By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Aliv's top executive yesterday said it has seized one-third of the Bahamian mobile market by gaining the business its rival is losing, as it switches focus to its "innovation agenda".
Damian Blackburn told Tribune Business that the mobile upstart currently has around 120,000 customers as it continues to make inroads into the former long-standing monopoly held by the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC).
BTC's subscriber base, as unveiled by its ultimate parent, Liberty Latin America (LiLAC), stood at just below 241,000 at end-June 2018, down almost 24 percent from the 315,000-strong base it enjoyed when Aliv launched commercial services in November 2016.
This suggests that around one in four subscribers has migrated from BTC to Aliv since then, a calculation that Mr Blackburn made no attempt to dispel. "We're at, give or take, 120,000 customers on the same basis [as BTC]," he said, "so we know we're at 33 percent market share overall and marching forward in all segments of the market.
"All the revenues BTC is losing, we're seeing them pick up on Aliv. The planning's working. People are transferring their spend to us. All the revenues they are losing we're seeing come over to us."
Balan Nair, LiLAC's chief executive, told analysts recently that BTC's owner was pinning its hopes on a new management team, headed by Jamaican Garry Sinclair, to reverse the continual top-line revenue decline seen since Aliv entered the market.
Such competitive pressures resulted in a 14.8 percent year-over-year drop in BTC's total 2017 revenues, which fell from $306.6m in 2016 to $261.3m last year. The latter figure is almost $100m down on the revenues BTC enjoyed pre-mobile liberalisation, highlighting just why Mr Nair is so eager to reverse the company's plummeting top-line.
BTC lost a further 10,400 mobile subscribers during the three months to end-June 2018, although this was said to represent a near-60 percent decline on the attrition experienced during the same period in 2017.
The incumbent carrier lost some 24,000 mobile customers during the 2017 second quarter, and its latest figures indicate that Aliv continues to steal market share and business following its aggressive market entry in November 2016.
A breakdown provided by LiLAC shows BTC lost 10,000 pre-paid, and 4,000 post-paid, subscribers during the 2018 second quarter. This leaves the carrier, which is 49 percent owned by the Government, with 240,700 customers - the bulk of which, some 89 percent, consist of 214,700 pre-paid customers.
Post-paid mobile users, who typically represent the more lucrative and high net-worth market, account for just 11 percent or 26,000 of BTC's subscriber base.
Mr Blackburn, meanwhile, told Tribune Business that Aliv was concentrating on its "innovation agenda" and operations to drive towards profitability, having completed its Bahamas-wide network roll-out inside the end-June 2018 deadline set by its licence and regulators.
He added that the mobile operator had already launched consumer post-pay and its wi-fi Soho product, a wireless broadband offering for up to 10 users that is targeted at the small home/office market and Family Islands, during the 2018 first half.
And, having completed beta testing, Aliv is now rolling out its Aliv Driver app. This aimed at both Bahamians and tourists, and allows users to undertake a virtual tour of the Bahamas and its historical sites and attractions.
"It's the next leg of the innovation strategy," Mr Blackburn explained. "You'll see a lot of stuff like that over the next six months. We're happy with where we are. Aliv's network works beautifully on every island.
"It's about the innovation agenda now. We're giving people great service; what products can they use it for?"
The top Aliv executive added that its network infrastructure was being "continually strengthened to keep up with the demand", the operator having upgraded to 4.5G in New Providence and Grand Bahama on July 1.
Resiliency testing for hurricane season has also been conducted, and Mr Blackburn added: "Generally, all our metrics are better than expected. Dropped calls are pretty much a thing of the past on Aliv's network."