We reported earlier this year on the financial close of the Interchange cable project linking Vanuatu to Fiji, an exciting development for the telecommunications industry in Vanuatu, a deal which we were lucky enough to work on.  This crucial undersea cable will be constructed, owned and operated by Interchange Limited (Interchange), a Vanuatu-based telecommunications licensee. 

This issue we interview the CEO of Interchange, Mr Simon Fletcher:

Where is this project up to now?

The cable has just landed in Port Vila recently (Monday 25 November 2013). We are now heading into the testing phase and it will be "live" on the 15 January 2014. Needless to say that this is a very exciting time for everybody involved in the project.

How did the project come about?

After the TVL monopoly became undone, several major investors started making queries regarding the potential of a submarine cable. After attempts by other parties to start such a project without success, Interchange threw its hat in the ring and started the Cable project in 2011.

Why Vanuatu?  What is your background and connection with Vanuatu?

I have been a long time resident of Vanuatu and have been involved in various technological ventures over that time, from the Vanuatu Data Centre, progressing to Pacific Data Solutions and then graduating to Interchange.  Vanuatu just seemed to be a spot that offered tremendous potential to make an impact.

Where is your favourite place in the Pacific?  What is your favourite Pacific beer?

Best place in the Pacific is my home in Port Vila, of course ... however I quite enjoyed Noumea when I visited too. As for the beer - as long as it is cold, I am happy! Perhaps slightly happier to see a pig tusk on the bottle!

What has been your favourite aspect of the project?  What has been the biggest challenge?

The project offers so many exhilarating moments and equal amounts of sheer nail-biting terror with regards to good and bad that it would be very hard to isolate.  Seeing the cable being brought onto Vanuatu shores would have to be a pinnacle moment though.

What do you see as the major benefits this project will bring?

There will be an enormous benefit to all areas of the economy.  But the biggest impact will be for the next generation. In terms of education, but also in terms of commercial opportunities.

What next?

Who else needs a cable?