CBL, BTC respond to proposed national roaming agreement

13 May 2016

Bahamian telecoms regulator the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has published industry responses to its proposal to impose a significant market power (SMP) obligation on incumbent Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), forcing it to provide access to its network to newcomer Cable Bahamas Ltd (CBL)-managed NewCo via a national roaming agreement. The measure is intended to ease NewCo’s commercial launch by allowing the cellco to offer services throughout the country via BTC’s network whilst it builds out its own infrastructure. URCA’s proposal would require BTC to provide coverage only in areas where NewCo has not rolled out its own network. The regulator also clarified that NewCo would still be required to meet the coverage targets set out in its licence and, as such, would last a maximum of 36 months.

CBL, which has management control and owns a 48.25% equity stake in the new cellco, supported the proposal but requested that several points be clarified or amended. The incumbent, however, criticised the proposal, saying that URCA had: ‘not provided any substantive evidence in support of its assertion that a national roaming obligation on BTC is in fact necessary, appropriate, efficient or proportionate to its purpose as required under the Communications Act.’ The operator added that a 36-month timeframe was inappropriate, as NewCo should be in a position to cover a very high percentage of the population of the Bahamas within 18 months of the allocation of its licence and recommended that obligation be eliminated after that period. BTC also requested that NewCo’s finalised rollout obligations be tied to the roaming agreement, so that BTC is not requested to provide roaming in areas where NewCo is obliged to provide coverage using its own network.

The two operators clashed on the provision of advanced services under the national roaming agreement, with CBL requesting that URCA add that BTC should provide access to all of its existing and future networks, including 3G and 4G platforms. For its part BTC questioned the inclusion of any service beyond basic call, messaging and data services, saying that URCA had not provided any evidence to justify the inclusion of BTC’s ‘premium LTE network.’

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