THE present restructure the government is undertaking to merge Telikom PNG, PNG DataCo and bmobile Vodafone is commendable.
However, certain factors relative to the industry challenges and market demands must also be taken into consideration.
While it is clear that Telikom balance sheet is in the red and most of its assets are obsolete and depreciating, there are some critical assets like satellite earth stations and submarine cables that Telikom needs to relinquish to PNG DataCo.
Telikom needs to focus on its core business, which is retail telecommunications services.
The days of Telikom PNG enjoying the monopoly, where it provided both wholesale and retail end of services, are over.
It must now concentrate on the retail end of business in this day and age, where data-inspired telecommunications services are becoming very competitive.
Data has literally taken over the telecommunications business.
It is therefore wise for the separation of retail and wholesale services to function independently.
This is so that the telecommunication industry can become competitive – in the process, stimulating proportional growth of other related businesses.
The country’s demand for data to feed the socio-economic growth is accelerating the ICT industry.
Therefore it is prudent to maintain retail and wholesale businesses separately.
With the near extinction of public switched telephone network (PSTN), it is imperative for the country to concentrate its investment in building the National Telecommunication Network (Ntn) using fiber optic materials.
So far, since the establishment of PNG DataCo, it has been doing a tremendous job with PNG Power where they completed the laying of the major fibre optic trunk lines in the Highlands region.
Despite PNG DataCo being denied some critical assets like submarine cable and satellite stations which Telikom PNG refused to hand over, after several NEC decisions for these assets to be relinquished, PNG DataCo has proven to undertake its corporate functions competitively with limited resources.
Hence, this merger must not include PNG DataCo as its functions must be kept completely separate, given its significance.
Data wholesale must be independently managed and retailers must buy it from PNG DataCo to provide their services.
Kumul Telikom (Telikom PNG and bmobile) should be focusing on connecting from the trunk line to subscriber stations.
This is their end of business where they should be concentrating, like the PSTN days.
PNG DataCo will maintain the main trunks (highways) while Kumul Telikom looks after the subsidiary trunks and fiber to home user stations.
Kumul Telikom will have definite subscribers, meaning definite money as they will connect to stations where people live and work.
These customers will be paying Kumul Telikom, which in turn will be employing skilled technical people to maintain their retail end of businesses.
Government offices, homes, schools, businesses, institutions etc will all be connected to the NTN.
Kumul Telikom will be in sustainable business again.