Digicel and Bemobile at Vision City

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I visited the very popular Vision City shopping mall more than once during my stay in Port Moresby. I was struck every time by the contrast between the bustling Digicel shop and the quiet Bemobile stall just nearby. The two photos were taken during the same visit, and illustrate this point.

When you think that the government-owned Bemobile was the monopoly incumbent less than a decade ago, it’s a remarkable story.

The entry of the Irish company Digicel was highly controversial, and almost didn’t happen. (You can read an account by Ron Duncan here.) But what a success. According to the World Bank, the number of mobile subscribers in PNG increased from 2 per 100 in 2006 to 38 per 100 in 2012. I don’t know how many of those 2.66 million (assuming a population of 7 million) are with Digicel, but it must be the overwhelming majority.

Such are the benefits of competition. But the question must now be: where is the competition to Digicel?

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Stephen Howes

Stephen Howes is the Director of the Development Policy Centre and a Professor of Economics at the Crawford School.

3 Comments

  • PNG government should consider privatise B-mobile to a giant Telecommunication company that can compete effectively with Digicel. But, now we have a Awal Telecommunication company and digicel competition is on the way.

  • Just as an update to this, it looks like the competition to Digicel may be on the way. This week Awal Telecommunications of Saudi Arabia announced it hopes to begin its PNG operations later this year, under the name of ‘A-Tel’.

    PNG Business Advantage has more on the story here.

  • Agreed. Which highlights the need for appropriate regulation in this sector. The Vanuatu experience has illustrated that left to ‘the market’ Digicel would have exercised economic and political clout to get rid of the incumbent (TVL) leaving it with a monopoly.

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