INDEPENDENT NEWS

Power Back-Up Threat To USPNet

Published: Wed 5 Apr 2000 09:16 AM
By Kris Leua,
journalism student of the University of the South Pacific
SUVA: Power shutdowns are threatening the University of the South Pacific's new $13 million regional communications system because of the lack of a power back-up unit, Wansolwara reports.
Blackouts longer than two hours could cripple use of the satellite-based regional USPNet 2000 system, launched by Fiji's Vice-President Ratu Josefa Iloilo last week.
Manager Keith Moala confirmed to Wansolwara that USP's main satellite ground station has an "inferior" uninterrupted power supply (UPS) unit with a capacity of just two hours.
"The problem is that the university doesn't have the finance to purchase a new one," Moala said.
The current unit cost about A$1400, but Moala did not say how much a new one would cost.
"We have been trying to get the university to get a new one. But since there hasn't been any favourable response from the USP administration, we have been relying on the old UPS - and hope that power cuts don't last more than two hours.
"In the situation where we normally have frequent power cuts, that's a serious problem," he said.
Three national power blackouts in Fiji last month sparked a controversy about the country's electricity supply capacity.
Yukiko Hamada, a telecommunications adviser from NEC, the Japan-based company that supplied the USPNet equipment, confirmed with Wansolwara that the lack of a good back-up unit was a major problem.
Other problems faced by the university over the Net involve the training of staff.
"At the moment, we are relying on a specialist from Japan to help us in the initial stage of operation. The techology of the USPNet project is more computerised than in the past and this requires training for our technicians and support staff of the information and technology services department," Moala said.
The problem is not so much for the main ground station at Suva but those at regional USP centres.
For example, lightning recently struck the transmitter at the station at Emalus campus, Vanuatu, shutting down all USPNet services between the two campuses.
"They had to wait for technicians in Suva to go to fix the transmitter," Moala said.
"It is the responsibility of the university to operate and maintain the network after it is established. Whether the university is able to do that, or will need to rely on continued funding is something that remains to be seen."
Vice-Chancellor Esekia Solofa said the university would try to purchase a new UPS unit.
"At this stage we can't do much," he said. "The USPNet is only a tool and if it gets disrupted, other services will always be used."
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