Amalgamated Telecom Holdings (ATH), owner of national fixed line operator Telecom Fiji, has announced plans to invest upwards of USD77 million in its operations in the year to 31 March 2008 – the biggest CAPEX spend since its inauguration in late 1998 – as it prepares the ground for the advent of fresh competition. Of the total, USD42.2 million will be spent on upgrading and expanding Telecom Fiji’s national telephone network to increase capacity, facilitate the introduction of advanced services and improve internal processes. A further USD33.1 million has been earmarked to upgrade Vodafone Fiji’s mobile telephony network. The cellco is 51% owned by Telecom Fiji and 49% by the UK’s Vodafone Group.
Vodafone Fiji is currently the sole operator in the domestic mobile market but plans are afoot to change this. In March 2007 the cellco announced it was holding talks with the country’s interim government in an effort to reach an out of court settlement in the protracted legal dispute against the Telecommunication Ministry regarding its exclusive mobile licence. At the time, Vodafone Managing Director Aslam Khan confirmed the company was seeking to reach an agreement to ensure that the matter was settled quickly. Khan said he had written to the Ministry to reassure it that the company backed the government’s plans to deregulate the industry. He also confirmed that talks were ongoing between the interim government and Amalgamated Telecom Holdings (ATH) concerning the exclusive licences held by Vodafone, FINTEL and Telecom Fiji Limited. Vodafone Fiji initiated legal proceedings against the former Minister for Telecommunication after two companies, Digicel and Pacific Connex, were issued provisional licences by the former government.