Calls blocked

Main Stories, National

THE public could be hit with communication and power blackout heading into the long Easter holiday because of disputes between the phone companies and upgrade work at a power facility.
Residents in Port Moresby are expected to suffer the most, with the Rouna 2 power station expected to shut down over much of the holiday period for work to be carried out (see separate story on page 3).
The dispute over interconnection rates between the mobile phone companies surfaced again this week, with Digicel blocking off traffic, making calls from bemobile to Digicel impossible.
Industry sources monitoring the mobile activities yesterday said bemobile customers were hard hit, with Digicel blocking 95% of traffic. Some callers had to try a number of times to get through, causing a lot of frustration.
Digicel said yesterday it was having issues with bemobile and Telikom with regard to who was going to pay for outstanding mobile invoices.
Digicel said both had denied liability and, therefore, Digicel had not received payments for service (interconnection) provided since June 12 last year.
It said the outstanding payments amounted to “several millions of kina”.
“Digicel cannot be expected to keep providing services indefinitely when bemobile is unwilling to even engage in discussions around mobile interconnect, outstanding mobile payments and, indeed, have expressly denied liability,” Digicel said in response to questions about why interconnect calls were blocked.
But bemobile sources said the current contractual relationship was with Telikom, meaning Telikom pays the interconnect fees owed for mobile to mobile calls and sms.
They said Digicel served Telikom with a demand for payment for K2.5 million at the old interconnect rates, and later withdrew this demand.
The sources said Digicel withdrew the demand because it could not invoice on the old rates, and did not want to state the new rates as doing so would be seen as acceptance of the new interconnection rate.
Digicel has recently gone to court to challenge the new rates introduced by the regulator ICCC, but lost the challenge.
Digicel claims it operates a bigger network, and is losing money on the new interconnection rates being applied.
Telikom and bemobile disagree, and argue that termination rates should be further reduced, as is the trend around the world.
Interconnection rates have dropped about 50%, down to 26 toea (peak) and 22 toea (off peak) per minute, from 46 toea to 42 toea per minute.
The rates were set by ICCC last December.
Industry sources say a drop in interconnection rate will mean cheaper calls for all mobile users.
At present, Digicel has the larger share of the mobile market. It controls about 80%.
When contacted about the dispute and the blocking of calls, Communications and Information Department secretary Henao Iduhu said he would meet all three parties to try to resolve the dispute.
Officials at ICCC could not be reached for comments.