3 Sep 2007

Irish diplomat queries PNG u-turn in phone market

3:14 pm on 3 September 2007

An Irish diplomat has flown to Papua New Guinea to express his government's concern over moves to scuttle a five million US dollar Irish investment in a new mobile phone network.

The Irish Ambassador to Australia and PNG, Mairtin O'Fainin, flew to Port Moresby last week for talks with government officials about the Irish-owned company, Digicel.

The talks followed moves by the PNG government to revoke the company's radio wave licences.

Mr O'Fainin told the AAP news agency that Digicel Pacific's total investment is the biggest single investment in the non-mining natural resources sector in PNG, and would employ around a thousand people.

Digicel has rolled out 26 new phone networks in the Caribbean and is now taking on the Pacific.

It was granted licences in PNG and by July had spent 140 million US dollars on a new network to compete with former sole provider PNG Telikom.

But after welcoming Digicel as a competitor to Telikom, the PNG government has suddenly changed tack, citing revised telecommunications policy and the need to retain government control of the sector.