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Papua New Guinea LainimNet: Fact or fiction

Geoffrey Jones, Noel Mobiha and Geoffrey Bryant
Papua New Guinea University of Technology

The geographical dispersion of the population and the education system of Papua New Guinea (PNG) combine to produce a unique blend of problems and potential solutions for educational product delivery nationally. At least 85% of Grade 10 students miss the chance of continuing their education into matriculation and approximately 40% of Grade 12 graduands continue on into University study. TAFE type study is very poorly developed. In total, this adds up to considerable pent up demand for education and as wealth within the country becomes more available, so are the demands for access. The existing system is inadequate to cope and even as National High Schools facilities are increased to eleven (Sector Study for Education 1990) there will be only a slight diminishing in demand.

An obvious solution is to provide a national technology network that its reliable, cost effective, ubiquitous, and as problem proof as possible in a tropical environment and which is community based. The two primary systems available in PNG are the terrestrial network and the satellite services through PALAPA and INTELSAT which are being developed, maintained and operated by the Post and Telekom Corporation (PTC). A research and educational service, PEACESAT, is in use on the GOES 3 satellite. Each of these and other options shall be analysed looking at distribution, operation, service availability, potential for education, problems (local and international) and benefits. Finally a hypothetical working architecture will be proposed and discussed that may alleviate much of the unmet demand for education nationally.

Education - Information - Technology

While much of the developed world have grasped access to information highways and modern technologies that provide the vehicles for information movement, there are still many countries that, for many reasons are deprived.

Because they lack the human and financial resources to develop and maintain such highways the deficit in knowledge and access to education, information and technology are cumulative and consequently where there was once economic disparity between the haves and have nots there is now also education and information disparity. The development of such a situation is surely not in the best interests of the 'New World Order'.

Australia's near northern neighbour, Papua New Guinea, is one such country that is striving to emerge from the tyranny of deficit in order that it might play a larger role in regional and international affairs. However, the country lacks access to the international education and information highways and has only recently developed a national telecommunications infrastructure that may provide ubiquitous access once installed.

A brief profile of PNG

Papua New Guinea is a complex and demanding country. To understand it better we will present the following profile that was written for the recently approved "National Policy on Information and Communications of Papua New Guinea" [1].

"Papua New Guinea (PNG) has a population of 4 million people of which 85 percent live in the rural areas. It has a land mass of 462,800 square kilometres and this gives a population density of 8 persons per square kilometre. The annual population growth rate is 2.3 percent.

The mainland is surrounded by large offshore islands of New Britain, Bougainville, New Ireland and Manus and over 600 smaller ones. Mountain terrains with peaks over 4,000 metres run the length of the mainland from the east to the west. Other places are flat with swamp land covering most of the plains.

PNG gained independence from Australia in 1975. It is a parliamentary democracy with a single legislature - the National Parliament - through elected members. Elections are held every 5 years for the 109 seats: 20 regional and 89 open electorates. The Queen is the Head of State and is represented by a Governor General.

PNG has more languages (over 800) than any other country in the world with the possible exception of India. The official language is English with Pidgin and Hiri Motu being used widely as lingua franca to facilitate communication among people of diverse linguistic backgrounds".

Further, "Media outlets include the National Broadcasting Commission, EMTV, two national daily's; the PNG Post Courier and the National. There are also the weekly publications of Times of PNG and the Wantok as well as other smaller publications.

Advances in broadcast technology such as satellites allowed television programs to be viewed in this country long before a TV network was established. In some places cable TV networks were installed to provide reception and distribution of off air satellite programs. Audio visual services are also becoming increasingly popular with the trends in customer markets.

PNG has one of the most advanced telecommunications networks in the (developing) world. All centres in the country are linked by either terrestrial or satellite microwave radio links with routing and switching of calls made at telephone exchanges in major centres. Calls can be made to almost anywhere in the world.

Because communications is the thread which binds a community and indeed a nation together, lack of information and communication have been identified as the biggest problem of hindrance in meaningful development. In mid 1992, the Fifth National Parliament established a Department of Information and Communication to ensure that the majority of Papua New Guineans benefit from Government programs and services through an improved information and communication system in tune with the spirit of the National Constitution".

From this profile it can be seen that PNG has some definite advantages both in infrastructure development and natural resources. However, population distribution and geography create huge barriers to information and education delivery.

Education in PNG

Of the 4 million population in PNG approximately 30% are under the age of 20 years. As a consequence the Pre-Primary, Primary and Community Schools (up to Grade 6) cater for close to 450,000 students, the Provincial High Schools (Grade 7-10) cater for in excess of 55,600 students, while the National High Schools enrolled 1965[2]. Simple arithmetic indicates that close to 510,000 students receive education through the formal school system. However, almost 700,000 do not have the benefit of formal education mainly due to location and cost.

A scan of the figures also reveals some interesting features. The dropout rate in Grade 6 and Grade 10 is very high. Up to Grade 6 level students attend local community based schools. Family, tribal culture, and the fact that students would have to move from the village environment to Provincial High Schools (and the school fees) often mitigate against further education. At the Grade 10 level the reasons are different. National High Schools are residential and there are only a limited number of places available. Competition is fierce and often very academically gifted students miss out for other than academic reasons.

Finally, if one were to collate the figures for the differences between Grade 10 enrolments and Grade 11 enrolments where there is a consistent disparity of around 10,000 students every year, it is not difficult to estimate the cumulative demands for senior school level studies. Further, this can be extrapolated to technical and tertiary studies which is restricted to a privileged minority of students (even with the aid programs available).

Technology in PNG

The most appropriate technology for any country is the one that makes optimal use of existing resources - human, material and financial. This is true for either industrialised or developing countries[3]. In Papua New Guinea measures are being taken by the Government to control and regulate the type of technology that is being imported. One of the foundation measures recently approved is the document, "National Policy on Information and Communication of Papua New Guinea".

The telecommunications network

The telecommunications network in PNG is owned by the Government and operated by its statutory organisation the Post and Telekom Corporation (PTC), which at the time of this write up, is the sole telecommunications carrier. The network comprises a hierarchy of exchanges (secondary, primary, main and small local), major radio bearers (terrestrial microwave and satellite), thin route traffic through high frequency (HF) and very high frequency (VHF) radio links, troposcatter radio bearers and a cable link between PNG and Australia. Traffic on the network comprises voice, data and television programs for EMTV the only national television operator. The network has two components: domestic and international.

Domestic services are provided through the major terrestrial microwave radio bearers linking up the eight primary telephone exchanges in major centres; Boroko (Port Moresby), Lae, Madang, Wewak, Rabaul, Arawa, Goroka and Mt Hagen. Most of the telecommunications infrastructure is analogue with an intensive program under way to install digital bearers before the turn of the century. Rural subscribers, who form the basis of thin route traffic, are served by VHF and HF radios. The Policy document has called for the development of the rural telecommunications infrastructure by direct funding through 50% withholding of total PTC dividend payable to Government every financial year. Due to the topology of PNG and the land compensation problems, satellites will play an important role in the provision of telecommunications services. Transponders of two Palapa (Indonesian) satellites are leased by PTC for the PNG Domestic Satellite (Domsat) network, carrying voice and data traffic between local and primary telephone exchanges. Some of the transponder bandwidth is preserved for redundancy purposes should major terrestrial bearers tail. Eight of the 13 planned DOMSAT sites have been commissioned and are operational. These sites are selected for their strategic locations in the country. It is anticipated that at the end of the current leasing term with Palapa, Domsat network services will be transferred to an Intelsat satellite in the Pacific Ocean Region (POR). Additionally, broadcast television programs for viewers nationwide are also relayed.

International services are catered for by use of leased satellite transponders and APNG - a cable link between Australia and PNG. Two international earth stations are installed in Port Moresby to cater for transmission and reception of international traffic (voice and data). These are an Intelsat A type earth station owned and operated by PTC and an Optus earth station owned by Optus Communications of Australia. These operate to Intelsat and Optus satellites respectively. The Optus link carries originating and terminating Australian traffic into and out of PNG whilst the traffic to and from countries outside the Intelsat satellite footprints are channelled through the APNG cable for switching in Australia. Countries within the Intelsat footprint have their traffic switched through the Intelsat satellite in the POR. There are no international television relays into or out of PNG using the network although there are facilities available.


The PEACESAT (Pan Pacific Education and Communications Experiment by Satellite) network was established in 1971 when the University of Hawaii in Honolulu responded to and was authorised by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to conduct experiments on the ATS-1 satellite. The satellite (and the network) remained active until August 1985 when ATS-1 drifted away. The network then was providing voice and packet modem services for data, at no cost, for educational, medical, environmental and emergency communications to non profit organisations in the Pacific Islands. In 1988 it was re-established under the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). In 1989 PEACESAT began operations with a new satellite (GOES-3) and new earth station technology from Marine Air Systems in New Zealand. The satellite footprint of GOES-3 (Fig. l ) covers the entire Pacific basin and many of the Pacific Rim countries. In addition to sites in Australia, New Zealand and USA there are 29 sites in 16 Pacific countries with PEACESAT terminals [4]. The cost of equipment is about $US27,000 per earth station with no satellite access costs. The GOES-3 satellite is expected to operate to at least the end of this century.

Figure 1

Figure 1: GOES-3 satellite footprint

In PNG there are two PEACESAT sites: the Papua New Guinea University of Technology (Unitech) campus in Lae and the Institute of Fish and Marine Resources in Port Moresby. Current communications between the Lae terminal and other Pacific countries involves only voice communications at this time with data communications designated for implementation in the not too distant future. Also it is anticipated that. for the short term ( until mid 1990s) and once agreement is reached with PEACESAT authorities in Honolulu, the link could be used for education purposes with possible sites in provincial centres of PNG's 20 provinces. This could be enhanced further with redistribution of the satellite signals through VHF or UHF (Ultra High Frequency) radio links from the ground stations into single or multiple remote sites.


This experimental satellite is owned by the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) with footprint patterns providing coverage to areas similar to those of the GOES-3 satellite (Fig. 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2: ETS-V Satellite footprint

The satellite provides 64 kilobits per second (64 kbps) video conferencing, 9.6-64 kbps data transmission and computer communication and 4.8-16 kbps digital voice code and decode technique. 3 meter earth stations cost about $US15,000 each to design and make from standard 'off the shelf' components using volunteer labour [5]. Experiments were conducted in cooperation with PEACESAT using ETS-V [6] in 1990.

As a further extension of the experiment, stations were installed in countries of Asia, the Pacific Rim and Pacific. One of the stations has been installed at Unitech campus, in Lae, as part of the "PARTNERS project" and was used for the International Space Year (ISY) activities in 1992.

With the footprint and the low cost involved in the ETS-V project, it could be a future vehicle for delivery of education. The findings of the experiment would most certainly be of interest to the countries of the Pacific.

National Broadcasting Commission

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) of Papua New Guinea operates three radio services: Kalang, Karai and Kundu. The Kalang service is operated as a commercial entity of NBC and provides an FM service that is stereo in Port Moresby and mono elsewhere in PNG. The other two are AM services which have transmitters in every province, caters for broadcast of national, and during school terms, educational programs. All program feeds are via leased lines on the PTC terrestrial network with one or two cases of off air re-transmission.

School of the Air

Manus, one of the island provinces of Papua New Guinea runs a School of the Air scheme whereby the subjects are pre-recorded at the local NBC studios and broadcast during the day using the Kundu service. These programs are then recorded at remote instruction centres on audio tapes and replayed to students in the scheme at a scheduled time. A VHF radio link is in place with a scheduled time to provide a venue for remote station instructors to seek assistance should it be needed.

Data networks

PTC Network

Three categories of data services exist on the PNG telecommunications network: Leased, Dial Up and Packet Switch. Telex and facsimile are also provided on the network.

Leased data circuits cater for high volume data communications users for point to point or point to multipoint data transfer. There is data security and high reliability. Most of the circuits at present are analogue operating at 9.6 kbps.

Dial up services provide non-dedicated data transfer capabilities to customers over the public switched telephone network (PSTN) in accordance with a circuit switched data network. Due to cost, reliability and security reasons applications of this service are slowly being replaced by packet switch services.

Packet switched services in PNG are called PANGPAC which operates as a subset off the OTC MIDAS packet switched network. Initially the network covered only Port Moresby but due to pressure from politicians and the introduction of Lotto in PNG the network has now expanded to Lae and Mt Hagen which are switches in the network. The Lae switch supports feeds to Rabaul and Goroka each of which have a multi protocol X25 PAD which supports a maximum of 64 ports. Port Moresby is the international gateway to Australia. The transmission rates to Goroka is 19.2 kbps and Rabaul 4.8 kbps. X.25, X.28 and X.32 services are available.

Email Network

Unitech in Lae operates as a postmaster for an email network that is supported by AARNet on a Store and Forward arrangement every eight hours. Users use normal dial up to access their mail boxes for retrieval or postage purposes. The network is being reviewed for a more interactive or real time access for users in the long term.

Other services

Major business organisations and some Government Departments use the PANGPAC Network for their data networking whilst others use leased data lines. Whatever the case, the maximum speed on the analogue bearer is 9.6 kbps. With some of the digital bearers being commissioned on the mainland, an improvement is noticeable. For provinces in the New Guinea islands with analogue microwave radio bearers, the only option is to provide data channels on the digital Domsat satellite links for major clients.

PNG LainimNet

The PNG LainimNet is visioned to be the overall educational network for Papua New Guinea and will comprise CommNet, PiksaNet and HerevaNet. These three networks will perform functions for data transfers, video and audio conferencing respectively. The first stage of the project has commenced with a K130,000 funding of a prototype from the National Department of Education for the CommNet project.


CommNet's (acronym for Community Communications Network) principal objective is to provide an "electronic highway" and infrastructure for design, delivery and archival of materials for the Vernacular Education program. The prototype (See Figure 3) will begin with three remote sites, a technical hub, an academic hub and an archival hub.

Figure 3

The technical hub will be located at the PNG University of Technology in Lae, academic hub at the Summer Institute of Linguistics in Ukarumpa in the Eastern Highlands and an archival hub at the National Library in Port Moresby. These hubs will be connected by leased lines which will be provided by PTC as part of their contribution to the project. Remote sites will dial up to down load their required material using toll tree techniques ie the 008 service.


Video conferencing once introduced will be a very new technology in PNG. It can operate in three basic modes: freeze frame, compressed and full motion video. It can be two way interactive in both vision and sound, or vision one way and audio two way depending on cost and use. Digital technology has developed to a stage where compressed video on PSTNs have revolutionised the ease by which organisations can participate in cost effective, fully interactive, real time conferencing on a network basis [7]. One of the microwave bearers between Lae and Port Moresby is digital with a 3+1 by 34 Mbps link. Capacity is available for compressed video conferencing at 384 kbps and a prototype network will be set up between the PTC Headquarters in Port Moresby and the Unitech campus in Lae. Options of providing video conferencing to other centres will depend on the findings of the report derived from the prototype evaluation.


With the telecommunications network covering most of the country, an audio conferencing network or HerevaNet as it is known in Hiri Motu, is possible to link most sites in PNG. With relevant technology like the telephone conferencing bridge, conferences can be conducted with minimum effort, while providing acceptable educational services.

Other services

Postal services

Postal services are operated by the Postal Division of PTC which has about 40 post offices throughout the country averaging about two per province. Smaller provincial centres are served by over 70 agency post offices which are operated by non PTC staff usually associated with other operations like churches, educational institutions etc. Since the decrease in the expatriate population in the early seventies, postal articles have declined [8]. Papua New Guineans besides having a good telecommunications network, tend to favour personal mail delivery by travelling to relatives or personal friends.


LainimNet, or Learning Network in Pidgin, began as a theoretical construct for the delivery of educational services within PNG and beyond. However, as we have shown, there are some developments that have moved it from a pure theoretical base. PNG has a telecommunications network (both terrestrial and satellite) that will enable a short transition time from theory to practice. Further, there is considerable technical expertise within PTC and The University of Technology to ensure development.

Also as we have outlined there is a considerable education starved client base at all levels of the education system within the country. Access to them has, until now, provided the biggest obstacle. By applying existing PNG networked technologies and emerging ones there is increasing hope that the level of demand will diminish considerably over the next five years. If this occurs then LainimNet can be adjudged a success. But then the real problem will emerge. Have we produced, a larger group of educated 'rascals' or will the PNG government look seriously at the unemployment problem and develop some job creation strategies to maximise the benefits to the country?


Acknowledgment and thanks are made for the support provided by the Papua New Guinea University of Technology in this new development.


  1. "National Policy on Information and Communications of Papua New Guinea". Parliament House, Waigani, 1993, p.1.

  2. "Education Staffing and Enrolment Statistics. National Education System". Department of Education, Planning Branch, 1992.

  3. International Telecommunications Union, 'The Missing Link - Report of the Independent Commission for World Wide Telecommunications Development', Geneva 1985, p34.

  4. Peter Walton, "PEACESAT: A Communications Network for the Pacific Islands", Regional Seminar on Computer Based Electronic Network Management and The Third Planning Meeting of RINSEAP, a UNESCO publication, 1993, p80.

  5. K. Konda, 'Hitch-Hiker payload and low cost earth station design for the Pan Pacific Information Network', The International Symposium on Alternative Features for Pan Pacific, Non-Commercial Networks, PEACESAT Policy Conference, Sendai, Japan, 1992, p16.

  6. T. Iida, "Low cost satellite communication system for the Pan Pacific information Network and it's experiment using ETS-V satellite", Proc. Pacific Telecommunications Council 13th Annual Conference Honolulu 1991, Honolulu, p705.

  7. Prof. F Barry Brown, 'A primer on telecommunications strategies for the delivery of distance education', Proc. Pacific Telecommunications Council 14th Annual Conference, Honolulu, 1992, p308.

  8. James Sinclair, 'PTC Uniting a Nation through the 80s', Crawford House Press, 1993.

Authors: Dr F Geoffrey Jones, Head, Dept of Open and Distance Learning.
Mr Noel Mobiha, Senior Technical Instructor, Dept of Electrical and Communication Engineering.
Dr Geoffrey Bryant, Professor and Head, Dept of Electrical and Communication Engineering, Papua New Guinea University of Technology

Please cite as: Jones, G., Mobiha, N. and Bryant, G. (1994). Papua New Guinea LainimNet: Fact or fiction. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (eds), Learning Environment Technology: Selected papers from LETA 94, 128-133. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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