By NATARIO MCKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Government will make an announcement soon on which of the two remaining contenders in the cellular liberalisation process will move onto the next round, Prime Minister Perry Christie has said.
While delivering the keynote address at the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organisations (CANTO) 31st annual conference and trade show in Miami, Mr Christie noted that the Cellular Liberalisation Task Force appointed by the government had received three bids from potential providers - Digicel, Virgin and Cable Bahamas.
Digicel voluntarily pulled out of the process in April.
“I believe this is the third time Digicel has looked at The Bahamas and dropped out. My government will soon make an announcement on which bidder will be selected and will pass on to the next round,” said Mr Christie.
Commenting on the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) Mr Christie noted that in 2011, the Ingraham administration sold 51 per cent of the shares of BTC to Cable & Wireless (CWC). “The Government of The Bahamas has successfully negotiated back the majority shareholding in BTC, while spending a mere $10,000 to do so,” said Mr Christie.
He noted that in the last 12 months, under the leadership of CEO Leon Williams, BTC has installed 29 new cell sites and 107 LTE sites, bringing the total for LTE to 172. Mr Christie noted that the installation of 4G LTE sites makes The Bahamas one of only nine countries in the Caribbean to have LTE technology. “For redundancy and resilience, BTC has built a second mobile switching centre in Freeport, Grand Bahama. I am pleased that the capital expenditure by BTC has reduced dropped calls from 70,000 calls per day to 6,000 dropped calls per day and has made LTE almost ubiquitous throughout The Bahamas. But there is still more work to be done,” said Mr Christie.
“BTC is presently beta testing IPTV on a number of Islands including Bimini, Cat Island, Inagua, Andros, Long Island and Grand Bahama, with the intent of commercially launching IPTV in a few months,” Mr Christie added. The Prime Minister noted that CWC had acquired Columbus Networks last year to leverage its IPTV product.
“I am also told that BTC is in the process of deploying fibre to the home in New Providence and Grand Bahama and VDSL in the Family Islands, providing the possibility of BTC broadband customers enjoying speeds of up to 100 megabits and 30 megabits respectively. As I understand it, BTC will also beam high speed broadband to cruise ships plying our Bahamian waters so as to enhance their customers’ experience,” said Mr Christie.