The Government of Bahamas’ Cellular Liberalisation Task Force has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) inviting interested parties to apply for the nation’s second mobile operator licence. The licence will be allocated via a two stage competitive selection process, involving a technical and financial assessment, followed by a spectrum auction. An evaluation committee comprising members of the Task Force and other industry experts will assess the bids in phase one, whilst sector regulator the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) will conduct the spectrum auction in phase two. Regardless of scores in the initial phase, only operators that meet certain minimum criteria will be eligible to participate in the auction. Scores from the two stages will be combined and the bidder with the highest overall score will be granted the new authorisation, including an Individual Operating Licence and an Individual Spectrum Licence. Spectrum in the 700MHz, 850MHz, 1700MHz/2100MHz and 1900MHz bands has been made available for the new entrant, although it was not clear what quantum of spectrum would be awarded. The government is accepting proposals until 11 February 2015 and the selection process is expected to be completed by the end of April that year.
In related news, fixed line incumbent and cellular monopoly holder Bahamas Telecommunication Company (BTC) has reduced the average number of calls dropped per day from 70,000 to 40,000 as part of efforts to modernise the cellco in preparation for the liberalisation of the sector. Tribune 242 cites BTC CEO Leon Williams as saying that the operator is planning to invest a total of USD65 million on network improvements in the coming months. Of that total, USD26 million will be spent on enhancing its cellular network, Mr Williams added, commenting: ‘We are on a mission to refocus and put [cell sites] in areas where we still have dropped calls…So that should take away the problems that we experienced with dropped calls.’ By Christmas BTC aims to install 20 new sites throughout the country and upgrade with Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology eleven sites each in New Providence, Abaco, Grand Bahama and Eleuthera. Williams went on to say that BTC was concentrating on ‘winning the hearts and minds’ of Bahamians.