again? The provided explanation may be factual or ‘economical with the truth’ but the justification of a 3.71x mark-up should be demanded forthwith.
However, there really should be no need for it to be demanded. In a modern open society, this should have been offered as it was obvious what the consumer reaction would be. Come on MLAs, FIG, Regulator and even Sure Falkland Islands – step up to the mark and provide that missing justification. It should not be a secret and it’s certainly should not be considered ‘commercially confidential’.
Spare a Thought for the Falkland Islands and Terrible Broadband. (05-06-19)
We often report in gripes with rural broadband connectivity from across the United Kingdom but spare a thought for the 3,400 people living on the largely self-governing and self-sufficient Falkland Islands, where all of the fixed line services and mobile networks are still supplied by a limited Satellite data link.
The islands, which are an Overseas Territory of the UK that reside nearly 500 kilometres off the South American coast (Argentina), have long suffered from poor digital connectivity and that’s partly due to the political fallout from the 1982 Falklands War (running a link back through Argentina, where the islands are known as Islas Malvinas, probably isn’t going to be considered either viable or wise any time soon).
On top of that, the community is also incredibly remote, which even in an ideal political environment would still make running a subsea fibre optic line incredibly expensive (the islands GDP is £100m per annum and it’d probably cost more than that). Likewise, you’d struggle to get a viable fixed wireless link from the South American coast.
Instead, the islands are forced to get their data capacity from a Satellite link, which we believe currently leases about 200-300Mbps of total capacity. Little wonder that the average broadband download speed recorded by users on the Falkland Islands is around 1.5Mbps, with uploads coming in at just below 1Mbps (note: the speedtest sample size for this is tiny but the results seem about right given the above figures).
Fixed line ADSL broadband services on the islands tend to be provided by Sure (Sure South Atlantic), while Mobile comes from Vodafone. The latter has recently deployed a 4G network, which seems able to deliver the ever so slightly better average download speed of around 2Mbps (hardly worth using 4G for that but then the kit had to be upgraded anyway).
Sure tends to offer a choice of capped broadband packages, which range from 1.28Mbps (0.12Mbps upload) with a 3GB usage allowance for £15 per month to 5Mbps (0.76Mbps) with 105GB for £425.00 per month! Yes, we can confidently classify this level of connectivity as being.. crap. However, there are hints of progress from the local Government.
Governor Nigel Phillips, Speaking to the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly, said yesterday:
“This year has also seen advancements in telecommunications with the introduction of increased broadband allowances in July 2018 as well as the rollout of a new 4G network and the extension of the existing 2G network to remote areas.
The Government continues to work with the monopoly provider to help measure performance and target future investments.
Furthermore, the Regulator has been working hard to put in place plans to improve telecommunications services which remain a challenge for the islands. This has included the introduction of a new Spectrum Management Framework and the development of a new National Broadband Strategy.”
Unfortunately that National Broadband Strategy is somewhat hobbled by the fact that all it can really do is put forward a case for increasing Satellite capacity. On the upside, it’s just possible that one of the new Low Earth Orbit (LEO) based satellite constellations, such as from SpaceX (here) or OneWeb (here), might end up providing a good solution but we won’t know for sure until those reach commercial operation. In any case, the local government has not yet considered this.
Source: ISP Review
4G vs 5G: what’s the difference? (23-05-19)
5G is making its way to the UK, but it’s not the end for 4G! 4G is still the bedrock of our network, connecting people to the services they need and love, right across the UK. Every day, we’re building new 4G sites in rural parts of the UK, giving communities a digital connection for the first time.
Unlike 3G to 4G, 5G is not a replacement for 4G. It adds another layer to the network to provide more capacity in the busiest parts of the UK’s busiest cities.
Let’s look at how 4G and 5G will work together.
When 4G first arrived on our phones in 2012 it was revolutionary. It’s shaped how people across the UK communicate, watch, learn and share.
5G will build on that.
Adding 5G to the UK’s number one 4G network will increase reliability and keep people connected where they need it most, in the busiest places. 5G will offer customers increased speeds, more reliable coverage and reduced latency. This will mean faster downloads of your favourite films and albums, quicker website browsing, and a better streaming experience in busy areas.
5G has the potential to give customers 1Gbps speeds to their smartphones – that’s an incredible milestone to reach. And it can reduce latency from 30-40ms today, to as low as 10ms in the future.
And 5G will work hand-in-hand with 4G: when you connect to 5G on EE, you’re actually connecting to both the 4G and 5G parts of the network at the same time, and you get the combined power of all that 4G and 5G capacity.
5G isn’t a replacement for 4G – it’s an addition to our existing award-winning network.
Our 5G roll out will start with the busiest locations in the busiest cities where it can make the biggest difference to the most people.
You’ll need a new phone to use 5G. Expect 5G-enabled devices to appear this summer – Samsung has already announced they’re due to bring their Galaxy S10 5G to the market in 2019, and we’ll be ranging the OnePlus 5G smartphone on our network.
It’s time to get excited about the possibilities of 5G, but don’t forget the importance of a great 4G network to enable those possibilities and keep you connected everywhere you go.
Mobile data pricing in 230 countries: Falklands are #227.(21-05-19)
According to this survey, the only countries taht are more expensive than the Falkland Islands are St Helena, Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe.
“At the more expensive end of the list, we have countries where often the infrastructure isn’t great but also where consumption is very small. People often buy data packages of just tens of megabytes at a time, making a gigabyte a relatively large and therefore expensive amount of data to buy. Many countries in the middle of the list have good infrastructure and competitive mobile markets, and while their prices aren’t among the cheapest in the world they wouldn’t necessarily be considered expensive by their consumers.”
The full table and details may be found here: Cable.co.uk
Sure doubles 4G network speeds in St Peter Port (20-05-19)
Mobile data speeds in St Peter Port have doubled as a result of Sure’s continued investment in the network and commitment to equipping the island with the latest digital technology.
The telecoms company has installed new mobile technology on its main base station in St Peter Port as it continues to prepare for the future roll out of a next generation 5G network. The site, above the Odeon car park, has been upgraded to provide faster data speeds and the ability to handle additional capacity. The new technology will provide data speeds of over 400Mbps on compatible mobile devices such as the Apple iPhone XS or recent Samsung Galaxy handsets.
“Mobile data usage is increasing all the time and we’re constantly rolling out the latest solutions to stay ahead of demand and give our customers the best possible experience. This latest work will make the network even faster and improve customers’ browsing, streaming and downloading.” said Steve Ozanne, head of mobile at Sure.
“This enhancement is part of our continual mobile network investment programme and marks an important step on the evolution from a 4G network to a ubiquitous 5G network within the Bailiwick, which will give islanders a ‘fibre in the air’ experience.
“We are committed to supporting the island’s increasingly digital future and our investment programme is aligned with the States of Guernsey’s progressive and ambitious Future of Telecoms policy.”
As well as upgrading St Peter Port, additional investment has taken place across the Bailiwick. Residents in Alderney and Sark will now benefit from superior indoor 4G coverage and increased download speeds thanks to new deployments on each island. Upgrades have also been completed at Jerbourg, which will improve coverage and data speeds for customers in the area.
Source: Sure Guernsey
“This latest work will make the network even faster and improve customers’ browsing, streaming and downloading. This enhancement is part of our continual mobile network investment programme and marks an important step on the evolution from a 4G network to a ubiquitous 5G network within the Bailiwick, which will give islanders a “fibre in the air” experience”. Steve Ozanne, Head of mobile at Sure
Source: BBC (I won’t provide a link as the post will disappear within a few days)
OpenFalklands comment: A moot point, but does this mean that they were 50% behind their competitors JT Global and Airtel-Vodafone on the islands or are they now twice as fast? The answer would be very interesting though!
Are We (St Helena) Getting a Fibre-Optic Cable or Not (15-05-19)
It has been 15 months since Dr. Rosalind Thomas of the SAEX submarine cable project visited St Helena and promised the cable to become operational in mid-2020. Since then it has become alarmingly quiet around the cable‘s progress. Although the European Union has provided £18 million for the 50km branch to St Helena the funding of the trunk cable between South Africa and Brazil is still in murky waters and as the required seabed survey has still not happened the commissioning date has already slipped at least by a year to 2021 if it materialises at all.
It has always been clear that St Helena cannot afford a dedicated cable to Africa or Latin America as the cost of such would run into the hundreds of millions. The only way to land a fibre optic cable on St Helena would be when another cable runs close to the island from where a short branch to the island could be forked off. Unfortunately, the only other cable project to come close to the island, Seaborn Networks‘ SABR cable (South Africa-Brazil) has not made any progress either, leaving us in desperation. However, with both the SAEX and SABR proposed cable projects finding it difficult to turn ideas into reality, two other proposals for South Atlantic cable routes are emerging.
Last week the Wall Street Journal revealed that two of the world‘s largest Internet companies known for their multi-billion investments in submarine cables, Facebook and Google, are both working on two separate cable systems around the African continent. Facebook‘s “Simba”cable would encircle the African continent while Google‘s “Equiano” cable would be laid off Africa‘s western coast. Large telecom companies like MTN Group and Vodafone are believed to be partners in these cable projects that will connect European and Asian data centres to the growing African telecom markets where more and more people use Facebook‘s and Google‘s services.
This is a long posting so for the full story visit the Connect StHelena website.
See the OpenFalklands post: The St Helena Submarine Cable
St Helena and the Falkland Islands Face Simultaneous Outages. (14-05-19)
On 30 April 2019, internet service in the Falkland Islands and Saint Helena suffered simultaneous outages.
We often see large outages in islands or remote areas due to limited sources for internet connectivity and/or extreme weather events.
In this case, Sure South Atlantic Ltd is only source of internet connectivity for these two British Overseas Territories. A technical glitch during Sure’s scheduled maintenance extended what was supposed to be an hour of planned downtime into a 4-hour blackout. In his blog, Chris Gare, a former telecoms consultant to the Falklands Government, highlighted another fallout of the blackout in the South Atlantic, namely that the DNS zone for the .fk TLD (which is also run by Sure South Atlantic Ltd) went completely down. It turns out that Sure hosts both NS servers for .fk (ns1.horizon.net.fk = 22.214.171.124, ns2.horizon.net.fk = 126.96.36.199) in the same routed prefix essentially negating the redundancy of multiple NS servers.
The outage also highlights the efforts of Saint Helena to secure a source of high-speed internet other than satellite, which can be expensive, high-latency and capacity constrained. For several years, the “Move This Cable” campaign has advocated for a modification of the route of the proposed SAEx submarine cable. According to its website, “there are over 4,200 people living on one of the most isolated islands in the world” and that landing the SAEx cable in Saint Helena would allow the locals to “finally join the information society, … improve standards of education and healthcare, as well as offering new economic prospects.” After securing a grant of € 21.5 million for the branch from the European Union, funding of the trunk cable across the South Atlantic has become uncertain recently.
Source: Oracle Internet Intelligence
Two updates about overseas SMS texting. (11-05-19)
Update 11th May 19
Looking at one or two Sure Falkland Islands monthly bills for April 2019, I see that the SMS texts that were sent to me in the UK as a Vodafone customer have been charged for at the tariff rate of 25 pence even though they were not delivered.
Here is an example of charges without associated refunds.
SMS texts are not a guaranteed reliable service and will not have a “100% success rate” (as stated below in Sure’s Facebook post below), but charges made for non-delivered texts is questionable.
Whether Sure Falkland Islands actually receive non-delivery messages back from receiving mobile network operators in the UK when deliveries fail, depends on the type of SMS Agreement they have with them. If they do, then they should be able to provide refunds.
It seems unusual that Sure South Atlantic (or Sure International or Sure Group) are not centrally managing SMS Agreements on Guernsey and including all of their islands on common AA. 19 Agreements. This would be the most efficient way of managing things and remove the management load of doing this from the small team in Sure Falkland Islands?
If Sure South Atlantic are unable to be confident that overseas SMSs are being delivered then it is questionable that they should be charging for them at all I would have thought? I can’t believe that there are many SMSs being sent these days overseas when there is such widespread use of Internet messaging which is so reliable.
In Europe this is not an issue, as SMS texting is very reliable as can be seen in the example from a Netherlands Mobile Network Operator shows. Over 90% are delivered in less than 5 seconds and a non-delivery rate as low as 4% which were probablt due to customer errors.
Example SMS delivery errors for an Eu Mobile Nework Operator
Update 7th May 2019
I have talked about SMS text issues with Vodafone and 3 in this post, so I would like to complete this discussion on SMS text delivery by looking at O2 and EE,
There were mixed comments made on Facebook by Sure Falkland Islands’ customers about delivery errors and delivery successes in regard to SMS texts sent to UK O2 and EE customers. My own results, although only few in number, were mixed as well – some worked and some didn’t. I am not able to identify what caused these non-delivery issues and that is why it important that customer help is given to Sure Falklands Islands to investigate this as they propose in their Facebook page below.
Overall, looking at all the four major UK Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), there seems that a lot of work needs to be done to make the service reliable enough to reliably support two-step Verification (2SV).
It’s without doubt that 2SV threw a lifeline to SMS services which was dying on the vine but that is a very important lifeline!
Sure Falkland Islands asks for feedback on SMS text delivery issues - a really positive step forward. (07-05-19)
Following the publication of the two OpenFalklands posts concerned with the performance of the Falkland Islands SMS services in the last week –
- Do you have difficulty receiving or sending overseas SMS texts?
- We have just sent a code to your mobile phone Oh damn!
I welcome the positive step taken by Sure Falkland Islands by posting a message on their company’s Face book page and asking their customers to help them identify the issues that are causing the delays and delivery failure of SMS texts.
Sure Falkland Island’s recent Facebook post
I will actively encourage all Sure Falkland Islands’ customers who are are experiencing excessive delays for in-island SMS texts or delivery failure of overseas family and friends to provide Sure Falkland Islands to provide appropriate examples to email@example.com.
This will help Sure Falkland Islands put the spotlight on the issues in the local network causing the problems and where the lack of appropriate inter-working relationships with overseas mobile network operators hinder delivery of SMS texts.
I would expect local issues could be sorted out quite quickly but the overseas delivery issues will clearly take more time as they involve relationships with 3rd parties.
I really look forward to seeing further posts from Sure Falkland Islands updating their customers as to the state of their progress in this matter.
I would also encourage Sure Falkland Islands to take the opportunity of the strong use of social media on the islands to provide many more updates on the state of the telecommunications services they provide. This could only be seen as a positive step by their customers and businesses alike.
I wish the Sure Falkland Islands engineers success in their activities in coming weeks!
p.s. I look forward to seeing a post concerning .fk DNS mirroring in due course.
Falkland Islands 'island-wide' Internet outage this morning. (30-04-19) Updated: (01-05-19 (02-05-19)
Update (02-05-2019): Intriguing! It looks like the original cause WAS a scheduled planned outage afterall that went wrong – but it was on St Helena! Surely, as the Falkland Islands and St Helena share infrastructure, Sure South Atlantic should have issued a planned outage warning to its Falkland Islands customers?
A glitch during scheduled maintenance works announced for the period from 05:45-06:45 UTC this morning has left St Helena and the Falklands – both suffering under a telecoms monopoly – without international connectivity for a total of 4h 18m today (05:45-05:54 UTC and 05:57-10:06 UTC). The outage, which is blamed on issues at a UK teleport, highlights the lack of sufficient redundancy on the network of the monopolist, Sure South Atlantic Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Batelco Group, as well as the inherent risk of monopolies, namely the total dependency on a single supplier, which is both unacceptable in this time and age where not only the economy hinges on connectivity but in such remote communities people’s health can depend on timely telemedical consultations. Source: LinkedIn
Update (01-05-19): There has been no announcement as to the cause of yesterday’s long island-wide outage by Sure South Atlantic. However, as might be expected from the fact that Internet traffic from the Falklands, Ascension and St Helena are aggregated In the Whitehill earth station in the UK by Sure SA, if the Falkland Islands’ Internet is down caused by “UK equipment” ( not Vodafone’s network in the UK) then the other islands’ Internet could have been down too.
This has proved to be the case in this instance after seeing that St Helena’s Internet was down at the same time as the Falklands. I would assume Ascension was down as well.
Both the Falkland Islands and St Helena experienced an uplanned outage.
Update (30-04-19): It has been confirmed to me that the Internet was down on the islands this morning from at least 03:00 making the outage at least 4 hours long.
Original post (30-04-19)
When I checked this morning, I could not access any Falkland islands web sites. I am not aware of any ‘Planned Maintenance Outage’ notification being sent out to Sure’s customers (please correct me if I am wrong) so I can only assume that there was an ‘Unplanned Outage’ this morning.
I wanted to know where the problem occurred so I pinged Sure’s 188.8.131.52 router in the UK as a starting point. This is the 1st UK router for Falkland Islands upload traffic and the last UK router for download traffic and all Falkland Islands’ Internet traffic passes through this router / switch.
I found that this router was inaccessible and not responding. Note: I’ve redacted the URLs of my Internet service for privacy reasons.
Non-responding Router carrying Falkland Islands Internet traffic
I do not know when the outage started during the night, but the UK router came back on-line at 07:03:11 Falkland Islands time after several hours as can be seen in the picture below. Accessibility to Falkland Islands’ web sites started immediately.
Router carrying Falkland Islands Internet traffic back on-line at 07:03:11
I would assume that because it was Sure SA managed UK equipment that had an issue, that the Internet was completely inaccessible by Falkland Islands customers during the multi-hour outage. I’m happy to be corrected if I have this wrong.
This event shows how important a number of issues are. Multi-homing and resilience for one and independent monitoring for a second. I would hope that Sure SA make a public announcement explaining what the cause of the issue was and that the Regulator follows through with enquiries to make sure that Sure SA implements process changes to ensure this does not re-occur.
Intelsat-29e declared a total loss. (19-04-19)(Update: 24-04-19)
Intelsat-29e suffered a fuel leak April 7 after just three years in geostationary orbit. Most geostationary communications satellites last 15 years if not longer.
After the fuel leak, a subsequent problem arose with Intelsat-29e’s communications link, causing gaps in contact with the satellite. Commercial telescopes from ExoAnalytic Solutions spotted the satellite drifting from its orbital position April 8.
In an April 18 statement, Intelsat it formed a failure review board with Boeing, the satellite’s manufacturer, to conduct a “comprehensive analysis of the cause of the anomaly.”
Intelsat has six Epic-class high-throughput satellites in orbit, of which Boeing built payloads for all and the chassis for five (Airbus supplied the platform for Intelsat-32e).
Intelsat said the majority of customers on Intelsat-29e have been transferred to other satellites in its fleet of around 50 spacecraft or onto satellites from other operators. Intelsat-29e covered the Americas and surrounding regions, including the Caribbean and the North Atlantic. It carried transponders in C-, Ku- and Ka-band frequencies.
The IS-29e before its launch. Source: Space.com
The satellite was 14,445 pounds (6,552 kilograms) at launch and measured about 24.6 by 9.8 by 6.6 feet (7.5 by 3 by 2 meters). It’s two solar panels produced about 15.8 kilowatts of power. It was designed to last at least 15 years in orbit.
Given that Intelsat has declared its IS-29E a total loss, “means it will continue to drift uncontrolled along its current orbit in GEO,” explains T.S. Kelso, the operator of CelesTrak, a leading source for orbital element sets and related software to keep an eye on satellites and orbital debris.
Kelso tweeted back on April 16th that the current situation with IS-29E “continues to be quite troubling,” with the troubled satellite spiraling around IS-11 & IS-32E. Additionally there are reports of 13 pieces of associated debris, he reported.
(CG: Fortunately the IS-37e, the one on the right, is a good distance away from the IS-29e.)
Intelsat IS-29e dead, but still dangerous
The challenge now is that IS-29e is spinning out of control, and in an increasingly elliptical orbit which could pose problems to other satellites in the geostationary arc. Observations made by ExoAnalytic Solutions showed the propellant leaking into space, and also indicated the craft possibly breaking up.
The satellite is also moving slightly faster than nominal and is ‘overtaking’ other satellites in its path. Ground-based technicians controlling other satellites in the path of IS-29 are able to compensate for any possible risk by slightly raising or lowering the orbits of their satellites and thus avoiding collision. Intelsat itself is very closely monitoring the precise path and location of IS-29 and will be alerting other operators of any threat.
Source: Advanced Television
OpenFalklands’ comment: It has been confirmed to me by an industry colleague that Sure SA were not using this satellite and are using the Intelsat IS-37e satellite which is good to hear!
The Intelsat Epic satellites were discussed in my post Falkland Islands’ satellite – spoilt for choice! Part 1, Intelsat EPIC.
Arianespace completed SES’s first-generation O3b constellation. (04-04-19)
The rocket lifted off at 1:04 p.m. Eastern from Europe’s Guiana Space Centre near Kourou, French Guiana.
The 700-kilogram satellites, designed for broadband connectivity services, separated from the Russian-built rocket two at a time, the first set two hours and one minute after liftoff and the second set 22 minutes later.
SES now has 20 O3b satellites in medium Earth orbit. Franco-Italian manufacturer Thales Alenia Space built the Ka-band satellites, each of which carries 20 gigabits per second of throughput.
Luxembourg-based SES operates the O3b satellites 8,000 kilometers above the Earth — about a fourth the distance of geostationary orbit where most telecom satellites reside. The proximity of the O3b satellites means less lag time for communications services.
SES spokesperson Suzanne Ong said the four new satellites increase the throughput of the O3b constellation by 26 percent. The O3b constellation’s coverage area remains largely the same, she said, fanning out 50 degrees north and south of the equator.
Since then, multiple companies have started placing broadband satellites in low Earth orbit even closer to the Earth. SpaceX and Telesat have prototype spacecraft, and OneWeb has six operational satellites, all in low Earth orbit.
John-Paul Hemingway, SES Networks CEO, stood by SES’s decision to focus on medium Earth orbit, arguing that low Earth orbit systems will face latency challenges similar to GEO satellites because their closer proximity to the Earth means smaller coverage areas, necessitating routing traffic through multiple stops for long-distance communications.
“If you want to get from Africa to London, you’ve got to get through multiple hops to get there, so ultimately the delay will be the same [as a higher orbit],” he said. “We really think this medium Earth orbit is the sweet spot.”
Not all operators agree with that assessment. LeoSat, which is preparing a constellation of 108 low Earth orbit satellites equipped with intersatellite links, says it will be faster than fiber for some long distance communications.
Hemingway said SES can route latency-sensitive traffic, such as video conferencing, over O3b satellites, and route other traffic like web browsing over its 50-plus geostationary satellites.
Hemingway said the influx of investment into constellations of small satellites, as well as other satellite systems, is proof that satellite communications is becoming mainstream rather than a solution of last resort.
“It has to be used with fiber, with microwave, and satellite will be mainstream,” he said. “All of this is proof for me that it’s happening.”
SES has seven second-generation O3b satellites under construction with Boeing, designed to collectively provide 10 terabits per second of capacity. SES has not selected a launch provider, but plans to have the second generation, known as O3b mPower, in orbit in 2021.
UK Broadband speeds must be revealed to customers. (28-02-19)
It is part of regulator Ofcom’s pledge to make broadband contracts more “clear and honest”.
If broadband speed drops below the promised level, firms have one month to improve performance or let customers cancel the contract with no penalty. Consumer groups applauded the changes. Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at price comparison site uSwitch, said: “This should be welcome news for any customers blighted by the frustrations of relentlessly buffering broadband.
“This new code also improves the property-specific information about speeds that broadband providers have to give before you sign up. “This is welcome, but providers should go further in opening up this information so that consumers are able to make side-by-side comparisons between providers, so that they can make the best choice.”
Under the new rules, broadband firms must also reveal what speeds customers can expect at busy times – typically evenings for home users – when more people are using the network.
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said: “When you sign a contract, you should be treated fairly and know exactly what you’re getting.
“These protections mean broadband shoppers can buy with confidence. Before they sign up, customers will be told their minimum internet speed. And if companies break that promise, they’ll have to sort it out quickly, or let the customer walk away.”
Ofcom is at the centre of a campaign to persuade users to upgrade to faster broadband as well as reviewing broadband firms’ pricing practices and ensuring customers get the best available deals.
According to the regulator’s research, those with a basic broadband connection have less than a one-in-five chance of being able to stream Netflix in ultra-high definition.
Matthew Howett, founder of research firm Assembly, said the new code could act “as an incentive for broadband providers to move customers on to full-fibre connections, since speeds in the fibre network are easier to guarantee and less susceptible to network congestion”.
As part of its work – dubbed Fairness for Customers – Ofcom is also reviewing how mobile operators charge their customers for handsets when bundled with airtime.
Source: BBC News
Brexit preparedness: Removal of Galileo back-up sites from UK territory continue. (26-02-19)
As part of its Brexit preparedness work, the Commission is taking the necessary operational steps to ensure business continuity and preserve the security of the Galileo satellite navigation system after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The Galileo back-up sites located in the United Kingdom’s territory are being transferred to the EU. Following a Commission decision in January 2018, the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre (GSMC) back-up site has been moved to Spain. Now the two Galileo Sensor Stations located on the Falkland and Ascension Islands are being removed. The Galileo sensor stations located on the Ascension and Falkland Islands host cryptographic material/EU classified information, which in accordance with the EU security rules is not allowed to be located in the territory of third countries, unless relevant agreements are in place. Today the Commission has amended the relevant legal act determining the location of the ground-based infrastructure of the system established under the Galileo programme and setting out the necessary measures to ensure that it functions smoothly. The removal of these two stations does not affect the overall performance of Galileo services, which remains excellent, as there is sufficient capacity in the system. Galileo, the EU’s global satellite navigation system, has been providing positioning and timing services to around 600 million users since December 2016. The number of users continues to grow and Galileo provides an increasingly precise signal across a range of valuable services.
Chris Gare, 2019 Copyright: OpenFalklands.com