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Telecommunications Monopoly Broken In Vanuatu

by Mary Swire, for, Hong Kong

26 September 2006

After a long battle, alternative telecommunications supplier Pacific Data Solutions Limited (PDS) has been given the right to compete against Vanuatu incumbent Telecom Vanuatu Limited (TVL).

Last week, the Supreme Court of Vanuatu the decision of the Government to issue a telecommunications licence to PDS. Justice Christopher Norman Tuohi in Port Vila ruled on an application by TVL for judicial review of a decision by the Minister for Public Utilities Edward Natapei to issue the licence.

TVL claimed that the licence was void as it was in breach of TVL’s statutory monopoly. At a press conference the Minister stood by his decision, saying the licence was issued to PDS for them to provide telecommunication services to their any customers that hold a licence under the Interactive Gaming Act.

“The Government was of the view that TVL did not have the capacity to supply the service to the level required,” Natapei explained. He said that a number of companies that set up business in Vanuatu had left partly due to the failure of TVL to supply a more adequate telecommunication service.

“But it must be clear to the public that PDS is not providing services for telephones, that is still under TVL services,” Natapei pointed out. However, he said, the Government is looking at re-negotiating the Franchise Agreement it has with TVL which runs until 2012. The government holds 33% of the shares of TVL, with two other partners, Cable and Wireless and Cable and Radio.

Last May, TVL issued a list of 60 government offices including ministries, departments and agencies which owed the company VT 7 million in unpaid telephone bills, threatening them with disconnection. Government phone bills ranged from VT 1,076,570 for the ministry of health to VT 2,382 for the ministry of lands.

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