Thursday, November 12, 2009

bemobile 12 months on…reflections from Chairman Anthony Smare

Over 12 months ago, competition arrived in the telecommunications sector in the mobile phone market and it was clear that Telikom’s mobile division, Bee Mobile, was not ready.
It was undercapitalised.
It was inefficient.
It also did not have personnel that had experience and excelled in the cut-throat world of mobile telephone competition.
The National Government and the board of Telikom decided to spin Bee Mobile into a new structure and to invite new partners to come on board to take the company forward into the new competitive environment.
Twelve months ago the new Bemobile was born.
It had new partners to join Telikom as shareholders – Nambawan Super Limited, Nasfund Limited, PNG Sustainable Development Company Limited, Hong Kong investment fund GEMS and American mobile operator Trilogy International Partners LLC.
The new partners brought with them capital and mobile telecoms expertise.
Telikom brought its existing Bee Mobile business, customers and network, and 70 employees.
The new organisation was to be called bemobile.
The challenge for the new organisation was to build a state-of-the-art mobile business, that provided accessible, reliable and most importantly, affordable, mobile telephone services to as many people of PNG as possible.
But to me, as a Papua New Guinean and chairman of the company, it was also important that in transforming bemobile, we had to keep faithful to our PNG values, maintain our PNG identity and put the interests of the PNG people – who are both our owners and customers – first.
In the last 12 months, the old tired blue and green Bee Mobile has been transformed into an exciting, dynamic, bold, orange bemobile army with a state-of-the art, rapidly expanding mobile network.
Expertise has been brought in from all over the world, but fused with local telecoms expertise of the Papua New Guineans in the technical and sales and marketing divisions of bemobile.
The best and brightest young Papua New Guineans – young, patriotic, and ambitious - have also been recruited into bemobile from educational institutions and other business houses.
A first-class telecommunications team has been built to take bemobile forward.
In the last 12 months, bemobile has built state-of-the-art switching facilities and media gateways in the major regional centres of PNG.
We have built out new base stations in the core population areas of PNG, and are rapidly rolling out an additional 400 towers, with large base stations brimming with the latest technology to provide internet, GPRS and mobile telephone.
We have also shattered the pricing barriers in PNG by bringing low call pricing and challenging the high interconnection rates that are being imposed artificially in PNG and which discourage competition.
We have also at all times promoted and maintained our PNG identity.
We took over the bemobile cup, the nation’s leading sporting competition, and made it the best edition in the history of the NRL competition, with the support of the NRL, the PNGRFL, the Franchise Owners, and the PNG people.
We also saw a national school children design competition produce a unique Papua New Guinean design of the bemobile cup trophy – designed by the immensely-talented 13-year-old Florence Metta, a Grade Six student from Koki’s St Francis School in Port Moresby.
We have maintained our PNG identity in all of our advertising and our branding, adopting the overlaid kina shells as our symbol – the “O” in bemobile.
We are a PNG company, thus our advertising must reflect it.
Our Orange Men concept has become a modern-day pop phenomenon in PNG and has captured the imagination of millions, judging by how they were received in the past week in Lae, Hagen and Port Moresby.
We have adopted our PNG-first mantra with our pricing, our products and how we promote our pricing and products to our people.
We provide simple, affordable call pricing to all networks and straight-forward honest advertising.
Reflecting on our main objectives when we started out in November 14, 2008, I am happy with our progress.
We have brought in the expertise and the capital we needed.
We have created a new organisation that the people of PNG can be proud to call their own, with an identity and a network that has excited and enthused our general population.
We have brought the wildly-popular 49 toea all network call pricing and we have brought in the quality European-made Alcatel phone and made it available for K29.
We have taken the first step and set the pricing benchmark and now others are reacting.
It gives me great satisfaction that the PNG people are responding – already bemobile has shattered its records for call volumes and phone sales rates.
Our customer base is expanding exponentially.
The orange army is expanding, village by village, town by town, valley by valley, and island by island.
A lot of this is due to the tremendous work that Roger Blott, the bemobile CEO, and our team at bemobile have put in.
This success is also due to the support of our shareholders, our business partners, our retail partners, and especially the people of PNG who are both our customers and our owners.
My message to the PNG people is this – I hope you are happy with the progress of your company, bemobile.
Thank you for keeping the faith and for showing your patriotism and nationalism by supporting us.
Just like this nation, when you and I are united we succeed, divided we fall – I look forward to your continuing support for the next twelve months as we take bemobile, PNG’s own mobile company, even higher.


Anthony Smare


  1. Anonymous9:12 AM

    Bemobile is making progress.
    The new ALL ANYTIME TO NETWORK PRICE of 49 toea
    was a fab deal. It sure it did rattle some decision seats.

    The re-organisation of mobile with majority share ownership (65%) for Papua New Guineans is commendable. Market rationale was the driver in a competitive industry like that.

    Papua New Guinean's long term focus and economic patriotism shall definitely ensure bemobile make the necessary leaps.

    I believe, we Papua New Guineans not only show our national patriotism by raising PNG flags and singing the national anthem but have the nerve to believe in our own.

    We've seen enough to give our loyalty to PNG companies. One of our fine national companies in BSP Bank. It is a Papua New Guinean owned Bank with its headquarters in PNG. As any optimist and patriotic citizen would do, I am confident of bemobile's success in PNG. I also believe it can expand its wings to the wider Pacific too.

    It can said that, we Papua New Guineans, can make sure, that we are not being complicit in dragging the nation back to the slave and master era where the slaves did what was told to do and got paid tobacco for doing the hard work.

    We understand what it means to have some residue of patriotism and nationalism rather than being a short-sighted grave digger for our own grandchildren.

    The soft economic wars of market grabbing ploys employed by developed economies must be seen for what it is especially in the "service industries".

    When we reach a period where the "dig and ship industries" have reached their life-time, there's a tendency of being stuck in perpetual poverty because the "service industries" have also been take over by others. When we realise it, it will be too late to salvage anything!

    True blue PNGean

  2. Anonymous2:40 PM

    The mobile phone craze in PNG needs to be in check – and by consumers.

    One thing is certain. It is vital that people must be able to distinguish between what competition is what foreigners are then appreciate the benefits that competition delivers.

    The obvious benefits of competition are, efficiency, fair pricing, affordability and innovation . However, these good benefits tend to have a life-span too.

    They’re NOT meant to be eternal gifts. God only gives eternal gifts. No created being can offer eternal gifts. We only have to be fools to believe otherwise.

    To maintain and achieve longertivity and sustainability, competition must be balanced.These balancing acts are vital. The acts are necessary on the part of the consuming public. Wise thinking keeps competition checked at all times and ensure there is equilibrium.
    If however, gullibility takes center stage, and consumers fail to use their brains in the heat of the competition game, then competition can turn really sour – and can be really impossible to reverse.

    An wholesale of carelessness, stupidity, and blindness can lead to the demise of service provider companies like bemobile - demise of airlines and national banks as we have witnessed all over the world and even in our region.

    This is how it works. In the battle to capture customers, mobile telephony companies use a wide range of tactics to grab markets and kill off competitors. Increasingly, price is the weapon of choice and frequently the skirmishing degenerates into a price war. Creating low-price appeal is often the goal, but the result of one retaliatory price slashing after another is often a precipitous decline in industry profits.

    It’s alright for Irish billionaires like Denis O'Brien (Digicel owner) because a short term dent makes little differences to his deep pockets. However for national companies like bemobile with 65% local ownership ( 50 % Telikom, 5% NASFUND, 5% Nambawan Super and another 5 % PNG Sustainable Development Company) , the consumers will suffer from four possible harmful effects in the long-run.
    Firstly, competition lifeblood will cease to exist. Tendency towards innovation and efficiency in the industry becomes good as dead.

    Secondly, if the price war leads to the demise of the competition, this can lead to higher prices and lower frequencies in the medium to long-run as the survivor seeks to recoup the short-term losses incurred during the price war.

    Thirdly, there will be the tendency for the survivor to withdraw from areas that are essential but not profitable – the rural areas of Papua New Guinea

    Lastly, if the loser happens to be a national company like bemobile, which is so vital for the nation’s long-term goals and objectives, then you are left at the mercies of foreign owners.

    It is important for both the beneficiaries of competition – that is consumers and policy makers to understand that price wars can create economically devastating situations that take an extraordinary toll on mobile phone carriers and their viability.

    No matter who wins, the consumers will all end up worse off than before competition kicked in
    Take your pick.

    I choose to remain a patriotic son of PNG…..bemobile all the way

    Bemobile Fan

  3. Anonymous9:24 AM

    CONGRATULATIONS to bemobile on taking the cue from BSP to venture out into the region and winning the Mobile Communications License in the Solomon Islands. This is the stuff of grown up man.

    I see maturity and confidence right there. Hitch your wagon to the star and keep it rolling.

    It's a win for the people of Papua New Guinea who own the 65 % shareholding through Telikom PNG, NASFUND, Nambawan Super and PNG Sustainable Development Company.

    Well done and commendations are due to the Solomons Islands Government and its technical team giving bemobile the nod.

    Patriotic Nationalist
    Port Moresby

  4. Anonymous6:17 AM

    My understanding is that Bemobile has continued to lose market share since this was written and Digicel has gained. If so, the 49t call offer has been a failure at drawing customers away from Digicel. You look at how aggressive Digicel is at marketing and it's no wonder. Also Bemobile has yet to offer internet service on its wireless network.

  5. Anonymous9:46 AM

    The endeavour is good but why underestimate the capability of local Papua New Guineans running the Company. I am sure it is not the competency of the local PNG nationals but the CAPITAL required to expand and support the network. In the mobile competition space it is about GOOD NETWORK COVERAGE and CLOSER TO THE CUSTOMER RETAIL OUTLETS as the business case is PREPAID therefore TOP UP AVAILABILITY AND CLOSE PROXIMITY is IMPORTANT.
    DO this for BeMobile and it will TAKE OFF and beat ANY COMPETITION!

    PNG Nationals at Heart!

  6. Anonymous12:05 PM

    New Bemobile CEO and senior managers have been fudging subscriber numbers to shareholder as the company has run out of funds; there is much corruption; they have debts which exceed value of company and now are dependant on getting money from asia development bank. They are also in trouble in solomon islands, it is no wonder digicel are capitalising on Bemobiles loss of market share and churn, this is due to Digicel being able to anticipate Bemobile senior management decisions as the new Bemobile CEO and team are all ex retrenched Digicel staff and now we have these incompetants running Bemobile to the ground, c'mon directors and shareholders of Bemobile wake up and get rid of these clowns.

  7. Anonymous12:10 PM

    I agree with the above comment, I used to work at bemobile and was sacked for not taking orders, I was asked by Mr K.O to preactivate SIM cards to increase subscriber numbers in monthly report to the board and shareholders, when I did not they got other workers to do it for free handset and credits. Bemobile claim 200000+ subscribers, they have less than 100000 active subscribers who make at least 1 phone call over 30 day period.