by Graham Tenaen Robinson
Let us go back to history and study the trend to establish an answer. When we talk competition, let us talk competition in the sense Vodafone must make it presence felt by determining its own price range of products and services.
When Digicel entered the country, a sim was selling at K125 by then bemobile, a subsidiary arm of Telikom then and still is even after the re-branding 6 years ago.Digicel started selling its sim at K25, that forced bemobile to quickly remove a big chunk in figures, we are talking 150% mark up on its mobile sims.
Digicel automatically stole the market off bemobile 7 years ago, and despite Bemobile opting re-branding, it sadly never bought in with the expensive exercise because of the experience Papua New Guineans had, bemobile cheated us during its monopoly era.Bemobile has downgraded its service platforms to undercut Digicel with its special price calls however; loyalty is what the bulk of Papua New Guineans standby.Today bemobile has paid the price for trying to under-cut Digicel, it can never recoup through its losses. Whether we like it or not, the mobile industry in Papua New Guinea is dominated by Digicel on the main playing field in third world countries DIGICEL has set foot in. DIGICEL did its home work right by studying the geopolitical landscape of third world countries and developed the winning formula;

Vodafone must now come up with something better. Despite Vodafone’s world-wide brand presence, Digicel’s presence rule in third world countries.

Vodafone’s market base customer platforms targets the affluent that represents 1/3 of the population in this country.

You can try and be different but when your reputation supersedes you, you need to overhaul your image.

A Leopard will always have spots unless it mix-breeds with a lion to produce a hybrid offspring, not a lion nor a leopard but something different that defines a unique look that appeals.  And how can Vodafone do this? Replicate what Digicel did in Papua New Guinea and go one step better.

I don’t need to explain because Vodafone can figure that out.


Comments from Sharp Talk

  • Simon P Merton All vodafone have to do is introduce cap plans with calls and data bundles like they do over the world. You cant beat a vodafone cap for value. When I am in Australia $50 cap gets me $1000 worth of calls and 1000mb of data.
    If I use all of my data a $5 top up will give me an extra 150mb of data.
    In comparison Digicel top up of K120 will give me either K120 worth of calls OR 480mb of data.
    $1000 worth of calls on my Digicel would cost me K2380 and 1000mb of data would cost me K250, That’s K2630 in total for what’s costing me $50 (That’s K119.00).
    So for K119 Vodafone is giving me what Digicel would give me for K2630.
    So if vodafone follow the same formula here as they do world wide they should give digicel a good run.
  • Christine Banian Pakakota Graham Robinson, Vodafone does not have to replicate what Digicel is doing to be one step further. The services it launches will speak for itself
  • Graham Robinson Christine, service is off course paramount. They all use the same mobile platforms in terms of coverage, pricing points for products, customer service orientation from counter sales to outlet shops, street vendors, promotional drive, merchandise, monthly plan packages for post paid customers, deals for prepaid customers, signage, media and advertising. Then you have 700 towers yet to be built(a fact Vodafone has given Bemobile to build before they enter the market). We do anticipate the generic trend of aggressive marketing in the trade, but there must be something unique, different apart from the price war that is expected that will steal the market overnight. Digicel gave out free mobile phones and made them affordable. It is a fact 2.5 million Papua New Guineans use the Digicel platform. And off course, we welcome Vodafone entry into the mobile market.
  • David Jah Blum All in all. Digicel is what competition can bring in terms of service and development. Vodafone will no doubt make its own mark. Lets HOPE our AIRLINE industry can be PERMITTED the same OPPORTUNITY!
  • Stanley Kokie Digicel has set the platform of mobile communication in RURAL AREAS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA. That is where bulk of the population lives. So getting the rural population to communicate means business. Bemobile lost the competitiveness for simply cheating its own people. For any plan to prosper , its people that make it happen and fail.
  • Daniel Doyle Interesting that Simon P Merton is so happy with Vodafone on his visits to Australia. Residents of Australia appear not to be so happy. It was reported recently that Vodafone had lost 60,000+ customers in the last quarter. That was on top of a loss of 75,000+ the previous quarter! Let’s hope they can do better in PNG.
  • David Jah Blum compared to Australia’s standards in service delivery. Vodafone is still a blessing to PNG
    • Dom McDonald Across the Tasman, they were the first to introduce 4G and they also provide fixed line services including broadband. Rated best carrier for both service and customer service (one of the few who brought their call center from offshore and brought it back in country). Yes, in Australia they were plauged, but Australia is faced with a large geographical territory with dispersed populations. They will once again return. Vodafone is a customer of mine and we provide a solution to over 3,500 agents and they are a force. They will be a force in PNG
      Oh, BTW, when I was in Fiji last, I put a prepaid sim and it it worked fine
    • Herbie Hibbert Been to Fiji a lot and Vodafone reception there is excellent … in Aus it’s crap but I am guessing if they are combining with Bemobile then they will use the same towers and reception should not change any to what bemobile has now.
  • Simon P Merton Daniel Doyle Yes I have heard about all the negative reports about vodafone in Australia……. I soppose when we come from PNG and are accustomed to recieveing such bad service and paying such high costs, even the worst services and products from the country we are visiting apear to be just so much better that we dont even realise they arnt the most popular where we are visiting at the time, Sad isnt it ? . Competition can only be good for us, the consumers. For the record I use Vodafone in Australia because that was the first store I saw when I arrived at Brisbane international as its right outside the arrival door.
  • Pascal Wager Graham Robinson, funny when seeing most people in the past few years turn to talk about competition they bring this history or past up as their reference, and you the one of the very few people.
    Yes back then, Telikom PNG had it all by introducing the GSM Technology from the old Analog days with Pacific Mobile Communication (B-Mobile), 2008 saw them releasing B-Mobile which was known back then and rebrand the company to Bemobile as it was known, (PNG Government 50% and the GEMS 50%).
    It’s a roll which Telikom PNG took for those years for granted up until monopoly, 2009 the new bemobile captured a small market portion by increasing network to other parts of PNG, and was suppose to roll out again double the towers in 2011 but the Management back then choice Solomon Islands instead to roll out all the equipment and towers shipped from PNG to S.I, this was to stop Digicel from going into the Market in S.I.
    The Management of Bemobile had fail big time to recoup the funds that were arrange to set up the network in S.I, now setting up a New network is a expensive exercise which they had to go to court for penalty for not delivering on time, and paid a hectic fine which really run down most funds in PNG for the roll out plan.
    Bemobile with the Vendor Huawei had the cutting edge technology to deliver service to its customers trouble I guess no money to open this features and service, go read Huawei Technology they are the largest vendor in the world, Digicel using Ericson Technology.
    Even though they failed I take my hat off to them, with only 2 years of the new Bemobile business (Re-brand), they open their network up in the pacific (Solomon’s) which no Pacific Telco company have achieve apart from Foreign operators coming into the Pacific.
    Digicel have done its part to bring service into PNG, that’s great.
    Let me tell you this, no network provider around the world mainly Mobile carriers is bigger and better network, all go through issues with the network outage etc…….
    Digicel Fiji still strangle to get the market shares in Fiji due to the Massive market which Vodafone has, that is the same that will happen here.
    Current Bemobile rates are unbeatable cause you have not tried it, that you failed to mention, it’s now becoming opposite were Digicel is ripping off customers for the last few years and Bemobile rates is getting better with Data (Turbo data plan K5 for 50mb, K10 100mb K20 200mb K40 400mb), this rates won’t change plus they will introduce LTE 4G network in PNG to boost Wi-Fi and broadband in rural areas, and schools to have free access.
    You don’t believe ask the customers who had lost credits without calling or using the internet, and the same I can tell you they are waiting for this moment to come and they will switch.
    The technology they use is nothing compare to Digicel, you don’t know what they use, they will setup and it’s this with the funding IPBC, FNPF Fiji, PNGSDP, Nambawan Super , Nasfund, GEMS all having a share to build this network with K560 million (Multi-Million kina deal) to roll out in the given time that was discussed today after the signing.
    Vodafone Group is the largest 2nd largest operator in the world and we people of PNG must be thankful of begin part of history today.
    Have you heard the story of David (Bemobile) and Goliath (Digicel), you know the ending of the story
  • David Jah Blum Vodafone vs Digicel = CLASH OF THE TITANS and Im a faithfull digicen already in VODAFONE’s corner!
  • Wilson Orlegge Thompson the features of digicel better than bmob so a user friendly style will sell and if dg will doit, it has done but othrrs can join in
  • Pascal Wager What features will be better then the vodafone have you seen what they have in fiji have you read, how digicel fiji can’t compete with them there? Hahaha
  • Graham Robinson Pascal, the PNG Market is different to the Fiji market. Vodafone has been in establishment for a number of years before Digicel.
    In Papua New Guinea, Digicel is established here.

    The bemobile rates you highlighted does not and will never have any imp
    act on me as a loyal customer to Digicel. I do welcome Vodafone’s entry into Papua New Guinea and yes, Vodafone must aim to dominate the mobile market because it only allows Digicel to bring their prices down and be competitive. Only then will the people benefit the most.

    The strong market share of bemobile presence in the Solomon Islands
    cannot relate to Papua New Guinea since bemobile is the only mobile company there.

    By differentiating digicel and bemobile in Papua New Guinea would be different to that in Fiji as you are well aware Digicel is only a new player there.

    Digicel operation and with market share goes as far as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. Is Vodafone in Tonga and Samoa?
    Have you ever wondered why Digicel is not operating in the Solomon Islands?

    Ask your government there in the Solomon Islands why they chose bemobile over Digicel to set up on your home soil.

    I like your specs on the roll out plans and packages for bemobile, however, it does not substantiate what loyalty means in this country to people like us, when we endured the exploits of B-Mobile’s monopoly by paying a handful for something that cost much less we are paying today.

    Yet I do agree with you on the part about Huawei’s partnership with bemobile in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

    And I do know the stuff up bemobile created in the Solomon Islands.
    I also agree with about Vodafone’s prestigious status in world ranking as a leading mobile company.

    And if Vodafone is going to take over the mobile phone market in PNG then surely it must replicate what Digicel did because at the end of the day, this world leading mobile company will provide something more unique I call the winning formular.

    Besides, your equation on David (Bemobile) vrs Goliath (Digicel) should have been;

    David(Digicel) vrs Goliath(Vodafone) in PNG. Bemobile cannot compete with Digicel, that is why it sold 49% of its shares to Vodafone so it could survive its loosing market in PNG.

    Digicel needs a bigger and better network to compete with so we the people become winners in the end.
  • Pascal Wager To cut it short bro,Yes thats right, rate has no impact to you, it will HAVE VERY BIG IMPACT for others who have already switch and for those soon to switch. It will take time to take the market, once it as done that, this post will be re-posted to you again. Haha david is which am refering to the current market, but if it does change few years down , it will be “small boys don’t try playing with the big boys (voda) .”
    Have a great week bro , and thanks, wait and see.
  • Stanley Kokie But vodafone to come to the of PNG is ar great way of creating that competitiveness in business especially marketing. Vodafone entry strategy to buy 49% from bemobile is good. Bemobile got messed up by. PNG politics. Resulting in some projects not completed in time. Vodafone challenging digicel will bring greater benefits of mobile communication to PNG
  • Mark B Flynn I have Vodaphone in Australia. Only worksin city areas. Once you leave the footprint … no signal. Even in the city area the signal is week. TThey get people in with low rates, then no service. Can’t talk to anyone in Vodafone, they just say they arefixing it. People have left them in the droves and continue to. Vodafone in Australia is in its death throes.
  • Rapsey Vagi I don’t think Vodafone would cover the entire country like what Digicel does. There’re some parts of rural area where mobile phone networks don’t work. Vodafone just doesn’t put with other mobile phone company where the competition is very high.
  • Kainaro Kravia Fiji has taken over EMTV and now BeMobile…small brother will soon take over big ventures, eventually small bro will become a force to reckon in big bro’s backyard.
  • John Taure The PNG market is unpredictable and how Vodafone will fare depends on the public’s response after a given period of time. To compare its current business status in either Fiji or Australia and expect a similar result here is a bit too quick off the mark
  • Al Maha As i recall, K100 of the K125 was units so the SIM itself was K25. No difference in price, only the obligation to purchase K100 worth of call credits. You want to talk cheating, how about the K1.99/Mb on data use not long ago…absolutely outrageous!
  • David JR Midi PNG is a fast-growing emerging market in the South Pacific and in the South East Asian region. Our people sooner will be getting used to good competition that comes with its positive array of choices and benefits and pricing. With Vodaphone around Digicel has to re-invent itself to retain its market base by re-evaluating its product, services and pricing to stay competitive. I would not be surprised PNG will see more prospective global players sooner interested to have a stake of investment in our emerging market especially in our communications sector. At the end of the day, there will be new jobs and opportunities for PNGeans, tax revenue, skills and expertise and better services and pricing driven by customer-focus demand and innovation that people will enjoy as a result of good competition in the sector. Vodafones entrance into PNG is definitely great news!
    • Francis Papua From a marketing aspect, Vodafone has to remove the brand ‘bemobile’ to have an immediate impact on PNG mobile market. I hear their operation in PNG will be named ‘Vodafone Bemobile’ which could be going down the wrong path. Digicel entered PNG market as completely foreign brand and immediately stole the imagination of PNGeans from all walks of life. Their products were selling like pancakes, the brand quickly spread it roots throughout the country even to the remotest parts of PNG. Ordinary PNGeans tend to develop patriotism mentality and that’s the edge Digicel has over its competitor even though bemobile has reduced its rates in recent times but still does not have the impact it would have liked. Difference between ‘brand & product’, the former is a PHYSICAL item, it can be seen, touched or often seen on the shelves while the latter is MENTAL, its inbuilt in the mind. How Vodafone penetrates Digicel’s brand stronghold is a question ONLY time will tell…
    • Robert Weber I was in Fiji last Nov. bought a Vodafone sim straight away. I was amazed at the speed and low costs for data . If they bring that to png, say goodbye to Digicel !!!

12 thoughts on “CAN VODAFONE TAKE OVER THE MOBILE PHONE MARKET IN PNG? – a Sharp Talk Discussion

  1. If there’s any telecom company who can match the might of Digicel’s aggressive entry into the Pacific, it will have to be Vodafone Fiji. I’d put my money on Vodafone Fiji not because I’m a Fijian and live in Fiji, but because I’ve seen it fight to keep its market share when Digicel entered the Fiji market in 2009.

    Vodafone Fiji’s management and marketing teams are well versed with Digicel’s marketing strategies and if they can fight Digicel in Fiji, they can fight Digicel anywhere else in the Pacific. True Digicel knocked down every incumbent cell phone company in every market they entered but in Fiji, it really did have a hard time and it still does. Yes Vodafone Fiji has lost market share but the pie has grown with both companies expanding network coverage Fijiwide.

    Also the new phenomenon of Internet usage by a growing number of Fijians has given both companies room for new revenue streams, not just mobile voice calls. We have Digicel to thank for expanded mobile telephone coverage in Fiji, which in turn pushed Vodafone Fiji to then spend on network coverage. Before Digicel’s entry,Vodafone Fiji spent heavily on upgrading its existing network. When Digicel entered, it put money on expansion, a good strategy considering the rapid evolution of technology in this industry. On the ground, Vodafone Fiji’s marketing team went all out to fight for its share of the retail market with much success. So PNG, you have a good fight coming.

  2. Hi Dionisia, been a long time and thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. The Pacific is certainly getting smaller and with Vodafone also set to hopefully take on the Solomon Islands as well we can finally see some healthy competition in the ICT industry.

    The rest of this year will certainly be exciting.

  3. Bula Emmanuel. Great to see Masalai as strong as ever. A great source of information :-). Finally Fiji and Vodafone have penetrated the Pacific’s biggest market. We all look forward to exciting times! How has PNG Telikom reinvented itself in all this competition in PNG’s mobile market?

  4. Perhaps you should ask how has Telekom Fiji reinvented itself too? How is FINTEL coping also in Fiji?

    PNG is the place to be now and not later, therefore we all need to be mindful of investors that would like to invest in our region. It is our duty to be in partnership with good investors, willing risk takers who will want to stay in the Region for the long haul.

    For every successful business, it comes down to good management. Managing a telco is like managing an emotions business. When customers are happy, they stay and bring other customers. When they are unhappy they switch providers. Hence it is about enriching customer experience, exceeding customer expectations, and full filling the obligations of the shareholders.

    I do not come here often, but anyway that’s my contribution. Who ever you support in Telecommunications, who ever serves you well, I hope they exceed your expectations.

    God Bless.

  5. For Telikom, (and I must say thank you very much Mr. Litau for dropping in to the blog), data is the future. Voice will prove to just be an extra or subsidiary to the core service that everyone will want in the future which is Data.

    Telikom would do well to focus on 1. Customer Service and 2. Getting the best scalable and customisable products out to the customers as the National Transmission Network shapes up the Broadband space in PNG.

    Telikom can continue with its Citifone service but as more and more data is consumed by customers Telikom’s expertise and experience in fibre and legacy networks will prove itself useful especially when it comes to the back-haul for the mobile networks.

  6. All Well Commented. The catch praises speak of themselves, of how innovative the team is that come up with their own motto. Telikom-“Always There”, “Citipone-“YELLOW!”, Digicel-“Bigger, Better Network,” Vodafone-“We Got You Covered,” and Bemobile?-……..?UNHEARD! So what’s in for ‘Vodafone Bemobile’? Team, be creative and not like those None Sense Slogans or phrases like “Yellow yellow!”

  7. Bula Mr Litau.

    Great to meet you on Emmanuel’s Masalai blog!

    I have followed with great interest the challenges faced by incumbent telecoms in the region to reinvent themselves now that new technologies have forced the business model to change.

    As has probably happened everywhere else in the world, their mobile telephone businesses have taken off, perhaps more because of mobility than anything else; and core voice landline businesses have really struggled, which is why I am interested in PNG Telikom’s experience, because that is also the challenge currently faced by Telecom Fiji.

    FINTEL as a wholesaler of international bandwidth (previously a monopoly wholesaler) has simply been absorbed by ATH, which also owns Telecom Fiji (100%) and part of Vodafone Fiji (51%).

    What ATH does with that Southern Cross Cable gateway that used to be FINTEL’s business is anyone’s guess but I imagine there’s a lot of potential there for ATH and the nation.

    As Emmanuel alluded to, data is the future. What interests me is how have companies like Telecom Fiji and PNG Telikom, with their domestic cable networks, redesigned their business models around this trend, assuming their mobile businesses are no longer part of their core business.

    Are they still able to play in the major consumer market, now that new gadgets favour mobile telephone and wireless networks and mobility is more preferred by consumers? If yes, how are they competing?

    If no, then how have they been transformed?

  8. The next big area of business to explode is data/internet consumption from a rapid take up of smartphones by the masses. If Vodafone matches Digicel on voice, it could go one step better with a focus on market leadership for data consumers. By by making internet much more affordable and flooding the market, it will start steering traffic to it. There is insatiable demand for greater internet usage. However, affordability has been a major stumbling block for increased data consumption. If Vodafone comes with the right strategy focused on data and market leadership for about 5 years, I believe it will eventually destroy the loyalty that 80% of the market have for Digicel and can start capturing value and return on investment.

  9. Be Mobile failed in SI and in PNG for two major reasons Incompetent Management and Corruption.Pity the investors!

  10. Digicel is a foreign company only here to make profit. It doesn’t care about ordinary papau new guineans. It doesn’t even look after its own staff. Most of its engineers live in shanty settlements, over worked with no benefits and struggle to survive. Its so called career building path is a joke. There is too many indians running the show at Digicel. Now the Indians in Managment are giving maintenance contracts to their wantoks. Contracts of locals with Digicel is been terminated. They lied in media about charity work they do. Papua new Guinean we have a melanesia lifestyle, bemobile is ours. We takecare of our own. Digicel is an individuals and our money is leaving our shores. Vodafone your welcome, we need competition, Digicel is too expensive. Advice! Disable its human resource n it will tumble, this is one are Digicel ignores.

    1. Good points Dexter. Unfortunately Vodafone have left as this deal never came through, but looks like bemobile is determined to change with its new management.

      I’ll be posting an interview with the new Group CEO soon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s