As Vodafone PNG opens up the telecommunications market in Papua New Guinea, we take a look at the challenges facing the company as it navigates a dynamic technological landscape.
A NETWORK OF POSSIBILITIES
Mobile networks in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are still in their infancy, but Vodafone PNG hopes to positively impact the island country. As an operator expanding into a pioneering market, the company is eager to spur competition within the industry and face any challenges with tenacity.
Vodafone PNG’s entry into the telecommunications sector will facilitate greater innovation and heighten the adoption of much-needed technology in PNG. The company launched into the telecommunications space in December 2022 and appreciates the difficulty of the market, acknowledging that there are many different factors to take on board.
The option of an alternative provider has been well received by Papua New Guineans; moreover, Vodafone PNG is eager to build the best network possible for the welcoming public.
Network coverage, however, must underpin Vodafone PNG’s success as the population in the country is not concentrated. The capital city of Port Moresby, for example, accounts for only five percent of the population.
With the majority of residents located in rural townships, Vodafone PNG is making the quality of network coverage its immediate priority. Once there is a strong foundation in place, innovative and affordable products, delivered with unrivalled customer service, will follow.
As a relatively new presence, Vodafone PNG aims to bring a different perspective to the market, so its customers can benefit from better billing plans, bundles, devices, and mobile services in the long-term. In addition, the short-term will yield vital affordability backed by a reliable network.
Vodafone PNG prides itself on customer relations, alongside which, it has been able to gather the best global practices from other markets and bring them to PNG as the company continues to compete in both the B2B and business-to-customer (B2C) space.
STIMULATING THE SECTOR
Vodafone PNG has a strategy in place to ensure that it is a critical addition to the public and businesses alike, and that everyone will benefit from its presence in PNG. The company’s concern and focus are twofold.
Firstly, it intends to roll out the network as planned, and secondly, it will aim to attain 75 percent population coverage by the end of the year.
Furthermore, when this two-pronged approach has been achieved, the next step for the company is to forge a financially secure future in PNG. By following through with customer acquisition exercises, establishing distribution, and retail and brand presence at every stage, Vodafone PNG is spending capital expenditure (CapEx) in the right areas. As it does so, the company wants to monetise its investments as soon as coverage is established.
CapEx spends on network infrastructure require customers so it can monetise as soon as the coverage has begun. In terms of investments, Vodafone PNG’s planned CapEx spends will be on infrastructure and network optimisation.
Depending on how traffic is behaving, Vodafone PNG will make adjustments to the network to preserve its quality as it might become eroded once more customers are onboarded.
There will be other mobile-adjacent services which Vodafone PNG can develop and launch, but for the here and now, it will dedicate itself fully to becoming the best mobile operator it can be – offering great value propositions, backed by a stable, reliable network.
Consumers, industries, and the government all value the work that Vodafone PNG is implementing.
Therefore, the company is persistent in its campaign to connect PNG, as the underpinning reason for its existence in the country is to partner up on the development of PNG, and not just to turn a profit.
This role involves both appeasing the public and aiding the new government as it navigates the trials and tribulations of a developing nation.
Vodafone PNG has a responsibility as businesses have come to rely upon it. In the Western world, people come to city centres to live and work. In PNG, it is the opposite as people can live off the land, with no need to migrate to the centre.
It means that the economy needs some activation as telecommunications bring people and businesses together. If Vodafone PNG can activate the economy in a sustained way, the knock-on effect will be huge, and taxation will become easier.
As PNG has a low market penetration, a progressive expansion is required to bridge the communication gap. However, actioning connectivity is more challenging than Vodafone PNG could have imagined.
It is a unique market with unique opportunities. Given the terrain, land ownerships and lack of legislation, building cell towers is a difficult task. The company is used to building 1,000 towers a year around Asia, but in PNG it is lucky to build 100 a year.
Issues surrounding legislation are an obstacle which Vodafone PNG is working to overcome. In other parts of the world, land is governed, with tangible boundaries, whereas in PNG there is a lot of guesswork involved.
Vodafone PNG finds itself having to negotiate with the people who claim that piece of turf. It is the uniqueness of PNG which draws people to this market, but it is not a run-of-the-mill type of destination. The difficult terrain and lack of structure surrounding land ownership are two of the primary reasons why Vodacom PNG is currently limited in its operations across the country.
Covered with dense jungles and tropical rainforests, the mountainous terrain of PNG also presents infrastructure problems for Vodafone PNG. Using helicopters to carry towers up hills and mountains is now part of a standard day for the company.
The power in PNG is unreliable, so Vodafone PNG relies on generator sets which need to be refuelled. As there are power outages every day, the company has to get around the terrain, consequently, it needs to build a road to reach a tower.
As Vodafone PNG is building infrastructure, the road is now under construction, since there is a need to dig into the terrain to access the site. Building a tower is not as easy as it is in the West, where roads are taken for granted.
PLANS AND POSSIBILITIES
Having recently celebrated its first anniversary, Vodafone PNG has accomplished many achievements in a short space of time. As PNG continues to turn itself into a global telecommunications hub, operators need to expand their infrastructure.
Looking at the way the telecommunications sector has developed, Vodafone PNG will eventually sell more than data and texts; it will start to sell adjacent services such as Mobile Money and mobile content that people can consume. In the meantime, a stage has been reached where the market simply needs simple and basic mobile services.
Additionally, Vodafone PNG is currently talking to health authorities regarding the telemedicine sector. As many people in PNG are so far away from clinics and decent healthcare, telecommunications can assist with diagnostics before patients need to see a medical professional.
The company arrived in PNG determined to make a difference to the country and its people. Therefore, the team are zealously fulfilling Vodafone PNG’s responsibilities and projects.
The country can and will develop at pace when the telecommunications industry works in tandem with the administration effectively, but commercial will and political might need to be aligned.
Furthermore, as a rapidly expanding mobile operator, Vodafone PNG appreciates how important supplier relationships are and how their support is integral to the company.
Vodafone PNG hopes to be in the country for the long-term and as the plan is to remain an important presence in PNG, it hopes that its suppliers see the company as a long-term partner.
For Vodafone PNG to be able to continue on the same trajectory, reliable contacts that understand its mission are fundamental. It is important for the company to give back to the community by taking on local small
to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), to enable it to contribute to the growth
of the economy.
Vodafone PNG encourages suppliers to take a longer-term view and align themselves with the company, to share its vision. It wants a group of partners that it can rely on and grow with.
CONNECTING THE POPULATION
Vodafone PNG’s office is based in the capital city of Port Moresby, which also houses the main data centre. The network rollout is supported by the company’s retail presence in Lae, Madang, and most recently, Mount Hagen. Soon, it will be able to orchestrate the nation’s traffic through regional data centres, shortly commencing in Lae, then later on, Mount Hagen. The company’s aim is to spur growth through the provision of technology and connectivity, and the goal is to grow with the country and be at one with its people.
After launching commercially last year for both consumer and enterprise segments, Vodafone PNG offers a suite of products and services in pre- and post-pay, across voice, text, and data, including broadband for consumers. For enterprise, this entails mobile connectivity bundled with devices, as well as tailored enterprise solutions in cloud security, wide area networks, and dedicated internet.
Vodafone PNG is confident that its entry into PNG will spur greater competition within the industry, facilitate greater innovation and heighten the adoption of much-needed technology as it aims to match its competitors, in terms of radio coverage at least. Rather than being at the mercy of one provider, the company wants to offer consumers a choice rather than have prices and services dictated.
Through better connectivity, the informal economy will gain more sophistication and become sustainably activated. In turn, it will contribute more to the nation’s commercial productivity. Nonetheless, the challenge cannot be one that the industry realises on its own. Vodafone PNG has to partner with the relevant authorities, and with the government overall, to rise to
Moreover, providing better coverage, lower price points, and boosting the local economy are just a few facets of what the team at Vodafone PNG has in the pipeline for the nation’s people as, through investment in the country, the company has proven that it is here to stay.