The Bahamas’ Cellular Liberalisation Task Force (CLTF) has announced that it has resumed the second phase of the selection process to allocate the nation’s second mobile concession, and will hold the delayed auction later this month. The committee postponed the selection process in April this year pending an investigation by the telecom watchdog the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) into the purpose of several telecom towers constructed, or being constructed, by one of the prospective bidders, Cable Bahamas Limited (CBL), in New Providence. URCA determined that CBL had breached the rules of the auction, but the infraction did not warrant disqualification from the selection process, with the cable operator receiving a financial penalty instead. Virgin Mobile Bahamas is CBL’s only competition for the country’s second mobile licence, after Digicel dropped out of the running earlier this year, without specifying the reason behind its decision, although the pan-Caribbean group had previously been critical of the onerous restrictions that would be placed on the newcomer.
In a related development, Tribune 242 writes that the chief executive of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederations (BCCEC), Edison Sumner has called for the government to consider inviting more companies to bid on the licence, noting that the government had previously expected at least five operators to reach this stage. Mr Sumner noted that his own company, IP Solutions International (IPSI) had withdrawn from the competition due to the restrictions placed on the winning bidder, specifically the requirement to relinquish a majority stake in the company to Bahamian investors. ‘The fact [that] only two bidders made it through this process and other serious contenders, for whatever reason, dropped out, should give the government cause to examine this process again and see if it wants others to participate at this late stage,’ Mr Sumner said, adding: ‘A greater number of participants creates a better level of competition, and a better chance to get good quality responses.’