Hybrid power brings high-speed Internet to Papua New Guinea

Would you expect to get 3G access in one of the most rural and least explored countries in the world? In Papua New Guinea this is possible. Thanks to a contract between Pacific-Islands-based operator Digicel Pacific and Ericsson, Papua New Guineans get mobile broadband services for the first time.

By using a hybrid power solution, which combines solar panels, rechargeable batteries and diesel generators, the operator has made the jump from 2G to 3G while also greatly reducing its fuel and manpower costs. In turn, subscribers enjoy faster internet speeds at an affordable price.

John Mangos, CEO of Digicel Papua New Guinea, says: “Since launching our 2G network in Papua New Guinea in 2007, Ericsson has built more than 600 2G/GSM sites for us. By introducing the RBS 6000 radio base station, the road to introducing 3G/WCDMA was paved and this convinced us to go ahead and launch 3G. It’s an important move, not only for us, but even more so for our subscribers.”

Rajendra Pangrekar, President and Head of Ericsson Philippines and Pacific Islands says: “The solar hybrid power solution is specifically suited to extremely isolated areas outside the power grid, where the materials and manpower can only be delivered by helicopter. In Papua New Guinea, which is one of the most rural countries in the world – with only 18 percent of the population living in urban areas – this solution is optimal. We see a great interest from operators in the entire region for these type of solutions as more focus is put on saving operation costs and moving to more environmentally friendly solutions.”

The rechargeable batteries used for the solution last longer than standard batteries, and combining them with solar panels results in large reductions in fuel and manpower costs for the operator. With Ericsson’s network-management solution implemented to monitor fuel levels, there is less need for human intervention, further reducing costs when sites are only accessible by helicopter.

As part of the agreement, Ericsson will provide network rollout, support and technology-consulting services.

Digicel Pacific is the largest mobile operator in Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Vanuatu and since 2006 has also launched 2G/GSM networks in Fiji, Tonga and Nauru. The 2G networks in Papua New Guinea and Samoa are exclusively supplied by Ericsson and represent 75 percent of the operator’s subscriber base.