The incumbent fixed line and broadband provider for the islands of Wallis and Futuna, Service des Postes et des Telecommunications (SPT), has announced that the South Pacific Ocean nation will finally receive its first cellular services, bringing to fruition a mobile project that was first mooted in 2002. SPT has confirmed that the current project – initiated in 2013 – will be implemented in late 2015, in conjunction with equipment supplier Ericsson and tech support firm Intelia. The Swedish vendor reportedly began testing the equipment in August this year and is now rolling out base stations at Loka, Afala, Matala’a and Mauga (all on Wallis) and Mamati, Apipi, Sausau and Utulimu (Futuna). Each tower will have a reach of up to 10km, SPT says, and will support 3G and 4G technology for voice, SMS, MMS and data services. The total cost of the rollout, which is dubbed ‘Project Mobile Manuia 2015’ (Manuia meaning ‘happy’), is XPF787 million (USD7.3 million), including a XPF200 million loan, XPF215 million subsidised by the French government and the remainder in other borrowing. SIM cards will be sold through SPT outlets and Wallisian subscribers will be assigned a number 82.xx.xx, while Futunians will be given 83.xx.xx.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database writes that in 2002 the French regulator Arcep – which ultimately oversees the development of telecoms in France’s Collectivite d’outre-mer (COM), including Wallis and Futuna – opened a formal consultation regarding the introduction of 3G services. Such proposals met with a lukewarm response, however, while a second 3G consultation published in October 2007 also failed to pique the interest of SPT. Then, in 2013, Victorin Lurel, France’s overseas minister, and Fleur Pellerin, Minister for the Digital Economy, revealed that plans were underway for the award of LTE licences in the overseas territories, and in July 2013 Arcep unveiled a ‘broad public consultation’ covering mobile frequency assignments in a number of COMs, including Wallis and Futuna. At that time, stakeholders were invited to submit their contributions on suitability and pricing for 4G spectrum by 30 September 2013.