Asian Development Bank (ADB) director of urban, social development and public management division Andrea Iffland made a bold statement in support of Orama Limited’s bid for a telecom licence which has been with Minister of Finance Mark Brown for almost a year.
Iffland made her comments when releasing the ADB’s review of the public sector in a publication called “The Cook Islands: Stronger Investment Climate for Sustainable Growth,” during this week’s meeting of Pacific Islands Forum Trade and Economic Ministers.
“It calls on the Cook Islands Government to address competition-related concerns by developing a coherent competition framework,” said Iffland.
“Orama’s request for a telecom licence is an issue at hand, and an opportunity to expand telecom services while reducing telecom cost.”
Speaking after the review launch, Iffland questioned why other licences had not been granted in a market solely dominated by Bluesky Samoa.
“That is something that one has to look into a bit more closely. Competition is benefiting the population at large... in principal, it is the way to go to deregulate the market and enable potential people to enter the market.”
There would be no law change required; the government would simply need to issue the licence, said Iffland.
And this is music to the ears of Orama’s William Framhein.
Orama Ltd, is a locally-registered company and a 50/50 joint venture between KukiCel Ltd (a locally owned and registered company established in 2009 by William Framhein and PacTel International) and Smile South Pacific Pty Ltd, an Australian company with equity interests in a range of telecoms ventures.
Orama was the unsuccessful bidder for Spark/Telecom New Zealand’s 60 per cent shareholding in Telecom Cook Islands, which was purchased by Bluesky Samoa.
Framhein’s company subsequently asked the government for a licence for radio apparatus which would enable them to provide a mobile phone service, data and a wireless internet service.
“We believe under the current legal framework the monopoly does not apply to radio apparatus or radio frequencies,” said Framhein.
“The monopoly (of Bluesky) only applies to fixed lines and so the experts that we’ve had looking at the legislation have found provision for (the Minister of Finance) to issue licences for radio apparatus.”
Framhein said it would be another telecommunications gateway in and out of the country, giving consumers a choice.
“ADB have looked at our proposal and are quite impressed with it. It was nice to hear that there was a mandate, and for the government to just get on with issuing the licence.”