Tonga moves into the broadband world

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Small Australian distributor ComNet Solutions is supplying wireless broadband gear to the Kingdom of Tonga under a contract with the country’s Shoreline Group.

Small Australian distributor ComNet Solutions is supplying wireless broadband gear to the Kingdom of Tonga under a contract with the country's Shoreline Group.

Shoreline -- which is acting as an ISP in Tonga -- is building a radio frequency (RF) wireless broadband network on the country's three main islands and all IP links are filtered via satellite.

Shoreline bought 12 smartBridges access points and 60 bridges, antennas and Ethernet cable, said Graham Goldfinch, product manager at ComNet.
It has established four points of presence (POPs).

"We've supplied them a lot of goodies at good reseller prices and they're very happy with that," said Goldfinch.

"It's a simple network from an RF point of view. It's all reasonably low-cost but it all seems to be working for them," he said.

The network operates on a 2.4GHz RF spectrum. "They have very simple pricing plans for their subscribers so they don't need to have any high technology back-ends for Radius servers or identification and stuff like that, so it's working so well," he said.

Under the rollout, Shoreline was providing internet access to residential and commercial subscribers there. "They're reselling the broadband," he said.

"Their bigger plan is to get into the education market over there so the schools can have better internet access. What they have at the moment is pretty much unusable," he said.

Shoreline was originally sold some wireless gear six or nine months ago by another supplier, said Goldfinch.

"The pricing didn't suit their model because it was probably about three to four times the price of what they're buying now. They looked around for a local supplier in this neck of the woods and found us so we started talking and the ball just rolled from there."

Goldfinch said previously services to Tonga were dial-up and there are no other broadband providers in the country. He said the country was now moving from 10-year-old dial-up to today's broadband services.

"The products we're supplying can be bandwidth limited per client so they can have anything from 64Kb/s up to Megabit-type speeds per client, depending on what they want to pay for," he said.

Goldfinch said the contract was unique due to Tonga's Third World location. "I think it's a great story that Australia is helping Tonga do something great for their education [sector] and industry as well. They are a pretty poor country," he said.

"A lot of Third World countries are rolling out wireless broadband. A lot of them in Africa are doing the same," he said.

The wireless network was cheaper than running cables, he said. "ADSL is impossible. It would never work -- it [cabling] would be a much bigger investment for DSLAMs and all the rest of it."

"They can rollout a wireless POP for a couple of thousand dollars and service 50 clients from there. Each client would cost about $500 to setup," he said.

"But once it's in there's no further charges for anybody -- they [Shoreline] just provide the service and rake in the monthly fees," he said.

ComNet expected to contract to be worth up to $150,000. Around 1000 client devices would be supported within the first six to nine months.

Tonga has a population of 107,000. "There's small islands of course as well, which will never get this," he said.

One of the islands that the service had been rolled out to already had never had internet access before, not even a wired dial-up service, he said.

The Shoreline group of companies also includes Shoreline Oil, Shoreline Aviation, Shoreline Property, Shoreline Distribution and Shoreline Communications.

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