Fiji is a leader in the Pacific region in terms of development of its ICT sector and investment in telecoms infrastructure. However Fiji is periodically affected by tropical cyclones which can devastate the country’s infrastructure. Cyclone Winston hit the country in early 2016 and wrought considerable damage which destroyed homes, schools, buildings, power lines, telecoms infrastructure, agriculture and so forth. In the wake of the cyclone there was around USD200 million worth of damage done to crops which caused food shortages and prices to escalate.
Up to 80% of the population lost power. This affected a large number of landlines as they largely share poles. Vodafone Fiji also reported damage to a large number of cell sites. Fortunately some of the mobile base stations across Fiji had back-up power generators and these networks became crucial for providing telecom services to relief workers and the myriad teams of people organising the clean-up and recovery work.
Looking forward from the cyclone, Fiji has been urged to take the opportunity to rebuild the country in a manner more suitable to a cyclone-prone region and to consider building shared infrastructure. Telecoms companies in particular were highlighted by Fiji’s Attorney General as one sector that could consider shared infrastructure as the islands are so small to service. In addition, he suggested that more underground cabling could be installed as these are protected from dangerous winds.
Generally, Fiji is one of the telecoms leaders in the Pacific region, along with Papua New Guinea. Similar to many developing nations, it is heavily reliant on mobile technologies rather than fixed lines. The percentage of unique mobile subscribers in Fiji sits at around 69%. Vodafone Fiji Limited (VFL) and Digicel Fiji are the major mobile operators and the only MVNO is Australian company, Inkk Mobile which operates on VFL’s network.
Efforts have been made to reduce mobile services pricing in recent years and in 2016 regulatory changes introduced by The Commerce Commission saw a reduction in mobile rates for interconnection services and Off-Net retail prices. This will result in the price of mobile calls across the networks declining by around 45%.
Tourism is one Fiji’s most important industries and there is strong demand for better communications – especially from isolated islands with resorts. This will be resolved over the next few years as the mobile operators heavily invest in 4G networks. The GSMA has forecast that by 2020 Fiji will have more 4G connections than 3G and will account for 38% of the Pacific regions overall 4G market share.
Key telecom parameters – 2013; 2016
Subscribers to telecoms services (thousand): (e)
Fixed Broadband users0.0110.014
(Source: BuddeComm based on industry data)
- The increase in mobile broadband and the introduction of tele-centres which provide free access has seen internet penetration increase across Fiji.
- Vodafone Fiji supplied free pre-paid electronic cards to the government which were used to provide financial aid assistance to citizens whose homes were damaged by the cyclone.
- Amalgamated Telecom Holdings (ATH) added to its holdings portfolio in 2015 with the acquisition of Telecom Services Kiribati.
- In December 2015 Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) increased its shareholding of ATH after acquiring government shares and increasing ownership to 72.6%.
- Telecom Fiji Limited (TFL) announced it had turned around the financial slide for the company and reported an USD18.49 million post tax profit for the end of the 2015 financial year.
- Fiji is taking climate change very seriously and in February 2016 became the first country in the world to formally ratify the UN climate deal which involves 195 countries.
- As part of the deal Fiji has agreed to generate 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 as well as reduce overall energy emissions by 30%.
- Digicel Fiji began offering a music streaming service in 2015 as part of a partnership with Rdio.
Companies covered in this report include:
Amalgamated Telecom Holdings (ATH), Telecom Fiji Limited (TFL), Fiji International Telecommunications Limited (FINTEL), Pacific Emerging Technologies (PET), Southern Cross Cable Network (SCCN), Vodafone Fiji Limited (VFL), Digicel Fiji, Inkk Mobile, Unwired Fiji, Fintel Internet Services (Kidanet).
Ankur Gupta, Head Marketing & Communications