Digicel PNG plans television network as it expands its mobile network

Welcome,

Mobile phone provider Digicel PNG plans to launch its own multi-station television service later this year. The move is the latest in a series of strategic moves to transform the mobile phone company into a broader based media company in Papua New Guinea.

Digicel PNG's head office in Port Moresby

Digicel PNG’s head office in Port Moresby

Since the Papua New Guinea Government began deregulating the telecommunications market in 2005, the range of technologies has expanded, the number of providers increased, prices have fallen and the network of mobile and broadband services across the country has expanded.

In April, state-owned fixed line and broadband provider Telikom PNG signed a US$20 million contract with the California-based company Aviat Networks for a new cross-country microwave link.

In May, the little-known Awal Communications, operating in PNG as A-Tel, announced it planned to roll out mobile coverage to rural and remote PNG.

More recently, PNG’s state-owned mobile operator Bemobile Limited (now trading as bmobile), which was re-capitalised in 2013, last week announced a non-equity strategic partnership agreement with Vodafone UK to develop its PNG and Solomon Islands operations.

Tower roll-out

Meanwhile, Digicel PNG—the country’s largest mobile provider—is aiming to have 1160 mobile phone towers across PNG, providing coverage to 100% of the population.

Digicel's Gary Seddon

Digicel’s Gary Seddon

‘We have just over 800 towers in PNG at the moment,’ Digicel’s Director, Government Relations, Gary Seddon tells Business Advantage PNG.

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‘We’re rolling out another 360 towers this year, between now and November. Sixty of those towers are part of the World Bank telephony subsidiary programme that Digicel was successful in securing from the government of PNG earlier this year.’

Since entering PNG in 2007, Digicel claims to have invested K1.7 billion on building its network.

‘I’ve been in PNG for 16 years now and I still remember when it cost K2,000 to K3,000 to buy a mobile phone handset.’

‘The medium to longer-term strategy is quite a straightforward one. It’s very much about delivering reliable, affordable communication services to all Papua New Guineans,’ says Seddon.

Mobile phone towers dot the PNG landscape. Credit: Radio Australia

Mobile phone towers dot the PNG landscape. Credit: Radio Australia

Seddon says Digicel also wants to be ‘Number One’ in the delivery of innovative services.

‘In March, 2014, Digicel launched 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) in Port Moresby, delivering the fastest mobile internet bandwidth in PNG, with a plan to push that out to other major centres before the end of the year.

‘It’s about bringing services to Papua New Guineans that people in developed countries currently enjoy.

Competition

While Digicel remains the dominant provider, competition is good for the country, says Seddon.

‘I’ve been in PNG for 16 years now and I still remember when it cost K2,000 to K3,000 to buy a mobile phone handset. Digicel now sells handsets from K49. I also remember when it used to cost K250 to buy a SIM. Now you can buy one for K5 to K10 and get K5 to K10 of credit. I also remember when it used to cost K1.50 to K2.00 per minute to make a phone call and you couldn’t pay per second. Now you can have prepaid/postpaid accounts, you can pay by the second and you can have bundled services where phone calls can cost as little as 1-2 toea a minute.’

Internet costs

One of the chief benefits of the PNG Government’s plan to transfer the Telikom PNG’s transmission assets to a new national wholesaler, PNG Dataco, is that internet consumer costs should fall.

The cost of off-island fibre internet is three-to-four times more expensive than the cost of satellite internet bandwith in PNG, says Seddon, which is quite the reverse in other countries.

Digicel’s Planned TV network

Name: Digicel Media

Aim: To provide high quality TV channels

Delivery: Via Digicel’s 800 towers, initially using 50 towers but increasing as more towers are built. Customers would use a set-top box.

Content: One High Definition channel, plus a range of free-to-air and pay-per-view channels. Television studio currently being built.

Programming: Family-oriented, education, sport (Digicel owns the broadcast rights to the PNG Hunters and the Digicel Cup), religion, movies, news.

Start date: November 2014

‘At present, 80 per cent of Digicel’s internet traffic is going out over satellite and only 20 per cent is going out across fibre, and that reflects the cost of fibre bandwidth in PNG. Digicel has taken this step to ensure it provides affordable internet services to its customers, which are presently as low as four toea per MB in Digicel’s bundled services.’

Internet growth

It’s the internet where Seddon sees growth.

‘What we’re seeing in Australia and other developed countries is that people are using less voice and text, and relying more on the internet, as a means to communicate. Apps such as Wassup, Facebook, Viber and Skype are the preferred means to communicate.

‘Typical trends therefore show voice revenue to be flat or decreasing, while data is increasing and the same can be said in PNG.

‘As we roll out such services as 4G/LTE and people can connect over the internet using Voice Over The Internet Protocol (VOIP), or Skype and so on, it could effectively reduce the costs of communication.

‘Digicel is not only pushing into areas where there is no coverage but is also expanding its capacity where it does have coverage. For example, in Alotau, Milne Bay Province, you experience very good 3G coverage, but some of the other smaller centres in Esa’ala, the Trobriands, or Tagula, the Digicel services are limited to 2G/Edge. We’re expanding 3G services into these areas as well.’

Comments

  1. Thank you for your effective network in rural area in PNG. I Saloq trying to enquire how much you pay for the land royalty on digicel tower? Please reply me as soon as possible am very interested.
    Thanks

  2. Alvin Mokavelaga says:

    Thank you for this opportunity. I am Alvin Mokavelaga from the Milne Bay province; I live on Basilaki Island which is found in the Samarai district-Bwanabwana LLG. I am writing on behalf of my family and the people of Basilaki normally walk miles to access Digicel services.
    Since the increase in the use of mobile phones, most of the villages past Gayowa Point failed to pick up the signal.
    Therefore with this, I would like to propose a tower to be set-up at Walatadu village to cover this increasing population.
    I wait your response in anticipation.

    Alvin Mokavelaga

  3. Mr. Bernard Namo says:

    I wish to take this opportunity to thank Digicel (PNG) management for providing communication needs of the majority of rural population in PNG. I come from Upper Asaro, Daulo District of Eastern Highlands Province. There was Digicel Tower being built three years ago but was pulled down because of land ownership issues. Communication is very vital and people in this corner of the LLG & Province as communication is a problem after the tower was pulled down. Please if the management can re-look at negotiating with two parties concern (Two Clan) and rebuild the tower again for the good of the LLG, Province and country as all. Thank you and I await your reply.

  4. Digicel very competitive. It makes the communication very very easy in and out of Papua new.Guinea as in my community at a grassroots level now can handle a handset but a challeng now. the Voda phone is erecting a tower in my community and why not digicel . Therefore am requesting one to be erected in my community . behalf of my community service.
    I would be most grateful and await you respond.
    Thanking you in advance for your understanding and cooperation. Your kind respond is very much appreciated
    Mr Tamosen
    Madang

  5. Dear Sir
    I am taking this time to speak on behalf of my people at Wantoa,Awara parish,Markham District. The community there need Digicel Tower,so they can access the mobile communications, which they are lacking right now.Right now they are in old system by writing letters to others or when any things happen in their lives. So it is very big problem for such people in such remote areas.
    I am proposing now for Digicel Tower to be built in my remote area in Awara.
    Please waiting for your prop respond,so that I can make my way to solve my peoples need
    Thankyou for your cooperation
    Thankyou
    Eddie Ogensa

  6. Eddie Ogensa says:

    Dear sir,I take this time to speak on behalf of my community at Awara,Wantoat.,M district,Morobe province.The community here need digicel tower,so they can access the mobile communications which there are lacking now.I am proposing now for a digicel tower to be built in my remote place in Awara.because communication is very difficult for us. […]

    cation is very difficult us.I
    am gteatforuuuus.

  7. Hellow there,
    Thanks for the opportunity. I come from a village on the west coast of Namatanai. Since the introduction of mobile phones, we haven’t been able to use mobile phone in my village. I am trying to assist my village get access to mobile coverage by erecting a tower here. I am willing to assist in providing the physical means here. For further details. Can anyone responsible assist here, please?
    Thanks Digicel customer.

  8. Raphael Billy says:

    I have purchased the playbox in January and am still waiting for the signal in Kundiawa, the NRL season kicks off this week. Now how long do I have to wait????

  9. Dear Sir, I’m Remsi Kupi of Middle Ramu Electorate living the border of Madang, Western Highlands, Enga and Jiwaka provides would like to speak on behalf of my people at Ruti Valley. Ruti Valley is situated right in the border without access of basic services expect road. The place is most remote and we really need a better communication system in place. Therefore I hereby proposed for a digicel tower to be erected in my area.
    As young concern leader I’m willing to assist my people getting better digicel communication system in place.
    I’m waiting for your kind response soon.
    Thank you
    Yours faithfully,
    Remsi Kupi

  10. auggoe says:

    When will jiwaka province will recive the signal for digicel play box

  11. Please Mr Gary Saddon I am from a very remote part in ESP and I share the same sentiments as the above people requesting Digicelpng to erect towers. Pls sir my people in Keram LLG of Angoram District really need this sevice so I am now requesrting on behalf of this people of mine. They would be very gratefull if digicel could erect one in Keram LLG area to keep my people conected with PNG and the world.

  12. I come from Rabaul. ENBP .. Even though my province is progressing in developments and other areas.. My village Is situated inland north coast road… For the last 10years since my people were using digicel phones,there has been very poor digicel network connections in my village called TOTOVEL.. Iam willing to assist my community by getting digicel put up a tower in my area… Please I need more advise from you… Cheers!.. DON ESSAU

  13. dear sir,I speak on behalf of my people at anduar arungunum
    in yuat llg for a communication tower for communication because its very remote and its very difficult. for. us so I proposed for a toiwered. t o erected there.I wiill b e gratieful to post my fullI details if required …I m waiting for your kind response soon,Thank you’ yours. faithfully, JACK ANDIE

  14. samid katik says:

    I am taking this time to speak as; my community in the Raicoast ares of madang province esp in the Saidor LLG. The community there need a Digicel Tower so they can access the mobile communication, which they are lacking right now.

    I am proposing now for a Digicel Tower to be built in my remote place in Raicoast.

    Please waiting for your promp responds, so that I can make my way to solve my peoples need.

    Thank you for your cooperation,

    Samid Katik

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