The Bahamian telecoms watchdog, the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has reversed its earlier decision to reserve spectrum in the 700MHz band for three wireless operators, on the grounds that demand for the frequencies from non-mobile telecoms operators was high. According to local daily The Tribune, URCA’s decision sparked concern that the regulator would not only permit the entrance of one new wireless player when the sector is liberalised from 2014 onwards. Under current plans, a second player will be introduced in 2014/2015 (depending on the length of the auction process) when the monopoly of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) expires, with a third following in 2016.
Assuaging public concern over the possible creation of a duopoly, the URCA said in a statement: ‘URCA has reviewed its position based on the likely period of time which will elapse before a third mobile provider will be legally permissible in the Bahamas [i.e. 2016]. URCA has considered whether the need to reserve 700MHz spectrum for that possibility may be outweighed by the current demand for that spectrum in the market. URCA believes that the immediate need for spectrum by non-mobile operators warrants greater consideration, particularly in light of possible technological and market changes that may occur before 2016, and the fact that other bands, which are already reserved for mobile services, are able to accommodate LTE [Long-Term Evolution] technology.’
Of the 108MHz available, URCA will make 72MHz available immediately, with 24MHz reserved for a second wireless operator, and 12MHz held for public health and safety. Non-mobile concessions for spectrum in the 700MHz band have been given a price of BHD6,000 (USD5,945) per year whilst frequencies for wireless services were given a price tag of BHD8,000 per year.