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.