The Honeymoon's Begun

On Tuesday this week, Parliament agreed to put an end to the telecommunications monopoly in Vanuatu. This news has been greeted with widespread enthusiasm. People throughout Vanuatu believe that this means the days of over-priced, low-quality telephone and Internet services are finally over. But is this really the case?

The answer is mostly yes, with a few important qualifications. It’s almost certain that costs will decrease, service coverage will increase and quality will improve. It’s also quite likely that new kinds of services will be rolled out as well. But many of the environmental factors that constrained telecommunications in the past still remain.

With competition guaranteed. The major telecoms companies are in a beauty contest now. Customers in Vanuatu will shortly find themselves being wooed by players old and new, offering all kinds of exciting services, prices and promotions.

Let’s look into our crystal ball and try to see what things will be like over the next year or so.

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Pushing Pebbles

Last week’s column dealt with the frustration one sometimes feels about the slow pace of change here in Vanuatu. Communications and access to information are fundamental to all aspects of life, and the challenges that we face here make the task of achieving universal access to even basic resources a very difficult one indeed.

Telecom Vanuatu, the government and other important stakeholders are all working very hard to implement a new telecommunications strategy. This includes far wider mobile service coverage and a much more open and competitive environment. These first critical steps are to be applauded, of course. We all look forward to the coming improvements in service.

Notwithstanding these significant changes, a great deal remains yet to be done. The good news is that an improved environment will make all the small steps to follow easier, and in some cases, possible for the first time in Vanuatu’s history.

The process of opening up the telecommunications market in Vanuatu has been a long one, and will go on for years to come. It would be instructive to take a look at how all this came about.
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