Digicel executive outlines ‘aggressive’ plans to take advantage of new cable link

The Regional Director of Digicel Pacific, Paul Statham, says the company has ‘aggressive’ plans to expand its offerings when the submarine fibre cable from Australia to Papua New Guinea is built. He believes these innovations will especially benefit business.

Digicel’s Paul Statham  Source: BAI

Statham says the new cable can bring sharply lower prices, pointing to his experience in Kenya, where costs of data fell by almost 99 per cent after a submarine cable was put in.

But he warns that bringing the fibre cable to the shore is only one step.

‘Unless it is distributed across the nation, it is of no real benefit unless you live in Port Moresby—and even then, when internet capacity improves and prices fall, demand just increases and increases.

‘The talent we do have we want to focus on high value tasks.’

‘So we have very aggressive plans to build out metro fibre across the major towns and conurbations of Papua New Guinea, leveraging our network.’

The cloud

Speaking at the 2018 Papua New Guinea Investment Conference in Brisbane, Statham said Digicel plans to introduce cloud services, which he believes will be of great benefit to businesses in Papua New Guinea.

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He said it could reduce IT overhead costs by more than a third, improve flexibility and increase quality.

‘One of the challenges we all face is a lack of talent in information and communications technology (ICT),’ he says.

‘There is the potential for ‘great growth’ in the digital economy in PNG.’

‘The talent we do have we want to focus on high value tasks.

‘Digicel is investing around US$10 million (K32.84m) in hardware that will allow businesses to access cloud services.’

Statham says that will allow businesses to have their qualified ICT staff ‘focused on higher value tasks for your organisations.’

Digital economy

Statham says there is the potential for ‘great growth’ in the digital economy in PNG, particularly with small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

He said it could see the PNG economy develop in the ICT sector ‘on top of the resource boom’.

He pointed especially to the use of mobile communication in agriculture.

‘It could see the PNG economy develop in the ICT sector “on top of the resource boom”.’

‘We have wireless IOT (Internet of Things) centres that transmit information about soil quality directly to a depositary that can be made to support small holding farmers.

‘There are alarm systems and CCTV (Closed Circuit TV) that can assist in securing the nation and its cities.

‘There are wearable monitoring devices that can allow an understanding of health care in individuals and communities—and the containment of diseases.

‘It can all be accessed through this Digicel network that is so pervasive and touches so much of the community.’

Coverage

Statham says Digicel enjoys 53 per cent geographical coverage in Papua New Guinea ‘which covers 86 per cent of the population.’

He says mobile penetration in the country is low by world standards, however.

He believes PNG has an opportunity ‘ to leap the technology curve’ because it does not have some of the ‘legacy infrastructures that more mature economies have had such as copper.’

Digicel has a 92 per cent market share, ‘both across retail and my area of focus which is business-to-business’ says Statham.

‘That market share has really come from the courage and the investment in the towers and the building of the network quicker than anybody else.

‘At least 10 per cent of our towers are only accessible by helicopter.

‘The (rest) tend to be very difficult to get to for a variety of reasons.

‘There are very complex social arrangements, particularly around landlords—but Digicel has done it.

‘Last year, we invested over $US45 million (K147m) in upgrading the network; looking after it and maintaining it.

‘It has delivered a sustainable infrastructure that will deliver a connected economy.’

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