PNG PRIME MINISTER BACK-STEPS ON MOBILE PHONES

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 10) – The Somare Government is pro-competition and will not revoke the licences of Papua New Guinea’s two latest mobile phone companies, Public Enterprise Minister Arthur Somare told Parliament yesterday.

"Mr Speaker, the Government will not remove the licences of the new entrants as issued on the 27th of March 2007. The users of the new entrants’ mobile services are assured by the Government that their rights have been preserved and protected and that is consistent with Government policy," he said in reply to questions on the matter by Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta.

The two mobile phone entrants, Irish-owned Digicel and Green-Com, were issued mobile phone licences early this year with the Irish company snapping up thousands of customers in the first month of the launching its network.

Mindful of Digicel’s expanding network nationwide, Mr Somare said Papua New Guineans were beginning to enjoy the benefits of competition and it was not the Government’s intention to deny them that choice.

"There was no u-turn and there is no u-turn as suggested by the Opposition Leader. Mr Speaker, the people of Papua New Guinea have tasted and embraced competition and that is what this Government – the Somare Government – introduced in its last term in office. And it is not the intention of Government and never has been the intention of Government to deny the people of that choice when competition is introduced."

While there are concerns the Government’s amended ICT Policy would ensure state-owned telecommunications company Telikom PNG Ltd retained its monopoly, Mr Somare said the policy would ensure PNG consumers received maximum benefit and competition increased efficiency in the telecommunications sector.

"We have tasted competition and that is competition that was introduced by this Government and we like competition. We see its benefits, Mr Speaker. Competition has raised the bar on performance and demands nothing less than greater efficiency by all providers," he added.

On Sir Mekere’s concerns about the Independent Consumer and Competition Commission (ICCC) being stripped of its licensing powers, Mr Somare said they were only "refining" the ICCC Act to separate the commission’s regulatory and licensing functions.

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