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Digicel’s new PNG chief sees connectivity and content converging

The new CEO of Digicel PNG believes the company is evolving into a provider of content as well as supplying connectivity. Maurice McCarthy tells Business Advantage PNG his first priority is to increase access to Digicel’s expanded network.

Business Advantage PNG (BAPNG): In Fiji, you built up Digicel’s corporate business as well as its retail structure. What are your priorities in PNG?

Maurice McCarthy (MMcC): In line with Digicel’s global approach, we in Papua New Guinea aim to remove boundaries and deliver the best service, best value, best network and the best products and services to consumers and businesses alike.
As part of this, we are heavily investing in data networks, as we recognise that data services are such an important part of every economy in every country.

Our expansions included a significant investment in our data network, with additional 3G+ and LTE (4G Long Term Evolution) sites now available in Port Moresby and in Lae.

The improved data services in these areas offer increased bandwidth and greater speeds. We also invested significantly to expand our network to areas previously not covered. Now there are an additional 300 new mobile communication sites, offering voice and data services to connect previously isolated communities to the rest of the world for the very first time.
In 2015, we are focusing on using this expanded footprint to provide an improved customer experience, offering reliable access to world-class products and services for all people from the Highlands to the New Guinea Islands and beyond.

BAPNG: Are you happy with current pricing levels?

MMcC: When you look at where we began and then contrast it to where we are now, you can clearly see that services are now more affordable, accessible and reliable.

We’ve extended our network and our reach and launched a whole range of value-centric voice, SMS and data offers. Our new Social Passes allow customers to experience more of our data network, by offering them free social media with the purchase of any data pass.

Additionally, we have launched a Pay-TV service, Digicel Play, with an objective to make access to TV more affordable. Digicel Play is not your traditional model, we offer three Free-to-View channels, plus give customers the choice of a daily, weekly, monthly package.

Of course, there is still work to be done but we have a clear focus to drive greater improvements for consumers and businesses in Papua New Guinea.

BAPNG: What are your plans to develop the HD pay TV service, Digicel Play?

MMcC: We launched Digicel Play last November in Port Moresby and we’ve extended that service from Moresby to Lae, Hagen, Buka and into Kokopo. This is an area we’ll continue to expand and invest in this year.
We are producing quite a lot of local content, in terms of health, education and current affairs.

PNG loves sport, so it’s certainly the most watched genre but there’s also a significant appetite for current affairs and local news. So, this year we’re going to expand our offering in line with local interests.

BAPNG: Are you going to develop your own infrastructure, including offshore cable, or will you rely on plans by PNG DataCo to build international cable links and in-country infrastructure?

MMcC: Digicel is both an investor and a partner with public and private sector organisations in infrastructure and technology development projects in the region.

We understand that availability of off-shore cable is a key requirement to help drive economic growth in PNG thus this is a focus area for our business.

In line with this, we are actively perusing options for off island cable and are in the middle of finalising plans for Digicel to build its own sub-sea cable from Port Moresby which will allow high speed connectivity to Australia and potentially New Zealand and the US.

In addition, we’re are also utilising new technologies such as O3B satellite technology domestically, which allows regional or rural SME’s and consumers to access our broadband service at a far more affordable rate.

BAPNG: What will Digicel PNG look like in 5 years?

MMcC: I think what you find is that we’ll mirror what is happening across the world, where data connectivity and content is becoming more and more important.

You’ll see all the services (data, TV, PNG Loop) converging and there’ll be significant investment into fibre, both on-island and off-island.

The consumers’ appetite for data just continues to grow and grow as we continue to provide premium content services. We will therefore work to ensure we have the network on-island and off-island to deliver an improved customer experience and access to data technologies in line with our consumer’s appetite.

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