Long Distance: Cell Phones in the South Pacific

South Pacific

The communications revolution has reached the furthest corners of the globe. Even the vast expanse of the South Pacific is no longer a barrier as submarine cables and satellites link nations and cultures from Indonesia to Samoa. Island societies have skipped landline technology altogether and are using cheap cell phones to connect with each other and to the rest of the world.

It’s a huge transformation, driven by technology, that permeates national borders and every level of society.

Researchers are comparing the relative development of various countries and cultures. Two in particular – Papua New Guinea and Fiji – provide contrasting examples. Fiji, located on a main trunk line between Sydney and the United States, has more bandwidth than it knows what to do with. Papua New Guinea is struggling but has benefitted from the installation of a new generation of satellites that beam communications links from medium Earth orbit.

A great subject for an informational graphic. And, as it turns out, we have plenty of information with which to work.

Gathering information

The story will focus on the researchers and the social implications of this technological change. The graphic will complement the story by showing the infrastructure – how countries in the region are tied together via submarine cable and satellite. It will also serve as a reference for readers who may be unfamiliar with some of the place names mentioned in the story.

A few hours of research provides us with everything we need.

First, the submarine cable network is effectively illustrated in TeleGeography’s interactive Submarine Cable Map. The map is a web programmer’s tour de force, an intuitive display of a constantly evolving dataset. (Check it out.) It will provide the routes of the main cables crisscrossing the South Pacific. (And we’ll credit TeleGeography.com as one of our sources.)

Second, the manufacturer’s and owner’s websites provide background information on the satellites used to connect this and other isolated regions around the world.

Finally, NASA’s Blue Marble website is our go-to resource for high-resolution images of the Earth’s surface. We’ll use NASA’s images for the infographic’s base map.

Next step: Building the map.