Papua New Guinea’s Independent Consumer and Competition Commission (ICCC) has announced the conclusion of the preliminary inquiry it launched following consumer complaints regarding the prices of retail broadband internet services in the country. The complaints reportedly came amid growing concern from consumers that ‘substantial’ reductions in the prices for wholesale internet broadband services by PNG DataCo Limited in 2021 were not being passed down to consumers at the retail end.
With the ICCC having conducted its inquiry between December 2021 and March 2022, seeking to identify the underlying issues relating to these consumer complaints, it confirmed it had received feedback from major industry stakeholders including DataCo, Digicel PNG, Daltron PNG, Telikom PNG and Datec PNG.
Among its key findings were: different cost structures for ISPs in PNG are affecting their pricing for internet services at retail level; the National Transmission Network (NTN) operated by DataCo is mostly ‘unreliable’ with too many prolonged outages; and prices for DataCo’s metro fibre service remain relatively high despite an advertised 66% price reduction. Meanwhile, the ICCC said that vertical integration issues had been identified with DataCo; with the latter having control of key wholesale infrastructure while also participating in the retail market the watchdog said this raised potential competition concerns.
Commenting, ICCC commissioner and CEO Paulus Ain was cited as saying: ‘The ICCC understands that NICTA will be conducting an enquiry this year into the retail market for internet broadband services in PNG. This is due to create regulatory oversight in this segment of the market and enable ISPs to compete efficiently, in providing services to consumers.’ According to Ain, the ICCC will ‘continue in its efforts to rectify market failure issues in the market, by supporting NICTA throughout its review process in providing submissions/information, from findings the ICCC has uncovered through investigations/enquiries of its own, including this current inquiry.’