PNG GOVERNMENT BLOCKS DIGICEL NETWORK ACCESS

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Move effectively sidelines the Caribbean competitor

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 18, 2008) – The Papua New Guinea Government yesterday used its numerical strength to pass amendments to the Telecommunications Act.

Effectively, the law removes the international gateway that [Caribbean] company, Digicel, has been operating for thousands of users.

[PIR editor’s note: Digicel Pacific is a sister company to the Caribbean-based telecommunications company Digicel. GroupDigicel is 100 percent owned by Irish entrepreneur Denis O'Brien.]

But Dicigel is not taking this lying down, vowing to fight on in court to keep its international gateway licences.

[PIR editor’s note: A telecommunications "gateway" is a point in a network that allows the entrance of another network ]

Minister for Information and Communication Patrick Tammur introduced the amendments which, he claimed, were important steps in reforming the communication sector’s approach to competition.

According to Mr Tammur, the law will achieve four objectives:

"For the State-owned Telikom PNG, as the only licensed general carrier, the amendments make clear that international gateway rights are exclusive rights for a general carrier," he said.

He said the Bill strengthens the interconnection regime (in order) to achieve early interconnection between carrier networks.

The minister said it also provides a new class licensing regime to allow the development of private networks with appropriate regulation.

Telikom is to retain its exclusive rights to install and maintain reserve links. He said the law makes clear that mobile carriers may use physical cabling to connect network elements in connection with the supply of mobile services.

Crying foul over the restriction, Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta said there was no justification in the so-called staged competition.

He said it will not benefit the people of this country; taking away private companies’ rights.

He said it created a monopoly for Telikom and will force Digicel to close part of its network.

"Our people want that service; why force it to close."

He said the amendments would result in high prices and poor service.

"Why remove the benefits of competition when people are already enjoying them," Sir Mekere said. "The Government wants not only to provide service but ownership, which is not in the national interest. This Government wants to be a regulator and participant. This Government wants to be a referee and a player, which will end up with one thing ‘a massive conflict of interest’," Sir Mekere said.

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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