Fiji’s Commerce Commission says the country would benefit from the introduction of competition in the mobile market. Vodafone Fiji currently holds the monopoly in the sector, but Jamaican-based Digicel is keen to enter the Fijian market and already has a provisional licence to operate there. The deputy chairman of the Commerce Commission, Ioane Naiveli, says the agency is arguing the case for other telecoms firms to set up business in the country. ‘The Commerce Commission is encouraging competition, that is what our role is. So we would really encourage any competition for our consumers. Because that would determine the prices. Because once there is a market there, the market forces determine prices, there will be competition,’ he said.
Vodafone filed an injunction against the country’s Telecommunications Ministry in June 2006 in an attempt to stop the government from licensing a new mobile operator. Vodafone’s case centres on the terms of the exclusive licence it was previously awarded by the state which it says prevents the ministry from issuing any more licences for mobile services. The government is keen to introduce competition, although Minister Isireli Leweniqila confirmed that the pending stay order had delayed the issuing of the licence. The future of Digicel and Pacific Connex, another would-be mobile service provider in Fiji, is dependent on the Court of Appeal which is deliberating the matter of the government’s authority to issue new mobile licences. The chairman of Digicel, Dennis O’Brian, meanwhile says his company is committed to staying in Fiji.
Only last month the Minister for Information and Communication Isireli Leweniqila said the government was in the throes of introducing sector reforms to improve services, provide better coverage and increase competition in the telecoms market. In a press interview Mr Leweniqila highlighted the need to resolve several issues that are currently preventing the government from achieving its goals, adding that the reality of the situation was the delicate balancing of public interest against that of the industry as Fiji progresses towards market liberalisation. ‘The key components in the transition are new policy directions for telecommunication, a draft Bill being finalised and a road map for liberalisation,’ he said. The administration’s objective is to foster the development of reliable and affordable telecoms services to all citizens, with a particular focus on underserved rural areas.