Subscribers of the Government owned Kumul Telikom are up in arms over a sudden increase in mobile data rates.
But while Telikom is being accused of the price hike, the company management has indicated, they’re not responsible for the new pricing.
In April, the Government announced a merger between Telikom and former subsidiary, Bmobile-Vodafone. The arrangement has resulted in Bmobile-Vodafone gaining control of Telikom’s 4G retail services as well as the right to use their 4G infrastructure.
Telikom’s Acting Chief Executive, Xavier Victor, referred all 4G related queries to the Bmobile-Vodafone CEO, Athula Biyanwila who, in turn, said in an email, he could not comment on the increase and that a statement would be “released in due course.”
Over the last 36 hours, it has become clear, Telikom had no say in the price increase and that Bmobile-Vodafone, which now controls the two 4G networks, imposed the new price structure on customers.
But with the 4G service, still bearing the Telikom brand name, the company is suffering a public relations nightmare and a serious loss of credibility.
In April, Telikom workers held stop work meetings throughout the country after the the merger.
While many workers were concerned about employee benefits in light of the merger, there were also underlying concerns about the impact on customer service.
Over the course of the month, the Telikom management held various meetings with staff to explain the proposed structure of the merger. What stood out was Bmobile-Vodafone’s imminent control of Telikom’s 4G services and infrastructure.
Telikom 4G customers realised they now have to pay triple the price of data bundles. Dozens of customers vented on social media expressing disappointment over what appeared to be the company’s decision. Three nights ago, customers began posting screen grabs of 5GB rate which had jumped from K80 to a hefty K135.
“Telikom data bundles have increased overnight. Previously, it was K100 for 15GB. Today it’s a whooping K370! What’s the justification for this increase?” Malcolm Winga posted on Facebook.
In terms of its mobile coverage, Telikom has, comparatively, a lesser share of the country’s largely rural market than its competitor, Digicel. But the government telco has been able to make up for that by offering the lowest mobile data rates compared to its two competitors, Digicel and Bmobile.
The price increase comes as Papua New Guinea hosts APEC meetings prior to the Leaders Summit in November. Chief among the discussions has been the wider access to digital communications.
Taking over the APEC chair from Vietnam last year, Papua New Guinea has said it was committed to reducing costs encouraging e-commerce opportunities.
Many people hoped that Telikom’s affordable services would lead the change. However, the price increase now means startups and e-commerce entrepreneurs will have no option but to continue paying some of the highest internet prices in the region.