‘Big leap forward’ in Papua New Guinea mobile broadband usage, reports telco analyst


Improvements in Papua New Guinea’s mobile infrastructure have seen rapid recent growth in subscribers to mobile broadband, according to telecommunications researchers BuddeComm. But low incomes, difficult terrain, and a lack of electricity are hindering greater access.

PNG mobile broadband subscribers. Source: Source: BuddeComm based on ITU data

There has been a ‘big leap forward’ in mobile broadband subscribers over the last couple of years, as a result of improvements to the infrastructure and rollout of 3G and 4G LTE in urban areas, according to BuddeComm telecommunications analyst Kylie Wansink.

She also predicts the new Coral Sea submarine cable linking PNG, Solomon Islands and Australia will improve internet access in PNG, as well as increase capacity, reliability and reduce costs.

Her analysis of data from PNG telecommunications companies and agencies shows around 48 per cent of Papua New Guineans now have a mobile subscription, up from 13.8 per cent in 2008.

‘Digicel and Telikom are both rolling out 4G LTE services across the country.’

She notes, however, ‘this remains extremely low by international standards, even for a developing country.’ But she believes it indicates that there is growth potential.

The 3G network covers more than 60 per cent of the population and the new 4G LTE network covers 35 per cent. Wansink notes that many rural areas still have only 2G services, although the World Bank is funding an upgrade.

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Roll out

Budde.com’s Kylie Wansink. Source: Budde.com

Digicel and Telikom are both rolling out 4G LTE services across the country.

‘Digicel may find that it has more competition going forward—with the newly-merged Kumul Telikom sharing resources and infrastructure from bmobile and PNG Telikom,’ she points out.

Of the total estimated mobile subscribers of 4.052 million in 2018, Digicel has about 3.8 million (96.7 per cent), bmobile has 190,000 subscribers (2.1 per cent) and Telikom Mobile (formerly Citifon) has 40,490 subscribers (1.2 per cent).

‘Citifon’s service, as the name suggests, is focused on the more profitable urban centres. Although its rates tend to be cheaper than bmobile and Digicel, it remains a minor player in the mobile market,’ says Wansink.

The factors inhibiting a more rapid growth, she says, include the high cost of infrastructure, low incomes, the geographical spread of the population and the lack of access to electricity, which is running at 12.8 per cent.

‘Digicel uses solar-powered cell sites to provide mobile services in rural areas via the rural Communications Project, funded by the World Bank.

‘Mobile phones are an important source of social interaction, particularly among young people.’

‘These conditions mean that PNG remains one of the least affordable mobile markets in the Pacific’.

Coral Sea Cable System

Mobile phones are an important source of social interaction, particularly among young people, who are ‘embracing’ the digital age, says Wansink.

The drawback however, is low broadband speed. PNG ranks 150th out of 200 in a May 2018 global survey.

But it is widely agreed that the development of the Coral Sea Cable System will improve the situation.

‘Fixed internet access, via computers, is mainly used by businesses, organisations, schools and hotels, as computers are still considered luxury items, and are owned by relatively few people,’ says Wansink.

Growth of mobile subscriptions in Papua New Guinea, 2008-2018


  1. Citifone hasn’t existed for some time now…I think this report and article is full of made up figures.

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