Vanuatu’s industry watchdog the Telecommunications Radiocommunications and Broadcasting Regulator (TRBR) has announced that Vodafone Vanuatu, Digicel Vanuatu and WanTok Network have agreed to participate in the second rollout of the government’s Universal Access Policy (UAP). Under the framework of the UAP’s ‘Play or Pay’ funding system, the three operators have opted to provide services in underserved and unserved areas at their own cost, with assistance from the government in the form of exemption from UAP levies, import duties and 700MHz spectrum licence fees. The telcos have undertaken to meet agreed technical standards and ensure their networks extend to villages in the areas identified by the TRBR.
The primary objective of the UAP requires 98% of the population to have access to voice, narrowband data services such as text messaging, 3G wireless networks, and broadband services enabling upload/download speeds of at least 2Mbps/1Mbps. A secondary objective aims to ensure all government offices and schools can access broadband data and internet services, and that services are of comparable cost to those available in the capital Port Vila and the second largest city Luganville. In October 2019 the government approved the extension of the programme until 1 January 2022, following complaints regarding mobile network coverage and quality of service issues.