Opening up the telecommunications market


Papua New Guinea’s new regulatory regime for ICT is being credited with bringing about greater competition and an expansion of services. Business Advantage spoke with Charles Punaha of the National Information and Communications Technology Authority, the industry’s regulator, to discover how.

Charles Punaha

NICTA’s Charles Punaha

Can you explain the changes to the way Papua New Guinea’s ICT sector is being licensed?

In ICT, the Department of Communications and Information is responsible for the formulation of policy and NICTA is the regulator, so there’s a clear distinction in roles and functions. NICTA is totally independent. In addition to licensing, it also allocates spectrum, slots for orbiting satellites, and the range of numbers for each of the operators who want to use numbering.

What we have been doing for the last twelve months, which we refer to as the Transition Period, is to migrate all the licences that were issued under the old regulatory regime into one of the new classes of licences. Under the old licensing regime, all licences were service-specific. For example, if you had a mobile licence, you were restricted to providing mobile services in the country. Now, there is no restriction on the type of service.

The Government policy requirement for the ICT sector is that ICT services must be accessible to all citizens of Papua New Guinea and at an affordable price.

There are now three classes of licence. Companies and individuals can get what we call an Operator Class Licence, which grants rights to do anything you want provided it is for your own use. For a retail or wholesale operator, we have the two main licences: the Network Service Licence, which gives you the right to install infrastructure and ICT services, and the Network (Gateway) Licence, which allows for international internet connectivity. Previously, Telikom had the only gateway licence.

What role does NICTA play in ensuring that the companies are not only licenced, but that they perform to expectations

The Government policy requirement for the ICT sector is that ICT services must be accessible to all citizens of Papua New Guinea and at an affordable price. Every licence holder has a licence that contains conditions on coverage obligations and quality of service. Depending on location, it also contains the time in which operators are required to restore services. We have a consumer division that receives any complaints from members of the public. Where there’s a breach, notice is given and of course if there’s a serious breach there are processes that are specified in the Act, which I think are very transparent.

What potential is there for new companies to come into the market?

There is every opportunity for investors to come in. We believe there are still a lot of opportunities in the ICT sector in Papua New Guinea: there are a lot of un-serviced areas. The aim is to get one of the major reputable overseas companies in the country like Telstra or Singtel. If we can do that, that’s obviously going to contribute towards the objectives of the Government’s policy.

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What do you see as the potential for the development of ICT services in PNG as a result of the deregulation that’s occurring?

At the moment we have only issued licences in the 900 and 200 spectrum bands and there are only 3G services. One of the new initiatives is to make spectrum available in the 700 band, which is required for mobile broadband and Long Term Evolution (LTE)/4G services. We already have a public consultation in place. Spectrum in the 700 band will be available by the second half of this year and we will have mobile broadband available by the first quarter of 2013.

What role does NICTA have in ensuring that there is proper competition?

By June this year, to encourage competition, NICTA will be introducing true infrastructure sharing. This will provide for the operator who is already in a market to allow access to any intending operators coming in, at terms to be negotiated between them. And the Act provides that, where ICT access is available, the service must be provided at cost. It must not be uncompetitive. If it’s uncompetitive, then NICTA will step in.

This article first published in Business Advantage PNG 2012/2013

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