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Communications Snafu in Palau Leaves Hundreds of Customers Frustrated

It's pretty clear that if you promise free replacement cell phones to Palauans, you'd better have the goods on hand.

In what appears to be a gigantic communications SNAFU in the Republic of Palau, the Palau National Communications Corporation Wednesday started distribution of free phones to customers who lost 2G service connections with their existing hand phones due to the ongoing 4G upgrade to the system.

Hundreds of PNCC customers rushed to the Airai location to take advantage of the free replacement phones only to find a massive traffic jam and no planning or direction from the PNCC staff. Riots nearly broke out due to customers’ dissatisfaction of the process and the long waits.

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.

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