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Feature: Chinese aid to Solomon Islands' broadband network improves infrastructure, education

Updated: July 9, 2024 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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By Zhang Jianhua, Zhang Na

HONIARA, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Near a scattering of once-isolated villages just 30 km from Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands, metal pylons are being erected to weave a modern network for the South Pacific country.

The communication base stations are spotted through palm groves and sparsely populated grass huts, next to ancient rainforest.

China's assistance to the Solomon Islands' National Broadband Network Project, jointly implemented by China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd. and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd., is a landmark project for cooperation between the two countries.

The project plans to construct 161 3G/4G wireless communication base stations on 35 major islands in the Solomon Islands' nine provinces.

The construction, to last for three years, started on Aug. 28, 2023, with the first telecommunication tower launched on March 22 in Sali village.

In a country of more than 900 islands, widespread poverty makes it difficult for people to meet and engage with the outside world.

Huawei's project leader Zhao Xin recalled that when he went to the Russell Islands where a base station is being built, a teacher in the village said she really looked forward to the completion of the base station earlier.

The teacher bought a smartphone to facilitate her teaching, but only to find there was almost no signal on the island and she had to walk for half an hour on the mountain road with her cellphone, and then took a boat ride for more than an hour before she could find a place with a weak signal.

Wang Xingya, general manager of China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd. (Solomon Islands), said the farthest island where base stations are being built is about 1,100 km away from the capital by aerial distance. But if by boat, when things go well, it would be a round trip of two weeks.

Half of the 161 base stations are more than 600 km away from the capital, which means around three days of boat trip, Wang said, citing difficulties such as remoteness, high temperature and rains, mosquito infestation and lack of resources, among others.

Many islands did not have decent wharves, so components had to be transported by hand, he said.

In addition to connecting more islands to broadband network, Wang said the project has trained telecommunications engineering professionals and created more than 3,000 long and short-term jobs.

Philsworth Avui, a 26-year-old from a remote village called Longgu, has grown from a college graduate into an experienced project manager. "I'm grateful for China's support for the project, and for the communication channels built for local people and economy," Avui said.

Chinese Ambassador to the Solomon Islands Cai Weiming said the national broadband network project in the Solomon Islands will facilitate the flow of information and friendship and provide a more balanced distribution of development opportunities, demonstrating the appealing prospects of Belt and Road cooperation.

Ben Dabughau, 34, a worker in a palm plantation near Sali village, said in the past he had to walk up 2 or 3 km in the direction of the capital to get a signal.

"No one is happy about this. My eldest son is now a security guard at the base station and has a regular monthly income. I hope my children, or their children, will go out to see the world outside this wilderness and palm groves," Dabughau told Xinhua.

Editor: Tian Shenyoujia