Jamaica’s ICT minister Phillip Paulwell has announced that over the next two weeks he aims to have found a solution to protect competition in the telecoms sector, following the controversial acquisition of Claro Jamaica by Digicel Jamaica. Following the completion of the merger, the combined company will have a total market share of approximately 77%, whilst UK-owned LIME, the nation’s only other cellco and former monopoly holder, will represent the remaining 23% of the wireless market.
According to local media reports, Paulwell has begun discussions with LIME and Digicel to resolve the issue, and is treating the need for reform as a matter of urgency. Former prime minister, Bruce Golding announced in September last year, following his approval of the Digicel/Claro merger, that he would fast-track legislation to ensure that the deal did not compromise competition in the sector. However, the planned reforms only reached a draft stage before the government was ousted in the December election.
As previously noted by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the tie-up has been unsuccessfully challenged in the courts, by both LIME and Jamaica’s competition watchdog, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC). Most recently it emerged that during his brief stint as prime minister, Andrew Holness removed a condition imposed on the acquisition deal that obliged the combined entity to continue operating Claro’s network and build-out the infrastructure to meet the requirements of Claro’s concession. Subsequently, LIME and Digicel have been involved in a mud-slinging media fight where LIME has complained of an uneven playing field and anti-competitive behaviour from its rival, whilst Digicel railed against LIME for poor service and its inability to adapt to the liberalisation of the sector.