Advertise with Islandsun

First 38, of 163, to be completed before PG23


GOVERNMENT yesterday confirmed it will obtain a loan of US$66 million ($544.3 million) from China to fund 163 telecommunication towers it plans to build across the country.

“It’s a concessional loan to be repaid at 1 per cent per annum for a 20-year period,” Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance McKinnie Dentana told reporters.

“Exim Bank of China will provide the loan,” Dentana added.

Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei will build the towers.

Government, through the Solomon Islands National Broadband Infrastructure Project (SINBIP), signed the contracting agreement this week with Huawei and China Harbour.

Dentana said the Government expects to complete the first 38 towers before the Pacific Games in Honiara in November 2023.

“The government plans to establish the towers close to schools and clinics and outer islands not connected to Solomon Telekom and Bmobile connections for accessibility,” Dentana said.

He said this is one of the priority projects for the National Government and consists of not only DCGA policy statements but also in line with Solomon Islands National Infrastructure Plan, the National ICT policy and Solomon Islands National Development Strategy (2016-2035).

He said work on the SINBIP project started in 2019 when the submission of a feasibility study in the project was received by the government.

“After government endorsed project in 2019, a steering committee was set up consisting of officials from within the government relevant ministries to review the feasibility study as advised by the government.

“In connection to this direction, team of local and external expertise have been engaged,” he said.

Dentana said as a result the steering committee contracted a private consulting firm from New Zealand with both financial and technical study to assess the project.

He said at the same time a local consultant was engaged to do the same assessment as well.

“The consultant recognition found both financial and viable compatible with existing telecommunication infrastructures in the country,” he said.

Furthermore, Dentana said the independent review of the project shows it would generate sufficient revenue for the government to fully repay both the principal and interest costs within the loan period.

He confirmed the proposed tower infrastructures are important part of telecommunication infrastructures assets.

“As such, government plans to create a company as owner of the infrastructure on behalf of the government.”

He said in terms of operation of the project, a committee is currently discussing with Solomon Islands Telekom Ltd as the key operator partner.

He also confirms system will be connected to STCL core network throughout the company.

“In this regard the project will resolve in further expansion of this STCL network.

“This will provide better communication network throughout the country,” he said.

Moreover, he said the proposed arrangement will also provide clear legal playing field to other operators like Bmobile company services throughout the country.

Dentana said although the Government has already signed the contract for the construction and supply of equipment, the next step will be subjected to formal operational arrangement or aggregate to Solomon Telekom and all the final funding arrangement with the Exim Bank of China.