The commercial director of Digicel Group’s mobile operation in Fiji, Andrew Skelton, has reiterated the cellco’s intention to continue upgrading its networks and introduce 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) services this year, but refused to be drawn on an exact date for the launch. In an interview with local newspaper Fiji Village, Mr Skelton stated that whilst plans are underway, the company is still working to secure the proper handsets to support a full-blown launch.
In December last year Skelton said that the company would not forge ahead with its commercial rollout until there were enough lower-cost devices for its end users, adding that in the meantime it would exert pressure on device manufacturers to make cheaper handsets. ‘It costs FJD700 [USD371.3] for a 4G-enabled phone and how many people in the market can actually afford a FJD700 phone?’ Mr Skelton said at the time, noting: ‘I think the misconception in the market is that 4G is here and all the phones can access it – that is not the case.’
Rival operator Vodafone Fiji, meanwhile, stole a march on Digicel when it launched a commercial 4G mobile network in early December 2013.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in July 2013 the auction of frequencies to provide LTE services in Fiji kicked off with domestic operators Telecom Fiji Limited (TFL), Vodafone Fiji and Digicel Fiji lining up to place their bids for 20 lots of frequency on offer. Companies looked to secure frequency blocks carrying minimum valuations of between FJD131,250 and FJD504,000 (USD70,049 and USD268,986). By the end of the process, Vodafone Fiji had secured its entire 30MHz quota for 4G spectrum, offering FJD144,000 for each of the six 5MHz lots of 4G spectrum blocks purchased in the LTE-1800 band (i.e. FJD864,000). Digicel paid a total of FJD1.94 million for its 30MHz block of frequencies; it acquired three blocks of LTE-suitable spectrum in the 800MHz band for FJD1.26 million and added blocks in the LTE-1800 band. Meanwhile, TFL secured FJD2.2 million worth of frequencies, taking a total of 30MHz, thought to be three blocks of LTE-800 and three of LTE-1800.