Telcos bring city and rural PNG into the digital world
PNG’S telecommunications companies are in the throes of extending their coverage across the country, and adding television, data communications and IT services to their suite of offerings.
Since the PNG government began deregulating the telecommunications market in 2005, the range of technologies has expanded, the number of providers increased, prices have fallen and access to services has improved.
Irish-owned Digicel PNG controls about 95% of PNG’S mobile phone market and is increasingly presenting a wider range of services, including internet connectivity. In November 2014, it launched up its own multi-station, free-to-air and pay-tv network, adding to its 2013 purchase of internet service provider, Daltron.
Since entering PNG in 2007, Digicel has invested K1.7 billion into building its network and in 2014 committed itself to expanding its network to cover 100% of PNG’S population, in the process going from 800 transmission towers to 1160.
Digicel executives estimate that 80% of Digicel’s internet traffic goes out over satellite, with only 20% going out across fibre.
our customer base,’ Telikom PNG'S Chief Executive Officer Michael Donnelly tells Business Advantage PNG. ‘And we are recalibrating our staff skill sets through an aggressive graduate programme where we bring in people from a number of different disciplines out of the universities in PNG, whether they’re in economics or in HR, in ICT or physical sciences, because our business covers a lot of those disciplines.’'
Meanwhile, an injection of funds and a partnership with an international mobile phone partner is enabling bmobile to be more competitive.
Bmobile joined in the expansion by establishing a marketing partnership with telecommunications giant Vodafone UK and plans to double its retail presence by mid-2016.
CEO Sundar Ramamurthy told Business Advantage PNG that, since he took over as CEO, bmobile has improved its performance and is adding new customers, while call completion rates have risen from 33% to in excess of 98%. Bmobile also operates the second mobile phone network in the Solomon Islands.
The government has created a new wholesale entity to allow Telkom, Digicel, bmobile and others to focus on competing in the retail space.
Established by the PNG Government to acquire the transmission assets previously controlled by Telikom PNG, PNG Dataco was launched to upgrade, own and operate the National Transmission Network (NTN)—PNG’S national broadband network.
PNG Dataco will make the NTN available to ICT operators, such as Telikom PNG and Digicel PNG, who will then on-sell their retail services to corporate and residential users.
As PNG Dataco Ltd Chairman Reuben Kautu explains to Business Advantage PNG, the launch of the company puts PNG on a path to superior ICT infrastructure.
‘With Dataco’s creation, we are now working to connect and provide a complete loop from Madang right through the Highlands down via the PNG LNG fibre optic cable to connect to Port Moresby,’ Kautu says.
‘This link will ensure that this traffic or internet data can be re-routed to Madang and out, increasing the utilisation on the PPC-1 Cable [the ocean cable which connects PNG to the world via Madang].’
Kautu outlines how the restructure will benefit internet service providers (ISP), saying: ‘We are building the infrastructure and we are encouraging and inviting the retailers like Telikom, bmobile, Digicel, and other ISPS to come on board.
‘They have a choice to build their own infrastructure in some areas but we are determined to provide international and domestic capacity services at competitive rates.’