Licences for four new internet service providers paves the way for competition

Monday 23 November 2020 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Economy, National

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Licences for four new internet service providers paves the way for competition
The Manatua One fibre cable being pulled ashore at Rutaki, Raratonga in January. (PHOTO: AVAROA CABLE). 20010730

Four new local internet operators have been granted licences in a bid to improve services and provide competition to Vodafone Cook Islands.

Competition and Regulatory Authority last week issued Internet Service Provider Network Operator Licences to Kuk i Net Ltd, ICT Nexus Ltd, AYA Ltd, and ManaNet Ltd.

And Bernard Hill, the chair of the Authority, says they are expecting to issue more licences in the near future.

“There is no limit on the number of such licensees, and the Authority is expecting others to apply,” Hill said.

He said the licence authorises the provision of all kinds of local internet access service, to Cook Islands consumers, businesses, and other organisations, anywhere in the country.

However, Hill said the licence does not permit the provision of standard telephone services using telephone numbers on a public fixed or mobile network interconnected with other local and international networks.

“It does permit the installation and operation of the telecommunications network assets and facilities necessary to provide local internet access but does not require the licensee to provide internet service availability at large, or at specified geographic locations,” he said.

“The assignment of radio spectrum and the deployment of any apparatus requiring specific approval are subject to separate authorisation.”

The licenses were issued after the local companies presented details of their investors and directors and satisfied the regulator that they can comply with the statutory requirements.

Hill said he was pleased to see these companies choosing to partner with overseas firms.

“Previous experience and technical expertise in wireless radiocommunications and the delivery of internet services is essential in my view, and experience elsewhere in the Pacific is especially valuable from a customer point of view.

“This interest from offshore is also a strong signal of confidence in the country’s long-term future.”

Ranulf Scarbrough, the chief executive of Avaroa Cable Ltd, welcomed the issuing of these retail licences to new internet operators, saying it would bring competition to the telecommunication industry.

Avaroa Cable is a state-owned fiber optic operator providing managed wholesale connectivity services to and between the Cook Islands.

Dr Scarbrough said: “Competition in the telecommunications market that these licences enable is a key pillar of the government's telecommunications policy, alongside the Manatua Cable, the new telecommunications and competition legislation passed last December, and the establishment of a regulator.”

He confirmed that Avaroa Cable Ltd have been in discussion with a number of organisations interested in becoming network operators in the Cook Islands.

“From the start, we have designed our products, services and pricing with these new market entrants in mind in order to minimise the barriers to market entry,” Scarbrough said.

“It’s not an easy time to start a new operator but we are confident that ACL (Avaroa Cable Ltd) and the Manatua Cable will play a big role in helping these new operators to flourish and for the benefits of the cable and competition to be enjoyed by Cook Islanders in Rarotonga and Aitutaki.”

Bernard Hill said it was up to the new licensees “to announce what their intentions are concerning the scope of the services they want to offer and where and when service will be available”.

At least one company – Kuk i Net Ltd – had already started advertising their packages before they were granted the licence.

The company, headed by local broadcaster William Framhein, was officially launched a week ago.

Kuk i Net, who is promising uncapped data deals to residential and commercial users, plans to provide internet using satellite broadband technology from Kacific Satellite Services.