Kumul Telikom rolling out 4G network across Papua New Guinea, says Chairman

Welcome,

Kumul Telikom Chairman Mahesh Patel says the telco is building its 4G network across Papua New Guinea, to deliver faster data speeds for both business and consumers. He tells ‘Business Advantage Boardroom’, which aired last week on national broadcaster EMTV, that the merger of bmobile-Vodafone, PNG DataCo and Telikom PNG is necessary to create efficiencies and manage technological challenges.

Kumul Telikom’s Mahesh Patel. Source: EMTV

Patel says the 4G core network is being built and the company has already started a soft introduction into the market. It should deliver significantly faster data speeds across Telikom’s telecommunications network.

‘We had a very old system, which was the CDMA system. That is being voided around the world,’ says Patel.

‘So, we have done a straight swap for the CDMA customers and the response has been tremendous. People are streaming videos and people are downloading things faster but we are still building up that network.

‘It will very soon be ready for launch and it will give a whole new experience to the customer. It will be a true 4G.’

Roll out

Patel says ‘in time’ Telikom’s service will also be rolled over to bmobile-Vodafone customers (bmobile and fellow state-owned wholesaler PNG Dataco are both now part of Telikom).

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‘Right now, it will be difficult to combine all the back-end engineering together.

‘So, we will give the customers the SIM card to carry on in a parallel way going forward. Eventually, it will be merged together.

‘The guys are working behind the scenes mapping it out, testing, testing, testing.’

‘We are doing a lot of planning on paper first. We don’t want to put it into action yet because if something does go wrong you could have all the subscribers out of contact. It’s daunting and a lot of caution needs to be taken.’

Engineers

Patel says PNG DataCo and bmobile-Vodafone have ‘some of the best engineers in the country’ but he says the challenges are exacting.

‘The guys are working behind the scenes mapping it out, testing, testing, testing, because when we are out there, and have a huge number of subscribers, there is no room for error.’

‘It will take time because the terrain of Papua New Guinea is not the easiest.’

Patel says the roll out has begun in Mt Hagen, Madang and Lae, but the aim is to do it across the country.

Satellite technology

‘It is easy to get into the major centres. But we have got to realise we are a state-owned enterprise. Our service is not only to the major centres. We have got an obligation to go right down to the settlement level, to the village level.

‘It is tougher because there is a smaller population base. At some point we may have to realise there may not be a return on investment in a population of 500 people living in a remote area.

‘It will take time because the terrain of Papua New Guinea is not the easiest. We have got mountain top towers, helicopter hire is required, there are sometimes landowner issues. It’s quite a major task.’

New equipment

Patel says the 4G equipment is ‘mostly all new’. He says one reason for the merger was the need to co-locate the different technology on existing masts.

‘You do not want a tower built by bmobile-Vodafone and a tower built by PNG Telikom by the same shareholder.

‘At the moment we have got a 100-200,000 subscriber base. PNG is a country of eight million.’

‘So what we are looking at is using a single tower with different electronics on the tower. That is done worldwide.’

Efficiencies

Patel says the merger should also lead to efficiencies by combining operations like call centres and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

Ultimately, though, he tells ‘Business Advantage Boardroom his aim is to find new customers.

‘At the moment we have got a 100-200,000 subscriber base. PNG is a country of eight million. The opposition [Digicel PNG] has got a couple of million. So there is another six million untapped.’

‘Legacy assets, equipment have not been renewed.’

‘Each of the three entities were struggling for capital expenditure. Our motto is not to keep asking the shareholder, the government, for handouts.

‘How do we milk the assets, how do we run it as a private entity, self-finance it? And how do we provide a dividend for the government?’

Patel acknowledges that PNG Telikom has a patchy record of performance. He notes that sabotage has been a consistent problem and says the technology has sometimes been neglected.

‘Legacy assets, equipment have not been renewed. So, over the last four years we have been slowly fixing that up.’

Mahesh Patel will be a guest speaker at the Papua New Guinea Investment Conference, to be held on 7 and 8 September 2017 at the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney.

‘Business Advantage Boardroom’ is a quarterly co-production of Business Advantage International and PNG’s national TV network, EMTV. It is broadcast as part of EMTV’s ‘Business PNG’ program.

Comments

  1. David Ealedona says

    Politics aside we need Telikom to set up a 4G tower on Misima Island in Milne Bay Province immediately.
    Please advise. Land available for the tower and permission given. We will sign a MOA as custodians of this valuable piece of technology. We need to replace all current DIGICEL 3G with the 4G gradually.
    Please contact me ASAP

  2. Colin Mileng says

    If the Chairman is concerned about spreading the 4G out to all the consumers Nationwide why is he forcing the hand of Telikom Management to increase internet prices by removing the lower bracket of prepaid bundles from its sale plans.. Its cutoff point would be at 500 mb and above in the new rates.. This is ridiculous as it removes the competitiveness out of the industry since all prices from the other provders would be about the same.. No competition and ICCC would need to take a second look at this as internet rates are still very high compared to other countries per megabyte.

  3. Hugh McGarry says

    Very lucid description of why this ‘remerger’ has come about. Presumably though Kumul will also have to satisfy the PNG regulator (NICTA) that there will be clear commercial separation bewteen the international wholesale company Dataco and the retail parts of the business, in order to comply with current ICT regulation?

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