Updated March 1, 2011 17:36:34
The Solomon Islands Telecommunications Commission has imposed a 1 million US dollar penalty on Papua New Guinea phone company, B-Mobile, for failing to meet its licence requirements.
BMobile was supposed to have provided mobile phone services to 75% of the population by February 1st.
Solomon Islands Telecommunications Commissioner, Nicholas Williams, told Jemima Garrett BMobile failed to meet that deadline …or to rectify the situation by February 14th as required by its licence.
Presenter: Pacific Economic and Business reporter, Jemima Garrett
Speaker: Nicholas Williams, Solomon Islands Telecommunications Commissioner
- Windows Media
WILLIAMS: BMobile’s required to meet a 75 per cent coverage requirement in its license by the 1st of February this year. And unfortunately it seems that the company has built no further base station since the 1st of December last year when we found them to have met 50 per cent of coverage. Consequently there’s quite a serious breach of their license here, and that’s what led us, it’s not a fine, it’s actually an exercise to demand guarantee in the performance bond against their coverage obligation, that led us to exercise the demand guarantee for one million US.
GARRETT: BMobile says that it’s close to meeting its license requirements offering services to 64 per cent of the population. What’s your reaction to that?
WILLIAMS: Yes we heard that, that’s based on what we would argue is an erroneous measurement. We have consulted the National Statistics Office here in town in Honiara, and they’ve reviewed the coverage that BMobile has achieved against the census data at a village level to see how many people are actually covered by the network. Their estimates put it actually at 48-point-three per cent. Our own in-house estimate put it at 49-point-six per cent, whereas BMobile are claiming 64 per cent. And I think the difference there is simply that they’re taking an overall view of the ward population, they’re taking out, they’re saying basically I’ve covered x-per cent of villages in the ward, that means I have x-per cent of the population of the ward as a whole. And what the stats office and what we’re saying is facts in an accurate way. What you should have done is actually counted the villages specifically that you’ve covered and their population.
GARRETT: Phone services in general in Solomon Islands are poor, and people have been waiting with great anticipation for BMobile to bring some competition into the market. What has BMobile’s failure to meet its license obligations meant to the people of Solomon Islands in terms of lost business and other opportunities that phones can provide?
WILLIAMS: I would be careful to put all the blame on BMobile or say that they’re the ones that should be providing all of this service. And Solomon Telecom are also in the market in providing service. I think the benefit to the Solomon Islands, not having BMobile up and running and meeting coverage obligations, is the competitive intensity it created it would create in the market, and that would have led to the overall broader availability of communications in the country. So at the moment what the islands foregoing is that competitive intensity on prices, competitive intensity on coverage, the levels of connectivity or potential connectivity are much lower than they ought to be.
GARRETT: One million dollars is a lot of money. Why are you imposing such a tough penalty on BMobile?
WILLIAMS: Well some would argue it’s not tough enough. We have a demand guarantee against that specific threshold of 75 per cent � of two-point-five-million US dollars. And I could have taken, exercised up to two-point-five-million. The reason why Telecoms Commission hasn’t done that, that we want to leave money available as an incentive to BMobile to catch up with its roll-out plan, and we’ve written to the company to set out what those steps need to be and the timetable. And so some would argue we haven’t been tough enough, some would argue that we’ve been too tough. I think we have to be fair � obligations was part of the original license application by BMobile, they were the ones who put up the demand guarantee, and it’s incumbent on the TCSI, the Telecoms Commission here to then review that and to exercise if there’s a breach of the license.