The era of increased competition is just around the corner.  So, just how many mobile operators can the Fiji market support? 

According to Tomasi Vakatora of ATH, the market in Fiji consists not only of 400,000+ subscribers within the country, but also some the 500,000 visitors who arrive annually and expect roaming services on their mobile phones. He envisions a situation where two large operators will dominate the market and a third operator will take a much smaller piece of the pie.  The change in rhetoric from the ATH people is commendable, especially since it is unclear whether the company has backed off its efforts to block deregulation efforts by going to the courts.

The Fijilive article which quotes Vakatora at briefing at the South Pacific Stock Exchange also reveals that the auctioning process for mobile licenses will guarantee a launch of services from 2 new providers by October of this year.

The bidders are:

Four companies have been shortlisted to bid for two mobile licences and include Caribbean-based Digicel Pacific, Telecom Pacific Ltd (a joint venture between WR Carpenters South Pacific Ltd and Elandia (Intl), local internet service provider Unwired Fiji and Pacific Spectrum Holdings Ltd (whose directors include Siddarth Nandan and Karen Simpson of Nadi).

One of the two licenses will most likely go to Digicel Pacific, a subsidiary of the Digicel family that offers mobile services in 23 countries.  Originally launched in the Caribbean, Digicel now has developed considerable expertise in offering competitive services in many countries with similar profile to Fiji. Digicel Pacific has already put its infrastructure in place in Fiji, so it appears very likely that Fiji could see up to three service providers up and running by the end of this year.

It’s about time! In all the rosy rhetoric being put forward by ATH on the benefits of deregulation is an unwillingness to acknowledge that their profits of past years have come at the expense of hindered economic competition and missed opportunities for growth.