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THe NTA operator in Ailuk Atoll, Richard Alfred. Photo: Karen Earnshaw

THe NTA operator in Ailuk Atoll, Richard Alfred. Photo: Karen Earnshaw

In 2010, Majuro became connected by fiber optic cable to Guam. The corresponding internet service is run by the government entity called the National Telecommunications Authority. NTA, as it’s known, is in Delap near the Capital Building. Its General Manager is Tommy Kijiner.

4G LTE: In late March, 2017, NTA introduced their 4G LTE service for phones. Packages range from $10 for 250MB of data over a seven-day period to $50 for 30 days of 120 minutes of calls, 120 SMS texts and 5GB of data. NTA also has wi-fi ‘gizmos’ that you can use to connect to the 4G with up to 10 devices. The mi-fi boxes cost about $97 and the SIM card for them is $15. (See story on 4G that appeared in the Marshall Islands Journal on April 7, 2017.)

Wi-fi: You can connect using wi-fi either through a personal wi-fi ‘bubble’ created from a land-line or at one of the increasing numbers of hot spots around the island using either a time card or a monthly-deal. Time cards are 10 cents a minute. A much cheaper way to be online is to use your smart phone, which costs $15 a month, or your laptop, which costs $35 a month. Both deals are sold at NTA. The organization does not ‘approve’ of selling a connection to a wi-fi antenna, although they been known to do this on occasion. Being persuasive is the best we can suggest at this point (September, 2014).

Internet cafes: There are Internet Cafes, but they are falling out of favor. Ask at NTA for current services.

Internet by land line: The prices change, but as of September ,2014, the cheapest land line deal was $49.95 a month for a slow connection.

Internet on the outer islands: Quite a number of outer islands have the DAMA* communication system. This is comprised of a phone, a fax, and a simple computer attached to the Internet via a small satellite dish. Because of their remoteness, however, many of the systems have broken down (again, best to check at NTA where the service is working).

* DAMA stands for Digital Assigned Multiple Access.

4G arrives in Majuro

4G LTE arrives in Majuro. Photo: Marshall Islands Journal

4G LTE arrives in Majuro. Photo: Marshall Islands Journal

By Karen Earnshaw

Gee, gee, gee, gee! It works great! That’d be the 4G LTE phone/internet system that was launched at the start of business last Friday at the National Telecommunications Authority Delap headquarters.

By the time afternoon rolled around, NTA’s front office and new brightly-painted 4G room, which is just through the double glass doors, were buzzing with dozens of people wanting to sign up.

The back room team was ready for the eager emailers, with two sides of the room lined with teams of IT experts helping customers navigate their personal needs, depending on the type of phone or other device they wanted to use.

It appeared to be a breeze for Android smartphone users, who were choosing their package that could include up to 30 days of 120 minutes of calls, 120 SMS texts, and 5GB of data for $50. But iUsers weren’t having as happy a ride.

This was partly because NTA needs to complete a compliance deal with Apple, which is expected to happen very soon. When that happens, folks with iPhones version 6 and up, will be able to have 4G on their phones. Those with iPhones 5 and below, not so.

What did I bring to the party? An iPhone 5S. Aw.

“But,” NTA official Yoshi Kaneko was quick to add, “I have something that will work for you!” He brought over a small turquoise box that contained an Optus Yes, which is a mobile wifi modem that links your phone, and up to nine other devices, to the 4G network.

So I bought the modem, for less than $100, plus the $15 SIM card that links it to the network. I couldn’t choose a package with phone calls and texts included, because the wi-fi gizmo is only good for connecting to the Internet, so instead I chose the Data Only plan for 30 days that gives me 2.5GB of data for $39.95.

On reaching home, I attached the Optus Yes to my main desktop PC, turned it on and after a slight pause, I could connect to it with any of my devices. The speed is excellent: Type in a web site’s URL and pretty much the page draws immediately. I sent out about 2MB worth of photos on email and … zip … out the door they went. Nice.

But, while I have intelligently turned off automatic updates in every place I can think of on my computers and smaller devices, the next week or so will show whether I’m smart enough to use the modem and when finished remember to turn it off; because if I don’t turn the modem off, the data in my package is going to trickle away into the ether.

Still, if I’m sloppy enough to let that happen, I can log into my ‘selfcare’ 4G account and monitor where I’m at with data and if it’s looking low, I will be able to use my credit card and PayPal to buy more data.

Hopefully, though, the 2.5GB will allow me to do what I need, including updating my web site www.infomarshallislandsjournal, where you’ll be able to read this story and much, much more next week.

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