Negotiations for tower sharing and number porting between Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) operators Digicel, Telikom and Vodafone are being actively pushed by the government, as the country aims to boost its super-low connectivity penetration rate.
This was according to Papua New Guinea deputy prime minister Sam Basil, speaking at Vodafone PNG’s launch last week who noted the PNG market has a “low” connectivity penetration rate and welcomed the competitive addition of Vodafone as its third operator.
Vodafone noted PNG has a mobile penetration rate of 37% and broadband sits at 20%. In comparison, fellow pacific island nation Fiji has coverage of almost 100%, where Vodafone also has a footprint.
“Penetration in PNG is low and therefore there is room for a third player. With a third player, we can start to see competition in PNG,” said Basil.
“Vodafone’s entry into PNG is expected to help increase market penetration. A robust telecommunications infrastructure is essential to the development of many other industries as well as sectors such as health, education and financial inclusion.
He added: “I understand through the communications ministry NICTA, we will now talk about number porting, tower sharing, and all those opportunities that we never thought to enact until the entry of our third player. We will now open up to our agencies such as NICTA to make it possible.”
Vodafone PNG chairperson Kalpana Lal noted the UK-based company is aware it is the challenger “third player” and it is more than willing to collaborate with rivals to be competitive.
“We operate in many other competitive markets across the Pacific Island region and respect and embrace the competition. While we fiercely compete on many fronts, we are also ready and open to collaborating with other industry players for the benefit of customers at large and the industry; especially on matters such as infrastructure sharing, number portability, building resiliency and achieving the goal of bridging the digital divide”, said Lal.
The company is investing PGK3 billion (US$854m) into its infrastructure rollout. Vodafone currently has 500 base stations which cover 50% of PNG’s population and aims to bring online 800 sites by Christmas to have a signal in all 22 provinces. Its target in the next 18 months is to have a portfolio of 1,200 towers to connect 90% of the country.