Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Communications links still down to six Pacific nations after satellite lost

Excerpt from TheStar


WELLINGTON, New Zealand: International phone and data links remained cut to at least six Pacific Islands nations and to part of Antarctica Wednesday after an Intelsat satellite failed over the weekend, communications officials said.

Island territories still isolated early Wednesday included Kiribati, American Samoa, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga, the Tokelau islands and New Zealand's territory in Antarctica, said Telecom New Zealand spokeswoman Sarah Berry.

"We are hoping to have a number of (those) locations back up in the next 24 to 48 hours,'' she said.

Most of the 15 island nations affected when the Intelsat IS-804 satellite shut down communications on Saturday initially were without international calling and data access.

All still had locally sourced phone and data services, but electronic banking and international data and airline circuits were cut.

Intelsat director of communications Fritz Stollenbach said the Intelsat IS-804 satellite was not insured and had been written off.

"The power stopped working and so did the satellite and we're actually having to write it off as a total loss,'' he told National Radio.

The lost satellite would not need to be replaced.

"There are plenty of resources in the region and we are planning on managing those to make sure that everybody's needs are taken care of in the long term,'' he said.

Berry said Telecom New Zealand, which rented capacity on the lost Intelsat unit, was working with the island nations to re-establish international communications links.

"We are trying to restore services using two back up satellites,'' she said, adding the greatest priority was in restoring links to countries where health and safety was an issue.

New Zealand territories of Scott Base in Antarctica and Chatham Islands, 500 kilometers (312 miles) to the east, had also lost all phone links, she said.

Several other countries were also affected but had other alternatives, including New Caledonia, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, East Timor, Vietnam, Korea and Saipan.

Stollenbach said he expected everything to be back to normal within days. - AP

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