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US invests in Palau's mobile network upgrade in preparation for 5G rollout

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

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Pooja V. Vernekar, political counselor at the Embassy of India; Palau President Surangel S. Whipps, Jr.; Whitney Baird, principal deputy assistant secretary of Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs; Simon Fraser, PNCC CEO; ; Carmen Cantor, U.S. Department of Interior's assistant secretary; Australian Ambassador Richelle Turner; James Boughner, Chargé d’Affaires a.i., U.S. Embassy; Mayu Hagiwara, Charge d’ Affaires a.i., Embassy of Japan. Photo courtesy of USTDA

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency and Palau have signed a technical assistance agreement sealing Washington's commitment to upgrade the Pacific nation's telecommunications network and prepare it for the rollout of 5G services.


According to USTDA, the $8700,000 in technical assistance grant "represents a coordinated effort by the Quad governments of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States to support the development of resilient, secure, trustworthy and cost-effective mobile networks in the Pacific islands."


The grant awarded to the Palau National Communications Corp. is funded through the Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership, according to the U.S. Department of State.


“USTDA’s partnership with Palau reflects our commitment to support the development of quality digital infrastructure and access to affordable connectivity in the Pacific Islands,” said Enoh T. Ebong, USTDA’s director.


“USTDA’s grant supports a top infrastructure priority for Palau and will expand opportunities for trusted technology partners to deliver next-generation network solutions that meet Palau’s needs," he added.


USTDA said the technical assistance will provide PNCC with the necessary support including data, analysis, designs and detailed implementation plans, to replace Palau’s existing national mobile network with secure and trustworthy technology while enhancing service for users.


The assistance will also support the expansion of PNCC’s network footprint to underserved areas. Implementation of the project would represent the first commercial deployment of Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) architecture in the Pacific islands.


Open RAN offers several advantages for island countries and rural areas where traditional communications infrastructure may be lacking or limited. These benefits can include lower deployment and operational costs, greater scalability and automation, more diversification and competition among technology suppliers, improved energy efficiency, and momentum toward 5G.

“The substantial support extended by USTDA and our Quad partners significantly accelerates Palau’s journey toward a comprehensive digital transformation,” said Simon Fraser, PNCC chief executive officer. “This initiative is not just about upgrading our mobile telecommunications network, but also about empowering everyone in Palau, and enhancing our economy by providing state-of-the-art digital infrastructure.”


“Programs like this one show the U.S.’s commitment to collaboration and cooperation between our two countries,” said Whitney Baird, U.S. Department of State, principal deputy assistant secretary. “We look forward to this ever-broadening partnership and the benefits it will produce in the coming years.”


"This project, aligned with the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, and the Indo-Pacific Strategy, will be the first deployment of Open RAN in the Pacific Islands and will position Palau as a regional leader in the development of advanced ICT infrastructure and digital connectivity," according to the U.S. Department of State.




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