The three main telecom companies in Vanuatu, Vodafone Vanuatu Ltd, Digicel Vanuatu Ltd and WanTok Network Ltd have signed agreement with the Telecommunications, Radiocommunications and Broadcasting Regulator (TRBR) to participate on the second roll out of the Universal Access Policy (UAP) of the government of Vanuatu.
The signing agreement was held on 29th June 2021, at the office of the TRBR. The operators chose to play instead of pay from the play or pay approach, and this option enables the operators to provide telecommunications service to the underserved and unserved areas at their own cost with assistance from the government through exemption of import duties, exemption on 700Mhz spectrum license fees, and exemption from paying the UAP levy.
Under the agreement, the three telecom companies are committed to meet the technical standards and ensure their network will extend to the villages in the areas identified by the TRBR.
In his introductory remarks, the Regulator Mr. Brian Winji, acknowledged the two operators for their past commitments to the roll out of the UAP, and also the third mobile operator, WanTok Network Limited, who has joined the two existing mobile operators to commit to the ‘play’ approach, and emphasized that it is necessary to increase competition and provide wider choices of services and service providers for the consumers.
Mr Winji explained that the primary objective of the UAP required that, 98% of the Vanuatu population shall have access to the following telecommunications services:
- Narrowband data services, including text messaging;
- Upgrade the mobile networks from 2G to 3G technologies; and
- Broadband Internet services that shall enable a download speed of at least 2Mbps and upload speed of at least 1 Mbps.
He said the secondary objective of the UAP was to ensure that all Government offices and schools had the ability to access broadband data and internet services and that services offered outside Port Vila and Luganville were of comparable cost as that available in these two areas.
On their part, Mr Justin Kaitapu CEO from WanTok, Mr Barlen Lutchmoodoo CEO Vodafone and Mr Rubert Benson Acting CEO Digicel, have all agreed and said despite many challenges their respective telecom companies have faced due to the remoteness of areas and islands, recovery from damage sustained from TC Harold, and the challenges faces due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a difficult task for operators is a head of them, but they are happy to participate in this UAP roll out, to provide this essential service to the people of Vanuatu especially in the rural areas.