Although PNG has a relatively advanced telecom network compared with other developing nations, teledensity as well as mobile and Internet penetration remains very low.
Telecoms infrastructure is limited to the major urban centres of Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen leaving rural areas very poorly served according to an analysis done by BuddeComm.
BuddeComm is an independent research and consultancy company, focusing on the telecommunications market and its role within the digital economy.
Privatisation of Telikom began in 2001 and in 2004 an agreement was reached to sell a majority stake to South Africa-based Econet Wireless as BuddeComm notes.
However, the government rejected Econet’s bid. In 2006 Telikom PNG, Telstra and Telecom NZ finalised a plan to recycle a section of the old PacRimWest cable connecting Australia to Guam as a new link connecting Port Moresby and Sydney.
The government owned and part-government owned mobile network operator, Telikom has been slow to increase its mobile infrastructure. The privately operated Digicel has been noted by BuddeComm to be the champion in regard to this task. Digicel is believed to building a US$500 million mobile network, across PNG according to BuddeComm.
PNG’s telecoms market is currently comprised of three mobile operators (Digicel PNG, BeMobile and Citifone) and one fixed-line operator (Telikom). While the market is growing, it is highly concentrated and suffers from a lack of infrastructure, particularly in rural areas according to Oxford Business Group website.
The regulator, National Information and Communications Technology Authority (NICTA) says that the telecoms market has been impacted by a number of harmful anti-competitive market practices, such as price discrimination, market collusion and “predatory and excessive pricing”.
Early this year, the government of PNG, through the department of information and telecommunications awarded Licence to a new mobile company, the Awal Telecomunications Limited. That adds to the increasing mobile competition in the country.
The NICTA mandates that network sharing of mobile and other essential infrastructure occur to minimise costs while increasing choice to the consumers and businesses and bring communications and broadband connectivity to the majority of the population.
Despite all this, teledensity as well as mobile and Internet penetration remains very low. Telephone density or teledensity is the number of telephone connections for every hundred individuals living within an area.