Source: The National, Wednesday 07th March 2012

DIGICEL says contrary to what bemobile is saying, its off-peak rates are already at 79 toea.
“The 79 toea is Digicel’s off peak rate (per minute) for off-net calls to Telikom and bemobile,” it said in a statement yesterday.
“These rates apply from 8pm to 8am everyday and whole day during the weekends.”
The issue of off-net call rates was raised by bemobile in an effort to get its competitor to reduce its off net rate from its current K1.70 per minute.
bemobile’s chief commercial officer Alan Barry said last week that compared to bemobile’s 79 toea per minute off-net rate, this was anti-competitive and monopolistic in practice, leaving an uneven playing field.
He said because of the high of-net rates, bemobile had written a submission to National Information and Communication Technology Authority (Nicta) in January last year to hold a public inquiry, looking specifically at the off-net calls and SMS from Digicel to customers of bemobile.
bemobile proposed that Nicta should recommend that the Communications Minister make a retail service determination (RSD) that imposed a cap of 99 toea per minute on the retail price that Digicel may charge for calls to bemobile customers.
It also suggested a separate cap of 25 toea per message on the retail price that Digicel may charge for SMS messages from Digicel customers to bemobile customers.
Nicta found that the evidence provided by bemobile in support of its claims against Digicel was not compelling and did not warrant a public inquiry.
However, having drawn an issue to Nicta’s attention, the agency undertook a preliminary examination of its own and concluded that there were matters that warranted being tested and considered further through a public inquiry process.
This was issued in November last year and closed last December, after receiving feedback from bemobile, Digicel, Telikom and the public.
Preliminary results led Nicta to reach the following tentative conclusions:
g The relevant market is the market for off-net call and SMS services by the retail customers of the mobile network operators (even though the complaint that initiated this inquiry related only to calls from Digicel to bemobile customers);
g There is a prima facie case that Digicel had SMP in the relevant market;
g There is no prima facie case of either anti-competitive cross subsidy or predatory pricing by Digicel in the relevant market;
g Nicta had insufficient evidence to form a view on whether or not Digicel was engaging in excessive pricing (that was, pricing in excess of costs and a reasonable return that may constitute an abuse of SMP); and
g Nicta had insufficient information to form a view on whether or not Digicel is engaging in anti-competitive price discrimination.
Digicel CEO John Mangos said this week Digicel continued to participate into this ongoing enquiry with NICTA, but it seemed that bemobile was unaware of the facts around the pricing and the consultation which they were currently taking part in.
“It should also be noted that bemobile charges K2 per megabyte for data which is up to 10 times the industry average in PNG,” he said.
 “And bemobile has received considerable concessions from Nicta with regard to network rollout, which represented a massive reduction on their commitment to invest in PNG.
“Digicel has already completed the most-stringent rollout obligations as attached to its licence from Nicta and continues to invest in new areas for voice, SMS and data.
 “Real value and commitment is bringing communications to areas which have no communications and Digicel continues to focus on this.”