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(Clouds and their shadows over the Pacific Ocean. Picture taken on BNE to PoM flight)
Some Sunshine At Last
I’ve been complaining for a long, long, long time about the state of the internet in PNG, I’m literally talking about as far back as 2006 when I started blogging. But throughout all this time, things have slowly gotten better. It’s no secret that Digicel after being granted a mobile operators licence in 2007 has been one of the greatest catalysts in pushing the development of ICT in PNG. Yet even back then the anti-competitive nature of the Somare Government almost stopped Digicel from rolling out their services. In addition what some people don’t know is that on a Gateway Internet Access level, Digicel when entering the country setup their own Satellite Gateway which ran into issues with Telikom. It was contended by Telikom that this tussle also lead to NICTA forcing a deregulation of the wholesale internet market.
Whether the deregulation was good or bad, ADB described our ICT situation in 2008 as follows:
“Internet access is similarly channeled through one internet gateway, with the license being held by Tiare, a subsidiary of Telikom. Five private internet service providers (ISPs) distribute internet services throughout the country, but are not allowed to have their own international gateways.
Internet penetration is limited by the availability and quality of the landline. Tiare also provides internet service in competition, which has solicited calls of anti-competitive behavior from some ISPs claiming that Tiare is exploiting its exclusive access to the gateway to undercut the competition. Facilities in the country are limited, as is growth. ISPs interviewed expressed the opinion that the Tiare monopoly is severely restricting the growth of the internet service industry in PNG…”
Then suddenly out of the blue comes Telikom with their grand announcement last week that they would be reducing wholesale prices to ISP’s by 68%. This is of course fantastic news and the idea of course will be that the ISP’s will pass on these savings to us customers after this policy is approved by all parties this April.
An EMTV report stated that this would be reducing MB charges for wholesale customers from 9 toea to 3 toea per MB, which is a second big drop in pricing after Telikom had initially dropped their MB rates from 64 toea to 9 toea when they launched their Telinet service in 2010. Telikom also came out with an additional clarification of the the news reports with a media release, which added that the wholesale internet plans offer fixed bandwidth plans with flat rates as opposed to the previous billing by data used. There would also be no minimum usage charges for these plans or penalties for under usage of the bandwidth which will greatly simply wholesale data sales, or will it?
Sunny with a Possibility of Showers
Despite some rays of hope here, Telikom will still need to clarify further on their wholesale data plans because just glancing at their website the current plans are still confusing. We can accept that overall whatever plans they are offering will see price reductions, however because they have different pricing for different bandwidth access, this will not simplify how an ISP would charge rates, especially if an ISP is trying to offer a range of services which use one or more of the bandwidth access plans.
Simply put, if you as an ISP go to Telikom and ask for a data wholesale plan, they will ask you where you want to get your internet from. As it stands now on their website, the following options would be given to you:
- APNG 2 Cable Rates (Installation Fee + Monthly Fee)
- APNG 2 Data Lease Tariff (International) (Installation Fee + Monthly Fee + 2 year 5% discount)
- PPC-1 Pipe Cable System, Sydney – Madang Link (Installation Fee + Monthly Fee)
- PPC-1 Pipe Cable System, Guam – Madang Link (Installation Fee + Monthly Fee)
- PPC-1 Pipe Cable System, Sydney – Guam – Madang Link (Installation Fee + Monthly Fee)
- PPC-1 Pipe Cable System, Guam – USA Link (Installation Fee + Monthly Fee)
So will Telikom in addition to price reductions also simplify the access plans so that we pay just one rate regardless of where and how in PNG we want to buy wholesale data?
I suspect that this may partly be what Daltron’s ISP Manager, Kametan Subunakau was referring to when he said that “…the playing field must be leveled in order for all ISPs to take advantage of the local loop and bring costs down…the important thing is that the playing field must be the same. At the moment, it is not the same which is why prices vary between ISPs.”
Further issues have also been pointed out by long time PNG ICT expert, Noel Mobiha who believes if internally Telikom does not upgrade hardware for these new prices, contention rates could also negate any of these price reductions.
Data Clouds Ahead
Another positive development for the Internet in PNG will be IPBC’s up coming K500 million, optical fibre, National Transmission Network (NTN). The NTN will connect provincial centres throughout PNG from Lae to Madang, up to the Highlands and down to Port Moresby via the PNG LNG pipeline. Construction on the NTN has already begun with an aim to have it commissioned by July this year. To get an idea of how the NTN will be laid out, have a look here at the RFQ’s for the LNG Plant to Port Moresby and Yonki to Hagen.
The NTN will most likely solve the above mentioned issues of wholesale data access, but it goes beyond that as well in that the NTN will force Telikom to part with the Gateway which will be absorbed by a new IPBC company to be called ‘Data Co.‘ What this means is that Telikom will then become like the rest of the ISP’s who have to buy wholesale internet from Data Co. In other words, BeMobile, Telikom, Digicel and the ISP’s will all become clients of Data Co. for high speed internet access across PNG.
In terms of Internet Gateway’s into the country, ‘Data Co’ will be the main Gateway with a national broadband network however since deregulation of the ICT industry in PNG as of July 2012, any other company can now setup a Gateway into PNG. NICTA has issues around 6 gateway licenses already to players like Telstra and SingTel.
High speed internet to the Provinces at cheaper rates will then open up government and business opportunities as the ISP’s can now truly pass on the savings and improved speeds to its customers. However besides the usual software, e-commerce and online entertainment that will come with faster internet, an interesting area to watch also will be how Cloud Computing will impact government service delivery. Below are some benefits of Cloud Computing:
- Reduced Cost – Cloud technology is paid incrementally, saving Government Departments and Provincial Governments money.
- Increased Storage – Organizations can store more data than on private computer systems.
- Highly Automated – Government IT personnel no longer need to worry about keeping software up to date.
- Flexibility – Cloud computing offers much more flexibility than past computing methods.
- More Mobility – Public servants can access information wherever they are, rather than having to remain at their desks.
- Allows IT to Shift Focus – No longer having to worry about constant server updates and other computing issues, government organizations will be free to concentrate on innovation.
We are not a long way off now for all these ICT plans to come into play and for PNG’s economy as a whole it would be quite ideal if the ICT sector finds its feet soon after the first revenues from the PNG LNG project begin flowing into the country in 2014. Now that’s a silver lining to look forward to.