Considerations for mobile web in PNG

By Emmanuel Narokobi

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The World Economic Forum in Davos, was hosting its’ 2009 Annual Meeting, which ran from the 28th January to the 1st of February. These events, as always, are a who’s who of business, government and civil society and it was no surprise that the theme for this years Annual Meeting was, ‘Shaping the Post Crises World’. You can even follow events at Davos via their Facebook page.

Many subjects and issues were discussed but I was particularly interested in the panel on the ‘Next Digital Experience‘. The panel was made up of Chad Hurley (YouTube), Craig Mundie (Microsoft), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Shananu Narayen (Adobe), Hamid Akhvan (T-Mobile) and Eric Clemons (Wharton).

The panel discussions focused on how mobile web was becoming increasingly important in many countries and the fact that it was also becoming the primary way people were connecting to the Internet. Chad Hurley noted that the rate at which YouTube was serving videos to mobile devices was growing at a faster rate than the site as a whole. When Chad Hurley was asked how long would it be before people started using their mobile phones to upload videos to YouTube in a serious way. Hurley’s response:

It is available on some devices, but mostly you still have to connect to your computer to upload. But it will become a larger part of what we show. People on the street, sharing their thoughts and experiences.

Just commenting on the panel itself, I think perhaps someone from a Japanese company (or just an Asian one in general) should have also been on this panel, especially from companies like Japanese company DoCoMo who pioneered 3G technology years before the rest of the world caught on. That, I believe, would have ensured that we got a fuller picture of the future of mobile web globally.

In any case the panel discussions got me thinking again about all our internet issues here in PNG. Licensing is the first, in order to protect company’s investments in developing these services and it appears from a comment from one of my visitors to this blog that Digicel have already begun their mobile web services. I guess it’s no surprise to hear about that since they provide mobile web in the other countries they service, I just hope that it has been done with a licence of some sort so that we don’t have arguments arising between them and Telikom or the ISP’s.

Secondly internet prices must come down and this will be effected by the same old argument about who owns the gateway, how much they charge and how many we have to make it competitive.  The fact of the matter is people are hungry for cheaper/faster internet access and many developments have begun to get more people on the net, but no real changes to prices are evident yet.

Finally what I’d like to know is what will be the best method to get as many people on the web as possible? Will it be through PC access (Landline/Broadband/ADSL/WiFi) or Mobile phone access? It appears to me that building the infrastructure to provide both access methods is the easy part. The issue I see will be what pricing models they employ to get us online and to keep us online.

With Telikom, Digicel and the ISP’s all gearing up to give us internet, who will be able to give us the best deal:

  • Can the ISP’s give us internet and also become walled garden VOIP service providers? Maybe not with licencing issues and telephony services legally restricted to Telikom/Digicel.
  • Will every mobile phone in everyone’s hands become a window to the web? Not sure either on what the licencing policy is on this? It’s the way of the future but does PANGTEL have licences to cater for it?
  • Will it be cheaper and faster to access the web via your mobile or your PC? Depends on who controls the gateway and will we have only one or do we already have more than one internet gateway to PNG? Will Telikom and/or Digicel use predatory pricing to kill the ISP’s all together or will ISP’s get smart and start bundling services and products with their internet access?

Maybe we need a big panel discussion of all the above players so everyone in PNG knows what’s actually going on with internet in this country and where we could possibly be in 1 to 2 years time.

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5 thoughts on “Considerations for mobile web in PNG

  1. Thanks Emmanuel this interesting read, mobile web technology isn’t really that old and yes it can benefit us in a lot of ways. In regard to policy and charges, should be done to protect both consumer and provider but provide effective delivery of service. This country is at stage of hunger for faster internet. Its good to see that BMobile is doing some house cleaning, time to get back on track in provision of mobile services both better and cheaper.

    Digicel I always thought had the capacity to launch web enabled services via mobile devices, seeing their infrastructure setup. Infrastructure for better, faster internet transmission is available, but one gateway, u can imagine the bottleneck situation. I believe alternate routes gateways should be looked at and policy to have them setup quickly be done up. Who should own them, pricing like u said another story all together.

    Maybe a look at how Israel opened up its Telecommunications should be interesting and opened up some doors to improvements.

    Regards
    Trevs

  2. If we are able to conduct panel discussions, can we have persons representing tertiary students and universities in PNG? I note the IT needs in PNG universities. It would be great to know that, if we are able to close the gap, universities would be counted among the many businesses and consumers set to benefit.

  3. Good point Oala, but Universities will not be able to have an effect on the price of internet access. You have to keep in mind that there is a difference between organisations who assist to increase the number of users and ways to use the internet and organisations who can actually determine the price of the internet we use.

    It is carriers/service providers who have the infrastructure and the licences to provide internet services at the wholesale level who have to be innovative or assisted by supporting government policies to allow for competition in not just internet delivery methods but the ultimate cost of internet access.

    Only then can everyone else on the retail level see the benefits.

    Ultimately it must be the government who leads the overhaul of the internet industry. They have to get serious and they have to think long term. For example India just launched this week their ‘National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technologies’ they will be providing free e-education with cheap laptops to boot to bring their nation into the new era of information.

    Another example given to me from a friend from Malaysia is how in 1975 the world was laughing at them because they launched the Palapa satellite program. The majority of the population at that time were farmers in paddocks. Initially the satellite was used for TV, but now it assists also with broadband. Keep in mind that Malaysia was the first developing nation to launch their own satellite, now look at them today, with service providers like Maxis.

    Can people in PNG afford 3G? My Malaysian friend says he thinks they can and I think I’d agree with him. Look how quickly everyone jumped onto mobile phones. The people are hungry for information, just ask yourself when was the last time an uncle asked you to look up something on the internet for them?

  4. just wondering if you guys had a look at the Digicel ad in the national last friday about their mobile web. basically, they said that if you want to activate the mobile web service had to call 123 and then they will activate your account.

    i called 123 to get my mobile activated. tried it last night and it worked. note- i am not a postpaid customer.

    just wondering why they haven’t come out aggressively to promote it like they do for other services but i did hear that there will be a bigger launch for this which is understandable given the kind of service

    you might want to give it a try by calling 123 and while you’re at it might ask when will it be formally launched.

  5. Thanks MES, they have not aggressively pushed for it as yet because their licence does not currently allow for internet services. So they are waiting on the outcome of the Phase 2 Policy to be approved by NEC, in the meantime its a great strategy to get us all used to the wonders of mobile web.

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