By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) was not spared by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was revealed yesterday, as the carrier suffered a near-15 percent year-over-year first half revenue fall.
Liberty Latin America (LiLAC), the ultimate parent for BTC, disclosed in its results for the six months to end-June 2020 that the Bahamian communications provider saw its top-line shrink by $15.8m compared to the same period in the prior year.
Revenues for the 2020 first half to just $90.3m compared to $106.1m in 2019, with reduced Bahamian economic activity - including in the tourism sector - likely to blame for the fall. BTC’s top-line income for the second quarter, which includes the first COVID-19 lockdown, was off by 22 percent year-over-year as it fell from $52.5m in 2019 to just $41m - a decline of $11.5m.
LiLAC said its Cable & Wireless Communications affiliate, which is BTC’s ultimate parent, suffered a $7m fall in so-called roaming revenues during the 2020 first half, with “the largest impact” in this area felt in The Bahamas.
This shows the tourism shutdown’s impact on BTC and the wider Bahamian communications industry, as roaming relates to foreign cellular users being able to use its mobile network for voice and data services.
Data provided by LiLAC also confirmed that BTC continues to lose subscribers and market share, especially on the mobile side, where customer numbers fell by almost 10 percent or 19,100 over the second quarter compared to the end-March position.
Total BTC mobile customers dropped from 199,400 to 180,300 at end-June, or quarter-over-quarter, but the one bright spot for the communications carrier in its battle with upstart rival, Aliv, is that it actually gained an additional 1,600 subscribers in the more lucrative, higher margin post-paid category. All its subscriber losses, some 20,700, came in the pre-paid category.
BTC prepaid customers numbered 151,900 at the end of the 2020 first half, while post-paid stood at 28,400. Elsewhere, the carrier lost 1,200 fixed-line voice telephony customers during the 2020 first half, but gained some 100 TV and 300 Internet clients, respectively, for a net loss of 800 subscribers.
BTC’s fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network was said to pass some 120,900 homes by end-June 2020. Andre Foster, BTC’s senior director of technology operations, told Tribune Business in an interview earlier this week that the further roll-out of this network infrastructure was critical to the company’s plans going forward.
Disclosing that no more copper installations will be carried out, Mr Foster said: “We continue to make investments to fortify the network. We are really pleased with the performance of fibre-to-the-home. Fifty percent of the Grand Bahama network post-Dorian is fibre-to-the-home, and 30 percent of the New Providence network is fibre-to-the-home.”
He added that fibre-to-the-home technology did not rely on outside power sources to deliver communications services, and would continue working as long as the customer is supplied with energy.