St Helena Online

Tag: internet


Saintel the ISP on St Helena post fibre optic cable delivery


‘Saintel’ St Helena’s new potential internet service and communication provider announced this week that they are launching their new business venture as an Island wide Internet service provider tailored for the future needs of St Helena.

The Wireless thinking provider has promised that everyone from residential to business users on St Helena will benefit from the 21st century capability that is due for rollout in 2023 providing they can get the government’s approval to deliver the service.

The question you might ask as a local internet user or visitor returning to St Helena in the future is what is going to be different about Saintel.

Forward thinking and long-time campaigner of internet connectivity to St Helena Christian von der Ropp together with Karl Thrower, a local business owner here on St Helena, who is behind the Saintel venture have set up the provider to operate as a non-profit organisation.

Saintel’s vision is to offer eighty percent of the Islands population the option to connect to the Saintel wireless high speed network within the first 12 months, they are also keen to share their network capability with international tech companies who want to trial and develop other technologies within the industry.

Some of Saintel’s published business objectives once the fibre optic cable is connected to St Helena are:

  • To provide affordable, reliable, high speed access to residential and businesses users on St Helena through a non-profit entity.
  • Support the Island community, embracing the digital transformation.
  • Help to mitigate the issues arising from St Helena‘s remoteness through the many new possibilities offered by the Internet.
  • Increase digital literacy and develop local skill sets through the correct training in digital technology.
  • Stop capital outflow (a key economic problem here on St Helena) caused by monopolist‘s dividend payments to its overseas parent. Instead, help to create more local circulation of money
  • Support the global Information and Communications Technology industry to trial new technologies, applications and products.
  • Collaborate with potential satellite earth station operators (infrastructure sharing) to unlock synergies and make St Helena more attractive to earth station operators.

Saintel will be incorporated under the laws of St Helena as a non-profit Private Limited Company by Guarantee. Saintel’s vision is to enable one of the most isolated communities in the world to join the global Information Society and to leapfrog into the broadband age and contribute to closing St Helena‘s digital divide.

Saintel’s plan or the market entry  of any another communications service provider on St Helena will only be possible if SHG allow competition by removing the exclusivity clause provided in Sure’s current license

Note the current exclusive public telecommunications licence with Sure SA Ltd will expire at the end on 31 December 2022, so no new provider could start operation before 2023

St Helena Government is in the process of a tender process to determine the next Public Electronic Communication Networks and Services provider/s for the Island.

St Helena online welcome any thoughts on expectations as a customers post fibre optic cable delivery on St Helena.  

Internet pirates are driven off Ascension Island

The original Pirate Bay server - now the site's data is stored in cyperspace. Picture by James Losey
The original Pirate Bay server – now the site’s data is stored in cyperspace. Picture by James Losey

Three centuries after the buccaneer William Dampier abandoned his sinking ship in Clarence Bay, a new brand of pirates has tried settling on Ascension Island.

But the outlawed Pirate Bay website was quickly driven off the island’s internet domain after administrator Colin Wells was alerted by the media.

The owners of The Pirate Bay had not actually set foot in Georgetown.

Their site, which allows people to download films and other files without paying for them, merely switched to an Ascension domain name after being shut down on another island.

The site’s last address on the Dutch island of Sint Maartin, in the Caribbean, was seized by the authorities after pressure from campaigners against internet piracy.

The widely-read Motherboard blog noted that the site jumped to Ascension after being shut down in four other places in 2013, including Greenland, Iceland and Sweden.

Because all of The Pirate Bay’s data is actually stored on the internet, using so-called cloud storage, “there isn’t even anything to move”, says the site.

It adds: “There’s enough countries and enough domains (and more all the time) that this game of domain Whak-a-mole can pretty much go on nigh indefinitely.”

But St Helena never looked likely to be the next stop: as Motherboard predicted, the site had moved on to Peru within days of registering on Ascension.

Pirate Bay sets sail for Ascension Island – The Independent
Everywhere the Pirate Bay set up shop in 2013 – the Motherboard
William Dampier’s ship found off Ascension

Deal promises faster internet and lower charges

Internet speeds on St Helena are to be doubled under a new ten-year communications contract signed between Cable & Wireless South Atlantic and the island government.

Customers will also get a significant increase in the amount of data they can use, and penalties for going over the limit will be eased.

The deal commits Cable & Wireless to invest £1.5 million in new equipment.

Internet charges – among the most expensive in the world – will drop by 10% from January 2013 and by 5% in each of the following five years.

The cost of international telephone calls will also fall by 10% in January 2013.

A second contract also covers an increase in the number of television channels from three to 15, with parental controls, although this is being forced on the company because existing receiving equipment has become outdated.

The upgrade has been delayed because essential equipment did not arrive from South Africa.

Note on charges from St Helena Government:

  • All published national tariffs (excluding broadband and international voice tariffs) will not rise by more than the published annual rate of inflation in St Helena, or 6% a year, whichever is the lower, for the first five years (ending December 2017).
  • Service fees thereafter will be subject to review, from January 2017, with implementation of any price changes in January 2018 (except for fixed monthly broadband prices, where implementation is January 2019).  The initial cost of the new TV package will be £33-35 per month.


Yahoo! About time the people at home get a break from the outrageous prices!
– Doreen Gatien, USA

How about more competition in the marketplace! Competition breeds lower prices – let’s get rid of the C&W monopoly.
– Derek Peters

New Cable & Wireless deal heralds mobile phones

Mobile phone masts could soon be springing up across St Helena (except on the bits that are to have wind turbines).

On Tuesday, 26 June 2012, executive councillors agreed the terms of a new telecommunications licence that should bring mobile phone technology to Jamestown, Half Tree Hollow and – who knows? – maybe even Sandy Bay.

“Full details of the agreement will be announced shortly,” reported governor Mark Capes, “but it combines price reductions with a significant improvement in services and new investment to allow for the introduction of mobile phones.”

If the Oberoi luxury hotel group agrees to run Shelco’s hotel at Broad Bottom, it will certainly want the kind of phone technology it already uses in some of the poorest parts of the world.

For Basil Read, it will be too late: there are no telephones out on Prosperous Bay Plain, where it will be building the island’s airport for the next three years, so it has brought in its own mobile phone equipment, linked to a service provider in South Africa.

And for Johnny Clingham, a St Helenian telecoms expert based in the UK, mobile phone coverage may not be enough to bring him home.

“I think it’s something that we need to have that would be beneficial,” said Johnny, speaking from Amsterdam, where he was on a trip to research high-speed communication. “But it’s the internet we want improvement on.

“We need to see what the improvements are. Until we see the full report on what they are going to get and whether other providers will come in, we don’t know whether it’s going to meet our needs.

“Mobile phones are great, but the quality of internet service is what we need.”

Cable & Wireless has exclusive contracts to provide communications and a TV service on St Helena. At a recent executive council (ExCo) meeting, councillors voiced disquiet about the service, and the high price of phone calls and a very slow internet connection.

The company’s licences expire on 31 December 2012.

Governor Capes said lengthy negotiations gained momentum when the UK government agreed to fund the island’s airport.

“That decision means that the future market for telecoms on St Helena looks much more attractive for Cable & Wireless,” he said. “Subject to a few minor amendments, ExCo approved the licences.”


Living here for the last couple of months it’s been quite a treat NOT to have the mobile going and feel the ‘need’ to check the phone every 5 minutes. Over dinner the other night we all agreed that the lack of smart phones in particular was a good thing – there was no anti-social updating of Facebook or Twitter. Shock, horror…you actually spoke to the people you were out with. I guess progress comes with a price though?

– Suzie Pearson, St Helena
Three months on St Helena – blog

‘Very high’ telecom charges prompt council debate

Cable & Wireless St Helena

Your views on broadband: ‘Mum’s asked me to stop sending photos’ (updated Tuesday 27 March 2012)

Internet access on St Helena is extremely slow and few islanders can afford to pay Cable & Wireless £120 a month for unlimited access. The government is investigating connection to a new undersea cable. Read our latest story – then comment, below:

Firstly I would like to express my concerns about the lack of competition for internet/telephone usage on St Helena. I think it is appalling in this day and age that one company should have the monopoly of this said service. With fibre-optic cable being laid to St Helena I know that it will make internet and telephone usage better but will it be cheaper for the people of St Helena? It’s no good having this put in place and the locals still can’t afford to pay for it. Cable & Wireless offers internet and telephone service by satellite which should be cheaper knowing that their network is internal but laying cable to St Helena is a lot of miles and as far as I can see someone will have to pay for it in the long run!!! Personally I have a 20+ year old son, my mum and family on the island who I can’t speak to because of the prices, even sending a photo of my boys to my mum crashed her computer and takes all the megabytes, then she can’t access any more e-mails etc… so my mum asked me not send any more photos as she is only allowed certain amount of usage!! Also the children on the island are losing out on so much information via the internet. My boys live on the computer; gone are the days when you need books for school or information. The internet is so vast and St Helena really needs this for medical, education, business and communication!!

Allan Stroud, UK

I have family there [in St Helena] but they can’t afford what Cable & Wireless offers…£120.00 a month for limited access it’s disgusting. My sister has three young boys and one of them is my godson; she can’t afford the prices so I don’t get to hear from them or see photos of them. I can’t send photos as it uses their megabytes therefore restricting their usage of social networking as well. Children could learn so much from having internet usage at their finger tips especially living in such an isolated place, where we can’t even afford to visit but that’s another rip-off story concerning St Helena.

Natasha Stroud, UK

Broadband in St Helena is a MUST! Airport and broadband brings tourism, without broadband tourism will be limited, though I would hate to see typical British idiots abroad come to our beautiful island! Broadband would be a major step forward for our very primitive health system, and education! Please not ponder over this issue for many years wasting millions before it got under way like the airport project! British Goverment should be responsible for this! We are a very patriotic colony would not like to be recognized as a Third World country. Saints living abroad like myself are very limited to how often we can telephone our families due to ludicrus expensive phone charges, so forget the pen pushing and make a decision fast.

Sylvia Langham, UK

I am amazed that internet isnt a priority with the airport on the horizon. How will the airport operate with out proper communications. St Helena is looking for inward investment but this is not possible with out proper robust communications ie internet SHG can forget about inward investors if the internet dont improve. I think the UK government should help to pay for better broadband as part of the infrastructure improvement for the residents of St Helena. This is the last place on earth that a government gives the sole right to one company to provide a internet service. I think if SHG wants inward investment maybe another internet provider for the island of St Helena is good start.

– Johnny Clingham, UK

St. Helena does not currently have a Broadband connection, by any currently acceptable definition.  It has an ADSL service that is called Broadband by its provider, but which – even in its most expensive form – is slower than the lowest speed considered anywhere else to constitute Broadband, and has severe capacity limitations. Burgh House Limited supports any project to introduce true broadband to St. Helena: please see our website at for our detailed views.

John Turner, St Helena

What does St Helena’s broadband situation mean to you? Is it just part of the price of living in a very remote place? Tell us your views:

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Internet cable for St Helena: ‘We’re interested’, says the Castle

Workmen on a beach with a cable snaking out to a cable-laying ship, with large red buoys attached
Next stop, St Helena? A cable-laying ship at work (Creative Commons library image by Sergio77)

The cost of connecting St Helena up to an undersea internet cable would be “very substantial”, according to the island government. It has confirmed that it is investigating the idea.

But the man behind the Connect St Helena campaign has challenged a claim – from an unnamed source – that the price could reach $50 million. Christian von der Ropp says it could cost only a tenth of that figure, after which it should cost around the same as the current satellite link.

Head and shoulders portrait of Christian von der Ropp, in jacket and tie
Campaign founder: Christian von der Ropp

St Helena – one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands – currently receives very limited bandwidth via satellite.

Islanders can pay just under £20 a month for “Lite” internet access, allowing them to download less data than iPhone owners generally use, according to figures on the campaign website. They would have to pay five times what UK web users pay for a similar amount of data.

But the average salary on St Helena is £4,500, well under a fifth of the UK average – meaning the cost of internet, compared with average salary, is more than 25 times higher than in the UK – for a much slower service.

It was disclosed in the UK parliament on 13 March 2012 that St Helena Government (SHG) was exploring a way to secure cheaper internet for the island, bringing a fast connection within the reach of ordinary islanders.

‘We can’t afford to talk to our families’
Read comments, and add your own below

It was not made clear whether the plan was to try to link to a proposed undersea cable between South Africa and America.

The cable was initially set to pass several hundred miles north of St Helena. The Connect St Helena campaign has been pressing for it to “land” on the island, or for a spur to be added linking Jamestown to the cable.

A statement from The Castle in Jamestown said:

“The island already has broadband provided by Cable & Wireless. SHG is in discussion with C&W regarding a possible new licence and one of the elements being considered is an improvement on the current broadband offering.

“SHG is also in discussions with the providers of the proposed South Atlantic Express submarine cable to see if it might be viable for a spur from this to serve St Helena.

“The potential costs involved in this project are very substantial and any decision would depend on many different elements, including the overall financial viability of the proposed cable.”

Mr von der Ropp, an island-watcher in Germany who launched the Connect St Helena campaign, says that St Helena Government initially had problems communicating with eFive, the company behind the cable project.

“What we know is that shortly after we launched our campaign, eFive Telecoms expressed readiness to route the cable via St Helena.” From that point, he says, SHG has succeeding in having talks with the company.

Map of Africa and South America with two possible cable routes - one via St Helena, one passing north
Send us a cable: possible routes for the South Atlantic broadband line

It had been reported in the media that it would not be possible to route the cable via St Helena, but Mr von der Ropp says eFive’s current chief executive has asked three cable-laying firms to quote prices for doing just that.

“She promised me to provide more precise cost estimates once they have received offers from all potential cable builders,” he says in an email to consultants in the United States who have taken an interest.

“Our current figure of costs amount to mid-single digit millions of British pounds.” That figure is based on discussion with an industry source, says Mr von der Ropp.

One potential stumbling block could be the commercial interests of Cable & Wireless, which has an exclusive contract to provide communications for St Helena. Its position has not yet been made public.

Mr von der Ropp – who has never been to St Helena – first heard about its poor internet service from a friend, Thomas Fledrich, a space scientist who lived on the island in 2009.

He says he “has become fascinated by this picturesque island and its small population” – ironically, through information found on the internet.

The campaign website has a link to an American organisation that presses for wider access to the internet for remote communities as a human right, “and a basic requirement for education, health and democracy as well as for cultural and economic development.”

Read comments and add your own here.

Minister reveals efforts to secure high-speed web link
Saints add voices to broadband campaign

Connect St Helena campaign
A Human Right: campaign for global web access
Cable & Wireless
St Helena Government

Why would better broadband matter to St Helena? And who should pay for it? Your views are welcome:

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Minister reveals efforts to secure high-speed web link

Houses of Parliament
St Helena's internet needs were raised in Parliament (picture: Ian Britton)

New hope of faster and cheaper internet access for St Helena has emerged in the House of Commons in London.

Members of Parliament have been told that St Helena Government (SHG) is trying to secure a high-speed broadband connection for the island, instead of having to rely on the Cable & Wireless satellite link.

The revelation has come from a government minister, and not from The Castle in Jamestown.

The island’s very limited bandwidth is seen by one expert as a threat to hopes of establishing a tourist economy on the island.

Johnny Clingham, who runs a St Helena community website in the UK, has said he cannot consider returning home to the island until it has full internet access. He welcomed news that it’s being explored.

“I can’t wait to see that,” he said. “I will certainly return to the island if this happens. Broadband will get me there faster than the airport project.”

It is not clear whether it relates to the Connect St Helena campaign to link to a broadband cable being laid between South Africa and America, passing within 50 miles of St Helena. Connecting the island would cost several million pounds.

The news emerged when Andrew Rosindell MP asked what steps were being taken to improve broadband internet provision in British overseas territories.

Alan Duncan, Minister of State for International Development, told the House: “Good connectivity is important for the aided overseas territories, especially for those which are particularly isolated and cannot easily link to regional providers.

“There is currently no broadband connection in any aided overseas territory.

“The Government of St Helena is exploring the feasibility and potential costs of connecting St Helena with broadband suppliers.

“In the meantime, the Department for International Development has paid for recent increases in bandwidth of the satellite telecommunications link to St Helena.

“This is helping students to benefit from distance learning opportunities and allows the hospital to connect to better health service information.”

Prince Andrew School offers some A level courses through distance learning, which involves students following lessons over the internet. The school’s internet connection is only just good enough for them to do this.

James Greenwood, the school’s IT (computer technology) teacher, has commented on the challenges on the internet messaging website, Twitter. Four and a half thousand people around the world follow his “tweets”.

He’s recently reported that a some educational technology can be “a non-starter” on the island. One message said: “We’re establishing links with Edge Hill Uni in the UK, but access is limited. Current Director of Ed is trying to improve.

“High-speed broadband would be huge for education. Not only could we make better use of online materials, but with affordable broadband teachers could develop their practice from home.”

He launched a petition on the UK Parliament website to press for the island to be linked to the new undersea cable.

On the Connect St Helena website, student Laura Lawrence has written: “I had to leave St Helena to study. Being 5000 miles away from my family and friends is hard. Not being able to skype with them due to the slow and expensive internet on St Helena is even harder.”

In January, telecoms expert Martin Sauter expressed dismay that St Helena’s 4,000 residents had to share a broadband connection that had less than half the bandwidth of his own connection at home.

“The British government wants to build an airport on St. Helena to stimulate tourism,” he wrote on a blog. “But really, who wants to go there when Internet connectivity is limited at best and your iPhone can’t communicate with the rest of the world?”

St Helena Government has been asked for further information.

Tristan da Cunha and Pitcairn also rely on satellite connections links, paid for by the UK government. “There are no plans to provide either territory with broadband connections,” Alan Duncan told MPs.


Broadband in the overseas territories: minister answers MP’s Question
Connect St Helena campaign
St Helena Community Blog
James Greenwood on Twitter

Broadband campaign needs support, says Johnny

Expat Saint Johnny Clingham has expressed dismay on his blog that few people on St Helena have backed the campaign to secure high-speed broadband for the island. He fears islanders don’t understand what they’re missing.

The entire island – population 4,000 – shares less than half the bandwidth found in many UK housesholds. Johnny has written in the past about Saints risking a month’s wages if they exceeded their limited quota of time online.

‘Most people on the island cannot stay on Facebook for more than 10 minutes a day because they cannot afford the internet,’ says Johnny.

He notes that even Saints in the UK aren’t signing up to support the campaign – though this could be because of difficulties getting the message out.

The story’s been picked up by the BBC News website for Brazil, here.

Visit the Connect St Helena website here.

Doctor at sea: life for Tristan’s only medic

Update on this story: the job of doctor on Tristan da Cunha has just been re-advertised. The advert seeks a medic with wide clinical experience from May 2012. 

Dr Gerard Bulger runs the world’s most extreme single-handed medical practice, according to a magazine for general practitioners in the UK.

The internet has transformed medical practice on Tristan da Cunha, says Dr Bulger in a self-penned article for GP magazine. It’s made it possible for the island’s doctor to be a general practitioner, rather than a surgeon – meaning someone who is skilled in keeping people healthy rather than cutting them open.

‘Now that the internet is getting a little better here, and Skype works, doctors could now be supported by specialists back in Cape Town or in the UK when an emergency arises.’

But like St Helena, the island struggles with a bandwidth that would be considered feeble in Britain.

‘It’s 512kbs for the whole island, so if I had a crisis, everyone else would have to shut down their computers.’

Dr Bulger must also be one of the few medics in the world whose job includes checking the island’s water supply, partly to help the fish factory gain a European Union certificate.

‘I used to be irritated when my old practice in Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, was called single-handed. I said there was no such thing; the smallest practice had a practice nurse, an assistant and worked in a team. But Tristan is single-handed practice in the extreme, perhaps the last one in the world. There are no nurses, only care assistants.’

There is no airport, and supply ships are infrequent. ‘Keeping the pharmacy and consumables in stock is a nightmare, and too much goes out-of-date.’

As on St Helena, diabetes is a big problem. Dr Bulger is investigating its cause. ‘Despite all this,’ he writes, ‘the community is fit. There is true community care here.

‘To my delight, consultants in the UK are very willing to advise me by email and reassure me.

‘My favourite questions to ask consultants are medical Desert Island Discs. What eight bits of equipment or drugs would you choose, and what would be your luxury item of medical kit to have?’

For those interested in medical insights, the full article is here.

Saints add voices to broadband campaign

Saint Helenians are being asked to add their weight to the campaign to secure a high-speed internet link for their island.

Here’s one contribution on the campaign website, from Johnny Clingham, an island blogger now exiled to the UK:

‘I’m an IT engineer and I would love to return to my island to start an IT business, but because of the slow, expensive and unreliable internet connection, this is simply impossible.’

It’s been suggested that poor internet access could compromise efforts to establish a viable economy on the island.

At present, the island’s sole internet connection is via a Cable & Wireless satellite that is sometimes blocked by ‘sun outages’. The resident population of 4,000 people – including the government, schools and health service – has to share a connection with only half the bandwidth enjoyed by many individual households in Europe.

A fibre-optic cable is to be laid between South Africa and America, passing within 50 miles of St Helena. The company involved is willing to divert the cable; campaigners hope to persuade the UK government to put up a few million pounds to meet the additional cost involved.

The campaign is also being backed by the internet pressure group A Human Right: Everyone Connected, based in San Francisco. The organisation, which says it is now working with the United Nations, asks people to ‘imagine a future where everyone on
Earth has a voice.’

Read the campaign website here. Sign a petition on the UK government website here.