The Bahamas Telecommunications Company’s (BTC’s) main shareholders – the Bahamian government and Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) – have hailed the company’s USD56 million investment package for this year as its ‘largest single’ capital investment. Tribune 242 cites CWC chief Phil Bentley and Bahamian PM Perry Christie as saying that that BTC planned to invest USD170 million over the next three years as part of efforts to prepare the provider for the liberalisation of the mobile sector. More than USD60 million of the total is to be spent on deploying new mobile sites to address capacity bottleneck issues and reduce the incidence of dropped calls. BTC has also earmarked USD40 million to upgrade its fibre network, whilst the company is on-track for the launch of its IPTV service in December 2014. Elsewhere, USD8 million was set aside for the back-up power generators to avoid a repeat of BTC’s last network outage. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, a power failure at one of BTC’s facilities had led to a nationwide blackout. A subsequent investigation from the government found that BTC’s entire bank of batteries in the facilities and the generator switch system had all failed due to the lack of proper maintenance. Meanwhile, the government has been accused of dragging its feet on liberalising the mobile sector at the behest of CWC, with BTC now accounting for nearly a quarter of the group’s turnover.
In a related development, the Prime Minister has announced that it wants the winner of the nation’s second mobile licence to offer shares to the Bahamian public. Whilst Mr Christie’s administration cancelled his predecessor’s plans to offload a 9% stake in BTC via an initial public offering (IPO), the PM told press that the government would revisit the issue once a second licence had been allocated, indicating the asymmetry in policy if the government was to oblige a new player to sell shares to Bahamians whilst the state retained its entire stake in BTC. The government’s task force for the liberalisation of the mobile market has yet to issue requests for proposals (RFPs) and has not formed a concrete timeline for the allocation of a new licence. Nevertheless, the new player is expected to have been selected by 2016, by which point the government will consider distributing a third concession.