Starlink services approved to operate in Samoa

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    Samoa Cabinet has approved Space X’s Starlink satellite services to operate in the country.

    This was confirmed by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, La’auli Leuatea Schmidt. He said this was the government’s vision for enhanced internet accessibility and affordability for all Samoans.

    Speaking during an interview on Soalepule on Wednesday night, La’auli disclosed that the Cabinet, in its weekly deliberations, endorsed the utilisation of Starlink satellite services, heralding a significant milestone in Samoa’s technological advancement.

    The Cabinet’s endorsement of Starlink’s services marks a decisive turn, effectively nullifying a previous order issued by the Acting Regulator in January of this year.

    The order, which mandated the immediate cessation of unauthorised Starlink satellite services in Samoa, including Starlink user terminals and service plans not approved by the Office of the Regulator, is now superseded by the government’s approval.

    Highlighting the government’s proactive approach, La’auli revealed that the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology are actively collaborating to ensure the security and economic benefits of utilising Starlink services remain within Samoa’s borders.

    This strategic partnership aims to explore avenues for retaining a portion of the revenue generated from Starlink services within the local economy.

    At the forefront of this initiative is the overarching objective of providing fast and affordable internet services to the people of Samoa.

    Despite the presence of established telecommunication giants such as Vodafone Samoa and Digicel, La’auli emphasised the positive impact of healthy competition in potentially driving down internet costs across the nation.

    With Samoa set to host the prestigious Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in October, La’auli underscored the urgent need to bolster internet infrastructure in preparation for this globally significant event.

    He stressed the pivotal role of reliable internet connectivity in ensuring seamless communication and facilitating the successful execution of key agendas during the summit.

    La’auli outlined plans for a trial period to evaluate the efficacy of Starlink services in delivering high-quality internet connectivity to Samoa.

    This trial phase will serve as a litmus test to gauge the feasibility and effectiveness of integrating Starlink satellite services into the country’s telecommunications landscape.

    Attempts to get comments from the Minister of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) Toelupe Poumulinuku Onesemo and the Regulator, Lematua Gisa Fuatai-Purcell have been unsuccessful.

    Internet costs in Samoa sparked a heated debate in Parliament last week.

    In a recent interview with Samoa Observer, the Regulator asserted that the current cost of internet is more affordable compared to previous years and anticipates further reductions by the end of the year.

    This response comes amid concerns raised in Parliament regarding high internet costs despite the presence of significant local IT infrastructure.

    Opposition Leader Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has urged action from the Regulator and the Minister of Communication Information and Technology (MCIT) to address the issue of expensive connectivity.

    Lematua highlighted that internet prices have decreased, attributing this to the Samoa Submarine Cable Company (SSCC) lowering its wholesale prices for capacity in October 2023.

    The Regulator noted that further reductions in internet costs are expected once the current tariff term expires in 2024 due to the ongoing decline in wholesale prices.