Fiji’s Amalgamated Telecom Holdings’ (ATH) recent US$25 million investment from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to finance a greenfield 4G mobile network in Papua New Guinea, is a vote of confidence in the regional telecommunications powerhouse.
ATH has operations in Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Samoa, American Samoa, and Cook Islands, but the PNG venture is by far its biggest play. While dominant in Fiji through its Vodafone, Telecom, FINTEL and Fiji Directories businesses, and listed on the stock exchange there, 22% of its earnings are generated outside the country.
That is set to expand considerably. The ABD estimates only 11% of Papua New Guinea’s population is able to connect to the internet. ATH Chief Executive Officer Ivan Fong says they’ve looked at PNG with the ADB before, but with Australia’s funding of the Coral Sea cable, falling satellite prices and Kumul Consolidated Holdings’ construction of domestic fibre and transmission networks, the timing was right to deliver a “last mile” project to reach businesses and consumers—the coronavirus pandemic notwithstanding.
“We acknowledge that there are three operators in that market and they serve that market to varying degrees, but when you look at the business surveys …in the last few years telecommunications has been creeping up there to the top [as a challenge]. So we think there is an opportunity to provide an uplift to the services in that market and to potentially modernise some of what consumers can have in the country as well.”