The Palau National Communications Corporation (PNCC) will be distributing free phones to customers who lost 2G service connections with their existing hand phones due to the ongoing 4G upgrade to the system.
At the Senate oversight hearing on Nov. 1, PNCC acting GM LeoBen Teriong disclosed that the telecommunications company has 3,500 phones ready to be given out next week.
PNCC board and management at the Senate oversight hearing Nov. 1, 2017.
According to Mr. Teriong, based on the successful bidding contract, the phones are Huawei brand costing more than $200,000.
PNCC got caught by surprise with an unexpectedly strong public reaction against the loss of 2G/3G services, which rendered many handsets useless. The new 4G upgrade operates at 4G/LTE 700 MHz (Band 28) which is incompatible with the existing 2G/3G WCDMA 900Mhz (Band 8) frequency.
Migration to 3G/4G system started last April in Koror and Airai, but PNCC admitted that information to the public wasn’t enough. “PNCC realizes it has to do better in this regard,” PNCC said in its presentation to the senators.
Since April, 10 percent or about 1,500 active cell phone users have dropped out of service, which is likely due to the upgrade.
Senators at the hearing urged PNCC to reinstall 2G services with a measured migration to full 3G/4G services in the next few years.
Customers are asked to bring their working 2G cell phones and active SIM card to PNCC Headquarters in Airai for replacement on Nov. 8-10.
PNCC said it can bring back 2G services but will need help with funding. “We can bring back 2G service, but need your help for funding,” PNCC Vice Chairperson Kuiye Belelai said.
The Senate Committee on Capital and Improvement Projects was open to the funding assistance but urge the company to look within its own financing before presenting their request.