Vodafone is extending its business activities to the somewhat exotic regions of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, after forming a non-equity arrangement with a local player.
The UK-based group said it has signed an exclusive partner market agreement with Bemobile Limited, which trades as bmobile. The two operators will in future collaborate on the sale of a range of products and services to businesses and consumers.
For bmobile, the deal means its customers will be able to roam onto Vodafone's global network and gain access to a wider range of services as well as Vodafone best practices.
In turn, Vodafone's multinational corporate customers will benefit from the addition of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to their existing contracts for international managed services, while continuing to be serviced via a single point of contact.
"This strategic partnership with bmobile will enable us to expand our presence in Asia Pacific and extend the reach of our products and services across the region. It will also deliver enhanced roaming benefits for both our consumer and multinational corporate customers," said Stefano Gastaut, CEO of Vodafone Partner Markets.
According to the World Bank, the introduction of mobile competition in Papua New Guinea in 2007 saw a dramatic rise in the number of people who were able to afford a mobile phone for the first time.
A report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) from January this year said around 2.7 million out of the country's total population of 7.2 million people now have a mobile phone. This number has risen from around 75,000 in 2005 and has been driven in part by the country's extremely poor fixed-line infrastructure.
"Although mobile reception is generally reliable, mobile data coverage is not. This, coupled with the extremely high cost of fixed-line and Internet connectivity, has left PNG with a single-figure Internet penetration rate," the EIU report added.
A BuddeComm report on the Papua New Guinea market that was last updated in January also noted that the country's three mobile network operators have increased accessibility to the mobile network from less than 3 per cent population availability to more that 80 per cent in less than a decade.
bmobile, which was acquired by the Government of Papua New Guinea through an 85 per cent shareholding in October 2013, competes with Citifon, which is owned by the country's only fixed-line operator Telikom Papua New Guinea (Telikom PNG), and Digicel.
Telikom originally owned Bemobile, which was also the country's first mobile operator. The two companies have been separate entities since 2008, according to Telikom information.