BY MATTHEW VARI
Minister for Communications, Information Technology and Energy, Sam Basil (pictured right) has rejected the Retail Services Determinations recommendation by NICTA, citing concerns of wider social and economic impact to the wider mobile subscriber community.
The RSD recommendations were derived from an extensive public inquiry that was completed on July 25 this year in relation to services provided by Digicel PNG Limited.
According to the National Information and Communications Technology Authority’s RSD determination, it recommended Mr Basil use his ministerial powers under section 160(1) of the National Information and Telecommunications Technology Act 2009, requiring Digicel to charge the same price for on-net (on-network) calls and off-net (off-network) calls to be the same.
In official correspondence by Minister Basil to NICTA, dated the 24th, this week, he informed NICTA of a letter from Digicel PNG Limited dated September 5 which requested rejection of the recommendations.
Digicel indicated if the recommendation was permitted would force the removal of its popular pricing plan, the 1Tok bundle plans, right across the entire country.
“We believe that the removal of 1Tok would result in significant consumer harm and risk a strong backlash not only against Digicel but also against imposition of the RSD,” the Digicel letter stated.
Minister Basil said stated that while he was inclined to accept and endorse the RSD recommendation to ensure prices for on-net and off-net are the same between existing operators to the Digicel network, he was mindful of the market share Digicel commanded at over 90 per cent, which is 2.4 million subscribers.
“Many of these subscribers are from the rural, remote areas of Papua New Guinea who can ill-afford the costs of mobile telecommunication services which has been eased by 1Tok bundle.
“Removal of 1Tok bundle has the potential of going against O’Neill Government policy objective of accessible and affordable ICT services,” Basil stated.
He stated while rejecting the report recommendations, they would be preserved until other market structure concerns were addressed such as the.
n Wholesale Access Regime Determination –wholesale prices of ICT Services are reduced so that retails services are accessible and affordable to subscribers.
n Price capping of ICT retail services – to keep prices at accessible, affordable levels for the majority of ICT users in PNG through on-going reviews of the ICT legislations and regulations.
n ICT infrastructure-sharing / co-location – to avoid duplication of investments and to reduce infrastructure costs (through tower-sharing as an example) to ensure accessibility and affordability.
n Mobile number portability – to enhance competition in the markets and empower subscribers to exercise freedom of choice of telecommunication services providers by allowing subscribers to retain and use the same mobile phone numbers.
n National roaming – to enhance competition in the ICT market by allowing subscribers to “roam” in areas where their service provider has no presence using their mobile number provided by their service provider.