Interview: John Mangos

How you would assess the latest developments and investments taking place in the telecoms sector?

JOHN MANGOS: The sector is generally healthy, with the National ICT Authority only recently issuing additional network and gateway licences to seven operators, all of which are committing funds to industry development. For our part, we are continuing to build towers for 2G and 3G networks, and are particularly focused on making communications affordable and accessible. Our belief is that mobile and broadband penetration in Papua New Guinea still has significant room for growth, and these developments in terms of licensing and investment give everyone access to services.

Are more reforms needed to spur competition?

MANGOS: Generally speaking, the policy and regulatory framework is in place to drive competition and investment. It simply needs to be applied to boost overall industry participation and encourage investment, especially in rural areas. It is important not to forget the key role investments have in stimulating growth and development. As an example, mobile penetration has grown significantly over the last five years due to substantial investment, but broadband and internet penetration has lagged significantly. We need a review of investment constraints as well as the barriers to making broadband and internet access more affordable.

ICT development in PNG over the next 36 months will rely on two key elements: bandwidth availability and the cost to the consumer. PNG has to recognise the importance of communications infrastructure to longterm economic sustainability. While the cost of bandwidth remains high compared to other countries in the region, we have to wonder what the impediments are to our own business growth, societal development at large and the education of future generations.

Similar to other countries, PNG would benefit from a national broadband network, consisting of both onisland, and off-island assets on which this industry can be developed. The legislation has no restrictions on the number of licences, so the key is access to affordable backbone infrastructure. Moreover, the industry needs confirmation that there will be no changes in the near and mid term, which will have an impact on investment decisions as the industry collectively works towards improved access to communications.

How competitive is the sector, and what are the potential barriers to entry for new operators?

MANGOS: Mobile penetration remains low and there is considerable scope for further growth. The field is still wide open for new operators to come into the market, and they should be encouraged to not solely focus on central business districts, but to invest in more remote areas. As shown by Digicel, barriers can be overcome and a successful business developed in the regions. This will take a lot of commitment from new operators, but the rewards are there.

What has been the response of the private sector to changing demands in telecommunications?

MANGOS: Corporate clients want the world’s best practice in service levels, and demand that operators provide all services from mobile, branch network connections and the internet. PNG is no different, and the government is continually increasing its bandwidth utilisation as it carries on automating and improving its business. Retail customers’ expectations continue to rise, with people expecting to have the same service in Port Moresby as in Australia.

Social networking has taken off all over the world.

Digicel, for example, has responded to changes in demand in PNG, where Facebook and Twitter are just as popular as in other countries, by creating an SMSbased social networking product called Boomer. To use sites like Facebook, one must have at minimum a smartphone with internet access. However, the vast majority of our customers do not have smartphones.

This led us to come up Boomer, which is free to join and only requires a standard Digicel mobile service.