Some basic Kina economics. In PNG one kina is about 40 Australian cents. In 2022, Minimum Weekly wage in PNG is about 180 kina. Without a plan, a basic Mobile Phone (with wifi) costs 611 kina, so it's a large investment, unless you take up a plan. Back in 2007, the Irish company Digicell, based in Kingston Jamaica, arrived flooding the market with thousands of $6-a-pop mobile handsets and a seductive selection of prepaid packages, including hourly and nighttime contracts that incentivized after-hours use. In its favour, the mobile brought weather warnings, as well as keeping villagers in touch with family. Click here for Digicell's current Wikipedia article. Within five months, the company had more than 350,000 customers, and by the end of the first year, it had built 130 towers in what rivals described as a "land grab". By 2009, Digicel’s market share of mobile phones in PNG was above 80% — a bench mark it hasn’t dipped below since. Click here for an article published in 2012, commenting on these Digicell Phone towers. Mobile Phone coverage was now said to be available to 75% of the population. In remote areas though there’s yet another twist: The question of connectivity doesn’t come down to towers but electricity. While personal solar or petrol generators can charge old-fashioned cell phones for limited periods of time, the more sophisticated phones have a much shorter battery life. Still, you get by with what you've got. In January 2021, with about 40% of users running on 2G service i.e. no Internet apart from Wifi, and as remote areas struggled with basic connectivity, Digicel continued to build out its 4G network in more densely populated parts of the country. The company’s gamble in Papua New Guinea — which as of 2018 totalled over $850 million in investment — was said to be a success. Although its rates proportionate to income remained among the highest in the world, there were over 1,000 towers in Papua New Guinea in 2021, and over 2.1 million people in the country were Digicel customers. Digicel PNG now has an annual revenue of $340 million, and analysts claim that the mobile industry contributes to 6.2% of the GDP, up from 4.7% in 2014. However, after talks in 2021 of China Mobile taking over their Pacific mobile operations, based in two offices, in Port Moresby and Singapore, Australia's Telstra took them over instead in October 2021, at an estimated value of USD $1.6 billion. In March 2022 the Papua New Guinea government imposed a retrospective tax of over $100m on the company, payable by March 31. Based on this article on April 4 published in the Irish Times, Digicel said owner and chairman Denis O’Brien met with prime minister James Marape and two of his regional governors the previous week, during which Mr Marape “assured Digicel that the new tax would not proceed”. Digicel is now engaged in discussions with the Papua New Guinea government and other relevant stakeholders “to ensure this commitment is honoured”.
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