Bemobile upgrade has begun, says new CEO


With money finally in the bank and an experienced hand at the helm, are the fortunes of PNG’s troubled mobile phone company Bemobile about to turn? Business Advantage PNG spoke with Sundar Ramamurthy – who last week became its ninth CEO and its fourth in a year – to find out.

Bemobile's Sundar Ramamurthy

Bemobile’s Sundar Ramamurthy

Few people know Papua New Guinea’s information and communications technology sector better than Sundar Ramamurthy. As founder of Data Nets in the early 1990s, he helped pioneered the development of an information and telecommunications  technology services sector in PNG before selling his company to Digicel Group in 2010.

Since 2012, he has been advising the PNG Government’s Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC) on the establishment of PNG Dataco, a new national broadband wholesaler.

Biggest challenge

Now, Ramamurthy faces arguably his biggest challenge: turning around Bemobile, which has struggled to compete with its main rival Digicel since the latter’s arrival in the country back in 2007.

‘It’s a significant challenge,’ agrees Ramamurthy. ‘The government had the option of shutting Bemobile down. They chose not too. I thought: let’s try and help out and see what we can do.’

‘The short term priorities are critical. We need to understand where the network is at, what products we can sell and market and whether they work, and finally our in-house capabilities—what efforts we need to do in terms of recruitment and right-sizing.’

‘The key things are to have a reliable and robust network, good customer service, and to have an offering that provides a credible choice to the consumer.’

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Cash injection

Earlier this month, the PNG Government invested US$85 million (K220 million) in the company following the collapse of a deal with the Fiji National Provident Fund to recapitalise the telco. With a previous deal involving Hong Kong-based GEMS also failing to produce results, many might see this as Bemobile’s last chance.

‘The new money goes towards building a new network,’ says Ramamurthy. The work is already under way, with the first stage being stabilisation of Bemobile’s existing networks in Port Moresby and Solomon Islands, to be followed by expansion.

‘I really believe that PNG needs competition in the telecommunications space.’

‘The network upgrade started about five weeks ago and we’re already seeing some immediate benefits. Software upgrades have taken call completion rates from 33% to over 98.5% in Port Moresby and Lae.’

Given the PNG Government’s investment is substantially less than the US$250 million (K655 m) that was due to flow from the FNPF deal, is it enough?

‘We’ll need more,’ he acknowledges, suggesting options are being considered for further capital raising. In the meantime, ‘it’s enough to get started and start making an impact’.

Re-engaging with the market

Ramamurthy also flags a need for the telco to re-engage with both business and consumers, with the expansion of 3G and 4G services and an increased focus on data, once voice and SMS services are stabilised and robust.

‘Mobile carriers these days are really data carriers, rather than just providing voice calls and SMS,’ he notes.

Another focus will be the Solomon Islands where Bemobile has been in operation since 2010.

‘We want to make sure there are synergies between what we do in PNG and the Solomons. We seem to have been working in isolation. There has been considerable money spent in the Solomons to date and we do not have a dominant position.’

Competition needed

Ramamurthy says many people have been asking him the same question since the IPBC appointed him to the Bemobile role last week: why is he doing it?

‘I really believe that PNG needs competition in the telecommunications space. Competition will deliver innovation in services and more value to customers.

‘If we can pull it off and it works,’ he adds. ‘Then we do something good for the country.’


  1. Ms. Elona M. Pala says

    We should be thankful, when some one’s trying to improve communications in Papua New Guinea. It’s good to have more companies to have more employment opportunities for the People of Papua New Guinea.

  2. Brenda Manie says

    Go BMobile
    I was not happy with domination in the current communication market. Let us go forward in all sector of lives of ordinary PNG (rural areas, towns and cities). I would like to be part of the marketing team to promote our PNG BMobile.

    Let Us Go!!!!
    Brenda Manie (Ms)

    • I agree with your comment, but one thing that B Mobile lacks is that doesn’t improvise on the products that they sold in the market as Digicel is doing right now!!!

      Ronald Pius (Mr)
      Komkui, WHP

  3. James Miles says

    We are on tract- I suggest we get all provincial governement to connect all LLG to their headquarters so there can be communication through all provinces for the sake of development.

    This has been lacking for many years, Yes there is degicel but we need to support our own. Digicel is foreign.

    I think we have the right people at the helm, previous management have failed no doubt.

    Bemobile connect me to my roots please,


  4. New Bemobile CEO,
    I have been with Bemobile for some good number of years and left. Would like to express two things of B way to prosperity.
    1.) Get all rotten Bemobile senior management from overseas out. They were the ones liaising with feign vendors and ripping the company.
    2.) You do not talk about Broadband Wholesale. You talk this when you have actually brought Bemobile to it’s old glory time.
    You were in a Data company and sold to Digicel. You want to get Bemobile involved in Data Competition with TPNG. Proof something first or you will sell Bemobile to Digicel as you did to Data Nets.
    Your position and talking about competition is in question. Proof your self that you can be better and right man for bemobile. Otherwise, I am afraid you will sell Bemobile again to Digicel.

    P. Nathoo.

  5. Terry Griffiths says

    Good luck to the new CEO, he has a big task ahead to get BeMobile back into a competitive position.
    PNG certainly need some robust competition in the GSM area as it has been all one way for a long time.

    Look forward to a better grade of service from Bemobile and some decent competition in the future.

  6. Amos Frank says

    By now little kids, from as young as 7 years old to the oldest person has a mobile phone. Digicel is advantaged because of the multitude of communication transmitters it has erected almost nationwide. B Mobile needs to do the same to cover enough locations throughout the country to provide a satisfactory competion with Digicel and Telicom.

    From my observation and while comparing the companies, I found B Mobile cheaper to use and also provides true service.

    I hope with the new management team, BMobile does make some difference.

  7. Mathew Siune John says

    Go Bemobile?

    It seems to be an awakening news to learn of the new MD for IPBC and now the new CEO for Bemoble.

    The NGovernment seems to realize the importance of ICT in especially Telecommunications with GSM Mobile Services. The government must not concentrate heavily on Extraction Industries because they will finish one day. The government’s investment with Bemobile must be very hopeful of success.

    Finally the Government will learn its making a good money from Bemobile than owning a mining. Good thing about Bemobile is that, for example it takes less that a month for a tower to be erected and nets millions in seconds while a new exploration/mining takes months and years to dish a coin.

    That’s why we some in Telecommunications Industry when it come to making money we term a mobile Tellco as a WAVE BUYER! Its not “Green Gold, Gold, Oil / Gas.” Hence if NOW’s Bemobile is good, I can assure the IPBC/Government that you might reap K20-30Million at the commencement stage.

    To achieve that, Bemobile needs Vibrant, Enthusiastic, Energetic, and competent Young professionals in the new management. Exclude those so called Seniors who are position oriented and walk and crawl instead of running.

    Up to you Sirs!

    Mathew Siune John.

    • Dr Sam Najike says

      Sir, timing is right for Bemobile to make a big impact as a major player catering for the core needs of business in effective data links for the private sector and in the public sector, establising effective communication links between deferrent tiers of government service delivery agents throughout PNG.
      With the Governments focus on service delivery to the lower local levels of Government Bemobile can be well positioned to play a major role here. Both of these area will prove to be profitable.

      Sam Najike

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