Australia: Developments in PNG and Kiribati: improving broadband stats

Last Updated: 11 March 2014
Article by John Ridgway, Dan Ward and Aisling Kelly

Papua New Guinea

What do the statistics say?

The broadband and internet statistics for PNG 1 shows the country has the lowest percentage of internet users of all the Pacific jurisdictions measured 2.

PNG's low rate may be due to a number of factors including:

  • the extremely high cost of internet in PNG which is not affordable to many local people or businesses;
  • low bandwidth; and
  • reliability.

New Broadband Policy

PNG issued a revised draft National Broadband Policy on 22 April 2013 (Policy). The express short to medium term goals for the National Broad Policy may be summarised as follows:

  • to have in place a competitive structure for the provision of broadband in PNG
  • to support the provision of broadband services to communities with an active interest in acquiring early broadband access
  • to achieve broadband service availability of 100% in urban areas and 70% of rural areas of PNG during the next 5 years
  • to ensure that broadband services become more, and remain, affordable for all people in PNG
  • to support all academic institutions to have access to broadband
  • Government to lead the broadband evolution by delivering its services online over broadband

A final version of the Policy is yet to be issued.

We anticipate that the final version of the Policy will provide a competitive structure for the provision of broadband services in PNG. This in theory should reduce the costs and increase the reliability of internet in PNG thereby improving the internet statistics.

PNG National Broadband Network

On 3 July 2013, Telikom PNG and Huawei (to be the technology partner) signed an agreement to build a National Broadband Network (NBN). Apart from internet services this project will also assist in the establishment of online government services, (EHealth, e-Education) as well as digital television and as an underlying infrastructure for mobile and fixed communications across the country. It will also include the introduction of 4G services to PNG's urban centres.

It has been reported that the rollout of the high capacity international and national fibre optic network will be completed later this year. Once completed it is expected to enable retail telecommunications suppliers to offer consumers competitive prices to key locations within the country.

Plans to create PNG DataCo Limited, a new broadband wholesaler to be created in PNG supplying bandwidth to telecommunications providers were discussed at the PNG Investment Summit. PNG Dataco Limited was issued:

  • an individual network licence; and
  • an individual network (gateway service) licence,

by the National Information and Communications Technology Authority of PNG (NICTA), both commencing 26 October 2012. Network licences are needed to construct, maintain, own and operate facilities for a communications network.

It has also been reported that Siera Support Services, an Ireland-based sister company of Digicel (PNG) Limited, has won a $US15 million contract to build and rollout a high-speed fibre optic network in PNG, but it is unclear if the two are linked. 3


The World Bank Kiribati Telecommunications and ICT Development Project is underway, commencing in 2012 with a five year implementation period4. Kiribati remains one of the least connected countries in the world, with mobile penetration of only 14% as of the end of 2011, and broadband internet penetration estimated at 5% of the population. The World Bank in 2012 estimated the population of Kiribati as 100,800.

The World Bank has committed a total of US$5 million to the project, with a further $4.1 million being contributed by AusAID and the New Zealand Government. The aim of the project is to increase access to telecommunications services through policy and regulatory support to the ICT sector, as well as specific improvements to enhance connectivity in the outer islands. The project has three components:

  • ICT Policy Support: this component aims to facilitate new market entry. There is currently a monopoly, with only Telecom Services Kiribati Limited (TSKL) providing telecommunications services. There is also scope under this component to address the regulator (Telecommunications Authority of Kiribati (TAK)) to recruit and retain experienced technical staff.
  • ICT Regulatory Support: this component is focussed on licensing, regulation, competition, resolving disputes, and allocating radio spectrum and frequencies. Currently there is no access to submarine fibre-optic cable, and so Kiribati is highly reliant on satellite bandwidth which historically has further increased the service price.
  • Outer Islands Connectivity: this component aims to facilitate development of telecommunications in the outer islands, which are less attractive for many reasons, including their remoteness, sparsely-populated nature, and the lack of a reliable electricity source.

In terms of existing regulatory infrastructure, TAK was established as independent regulator under the Telecommunications Act 2004.

Some anticipated benefits of the World Bank project include:

  • reduced costs of doing business for the private sector with the possibility of new job creation;
  • increased availability of value-added services such as mobile phone-enabled banking (e.g. for remittance transfers), e-commerce (e.g. for the tourism industry), and, potentially, online government services;
  • improved communications facilities for schools, clinics and government offices;
  • opportunities for Outer Islands to become tourist destinations and other sources of industry (e.g. niche agricultural or marine products)
  • some new business opportunities for women and youth, particularly in the outer islands (telecenters and kiosks are often operated by women and youth); and
  • improved integration of remote outer island communities with improved communication linkages and access to services.

The positive economic impact of the development of telecommunications across the Pacific cannot be under-stated.


1"The State of Broadband 2013: Universalising Broadband" (Report) by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development (

2Pacific jurisdictions include: Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu

3"Digicel's billionaire owner expands in PNG" (

4Information regarding the World Bank Kiribati Telecommunications and ICT Development Project obtained at:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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