By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) suffered a further 4 percent mobile subscriber erosion in the 2019 fourth quarter, it was revealed last night, while struggling to penetrate other market segments.
Liberty Latin America (LiLAC), the Bahamian carrier’s ultimate parent, disclosed that it lost a net 8,200 subscribers in the area where it once enjoyed a 100 percent monopoly, dropping its mobile customer base to 201,100 at year-end.However, both BTC and LiLAC may take some encouragement from the reversal of the decline in higher-yielding postpaid mobile subscribers. The Bahamian carrier, which continues to be engaged in a fierce market share battle with rival Aliv, gained 400 customers in this area during the three months to end-December 2019.
LiLAC conceded that “continued competitive pressure” was still impacting BTC’s mobile base, with 8,600 of the lower margin pre-paid customers leaving during the 2019 fourth quarter. BTC finished the year with 25,500 post-paid customers and 175,600 on the pre-paid side as it grappled with “revenue losses” caused by the subscriber shrinkage.
And it is still struggling to break into other communications niches, particularly the TV and broadband Internet segments long dominated by BISX-listed Cable Bahamas. Data disclosed by LilAC revealed that BTC has achieved just 5 percent and 20 percent market penetration, among homes passed by its two-way fibre-to-the-home infrastructure, for TV and broadband respectively,
This provides further evidence that BTC faces a long, hard road to secure new growth opportunities that will help compensate financially for the loss of a mobile monopoly that provided as much as 75 per cent of its annual revenues as recently as 2016.
Elsewhere, BTC revealed that post-Dorian restoration expenditure had now reached $21m of the projected $30m total, with $16m incurred in the 2019 fourth quarter. “We are now substantially complete with our restoration of the damaged networks in Grand Bahama, and continue to make progress with our restoration efforts in Abaco,” LiLAC said.
“We are still in the process of assessing the impact of the hurricane on our networks and subscriber counts. The impacted areas in The Bahamas include approximately 30,200 homes passed, 7,700 telephony revenue generating units (RGUs), 3,800 internet RGUs, 900 video RGUs, 4,400 postpaid mobile subscribers and 36,500 prepaid mobile subscribers.”
Turning to the storm’s impact on BTC’s immediate parent, Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC), LiLAC added: “The effect of Hurricane Dorian negatively impacted CWC’s 2019 revenue and Adjusted OIBDA (operating income before depreciation and amortisation) by an estimated $9m and $12m, respectively.”