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Aliv Open To Btc Rebuilding Request On Abaco Towers

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Aliv's top executive yesterday indicated it will respond favourably to its main competitor's request to share mobile infrastructure in Abaco as part of post-Dorian restoration.

Damian Blackburn told Tribune Business that the Bahamas Telecommunications Company's (BTC) co-location request would not impact "a massive number of sites" given that the two mobile rivals already share facilities in Abaco and other islands.

He spoke after Garfield "Garry" Sinclair, BTC's chief executive, expressed hope at yesterday's National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) briefing that the competitors would be able to co-operate such that they avoided "putting up a bunch of towers" of their own in restoring services following the category five storm.

"Of course we will is the answer," Mr Blackburn responded, when asked by Tribune Business whether Aliv would agree to BTC's request. "It's in everybody's interest. The main benefit is speed. We were co-locating on some towers in Abaco and Grand Bahama, and there's going to be a need to rebuild some of them.

"Given what Garry said this morning, I expect BTC to request some from us and we may need to agree to jointly rebuild. It's not a massive number of sites; I expect it to be a handful. Hopefully we'll make a joint statement when we work out more details."

Mr Blackburn told Tribune Business that Aliv "didn't lose any tower structures at all" on Abaco or Grand Bahama despite the ferocity of Dorian's Category Five winds and extensive storm surge.

"All our tower structures in Abaco and Grand Bahama stood up strong," he added. "Yesterday I spoke to someone who represents the GSM Association, who was offering us assistance, and had been involved in lots of previous events.

"When I told him that the network worked throughout a Category Five hurricane in Freeport he couldn't believe it. We had good design, good preparation, but at the end of the day if anyone says you don't need a good dose of luck mixed in with that they're not telling the truth. We've been extremely fortunate."

Mr Blackburn told yesterday's NEMA briefing that Aliv had restored coverage on its networks where "80 percent of the population live and work" on Grand Bahama and Abaco in Dorian's aftermath, describing this as "an unprecedented effort".

He added that both BTC and Aliv had met yesterday and made "progress" towards reaching an agreement on the terms of the national roaming arrangement that regulators had requested they implement so that each other's customers could use their networks free of charge.

BTC wants mobile and voice data to be free on Abaco and Grand Bahama for a period of 30 days, but Aliv's position is that this need only be for 14 days.

BTC, meanwhile, said it has suspended its voluntary separation (VSEP) initiative in Dorian's aftermath.

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